2013 February

This is such a happy picture; we just had to start off with this one!This is Ivan’s wife and kids; Ivan has been our ‘driver’ for going on eight years!
Father Eamon is here and a large group of us decide that we will attend Holy Mass at St. Joseph the Worker’s Retirement Home. The 50 or so elderly (about Bob’s age) ladies are so very happy to have Croatian speaking and Croatian responses through out the chapel.

The ladies and staff joined us in the singing of the hymns they knew best!

A beautiful day.

And it is not over! Jose and Maria Elena are spending 3 or so months in Medjugorje and have been such a wonderful help to every one. Sister Muriel is the role model for all of us.
Some of us go to the nearby Divine Mercy Hospice and take a tour; this is also being developed by Sister Muriel and Mary Walsh.
And then some of us go out visiting.
We check on the progress of the new greenhouse funded by a team in America.
And then there were four. Another of the 6 daughters is going to ‘spread her wings’. Mirjana (recent graduate of high school) has been invited to Germany for 3 months by the deceased father’s sister. Sorry to see her go; great that she is getting an opportunity to go out into the world.
We go on to Jagoda’s home; her husband has just passed on and we worry. Jagoda has been in bed each time we come and is always busy lamenting and crying and eager to have her days on earth come to an end.
But hark! Jagoda is on the outside and Mary (and us) are invited in to pass a few minutes (and to see what we have brought).Later we hear that the viewing of the husband had to be moved elsewhere; no space here!

It is a custom in this country for viewing mourners to make a recorded donation toward the expenses of the burial.

Jagoda’s thoughts; you got him, you keep him, I get to keep the whole pot!

Back home we run into two of our former ‘summer school’ students (Ana and Anita); five years makes so much difference.All three are getting prettier!
Still in a partying mood we head for Nancy and Patrick’s castle the next day. We are all invited to a great lunch!
Is this ‘women power” or not? I will bet that they have all pledged to make this lunch so very special. All we fellows will vote for that!
But wait! There is a guy in the kitchen!
It’s my buddy, Andreja Ante; I get to remind him that, 7 years go, he said ” I want to learn English so I can talk with Bob”.
Father Eamon and Christian have a chat about life’s issues and how Christian would love to spend some time in the States, maybe New York City.Christian will apply himself in this, his final year in school.
We are walking from our home to early Mass; maybe we will not be walking much longer.
We are traveling around Mostar; we pause to check on the home expansion of one of the families (Sergio & Tanja) we interact with.
And an expansion is sorely needed. Mama, Tata, 3 children and grandmother in a wheelchair; only the one room can be used.
Jane, Joseph and Suzanne just do not want to go anyplace except Medjugorje!
Part of a group readying a food delivery to a number of the poorer families outside of Medjugorje.
Of course we reward ourselves with a stop for lunch at the roasted chicken pit place in Ljubuski.Maybe Maria Elena will take a couple of pieces home for Jose and maybe she won’t. Jose is out delivering food to the poor for St. Joseph the Worker.
If it’s food, we will be there! A St. Paul happening to honor and support our Father Kevin. Our celebration was ‘moved’ so that we could have a good Sunday meal. This is at the ‘Pivnica’ restaurant (where Columbo’s used to be).Our friends in the forefront are Sheila and Frank, then Jane and Suzanne.
And at the far corner, friends Jose and Maria Elena.
We admire the new chapel rug. Thanks to the donors.When we first came to Medjugorje we always wondered ‘why just a Cross and not a Crucifix?’

Then it finally sank in.

It is a Crucifix; the Body of Christ is in the Tabernacle! How beautiful!

Everyone’s friend, Joseph, takes his turn doing the Readings.
Frank and Sheila meet a fellow Irish man; Frank and Sheila are here for a bit (we hope for more than that).
Milona is also spending time here in Medjugorje; Milona is a principal ‘doers’ for ‘Mary’s Meals’.
We are off visiting one of Joseph’s favorite families (remember the latest baby is named after Joseph).First glance reassures us that the clothes washer must be still functioning; it has been in danger of dying any day.
The truck is jammed with food for this family; tata recently lost his job in construction; there are 9 kids to feed, clothe and educate.The 9th one here is hiding behind Mama.


Life is looking up for the family; they now have a small barn; they have goats; they have a cow; they have chickens!Thank you to the donors for that help!
Suzanne and Jane enjoy the beautiful view in the back of the house.They may hear the constant murmur ‘look down, look down, watch where you are walking’!
And Bob? He has been abandoned; left on his own at the front of the home. But then two of the daughters discover him and decide to practice their English with him.Delightful!
Another favorite family in the town of Stolac. We have interrupted their lunch; they have some baked potatoes sliced and ready for a sprinkling of grated cheese.They welcome us.

This is the family with the mother (stroke & diabetic) and two children with muscular dystrophy. Niki pictured here can no longer walk.

Some times Joseph and Niki will have a beer together (if Joseph remembers to bring a can).

Teresa is the daughter and is such a great manager of the finances (when they exist) and the house. She is pictured here with Jane, our fellow pilgrim.
Our fellow pilgrim, Suzanne, and each of us receive a present of a pair of warm socks knitted by the mama (they all want to share and give back whatever they can).
And they just fit!
Well, another day, another meal out. Yeah! Rewards just keep happening. Here we are once again at Nancy and Patrick’s. Maria Elena will be overseeing the kitchen as the Mexican menu is being offered!

Welcome to Medjugorje to their daughter, Lillian (first time here)!

Later in the week we visit the two sisters in Vitina; one of their favorite treats which we try to bring is the bacon slab examined very closely by Ilka (we have been calling her Jelka).
We swing over to Dijana; the car registration and insurance is almost due and no on here has a job. Janet has sent funds to help with this and we are the mailmen (and mailwomen).All are happy to hear that Janet may be coming for a visit; Tata is so emotional that he has to sit to recover and we worry that a heart attack may be coming.

All turns out well.

Dijana is practicing on the sewing machine and is praying that she will be good enough to attract some paying customers.
The benched area behind the church is all being block paved!
We are out with Barry and Ann so we get to stop for a try for octopus salad along with mozzarella cheese and tomato; not what we expected.
Today it’s Mostar! We have an appointment with Franjo. Franjo has a masters degree in social work and is currently assigned to the charity called Caritas. This is overseen by the Bishop of Mostar.Franjo’s mission right now is to raise funds to send 3 persons who are disabled to Lourdes; we have already helped with this project.

Now we are asking whether Caritas has any shoes and/or clothes that we can give to the Romas’ in Stolac.

Some things are available so we have come to Mostar to pick them up. Thank you Franjo! Thank you Caritas!

Highly desirable! We find that one of the stores (OBI) in Mostar does sell septic tanks!This may be one of the answers for the Roma landscape (or rather under the landscape)!

Can it be accomplished? We wait for a answer from the local Mayor.

Almost every shop of a decent size has a coffee shop connected with it.Here we are still in Obi and we have run into an old friend, Miho. Miho has a travel agency and an art shop across from the Franciscan Cathedral in Mostar.

Miho is always a great source of local information; a good fellow!

Away from the big city and back into reality. That may be Bob’s old checkered red shirt on Kemo and Mary may be figuring out a way to get it back?The kids are at home! Why we ask? Today is Mardi Gras day and these kids have no costumes and jackets and clothes are all too filthy!

Hard to maintain cleanliness in an environment such as this.

Jose has joined us today; we take kind of a family portrait.Time for us to get a load of pictures printed out at ‘Doni’s’ so we can pass them out on the next trip; always excitement when we do!
Another load of firewood has been asked for and we are able to do that.This firewood seller has now offered to move around the camp next time and unload in 7 piles; thoughtful and so much appreciated.
Mary has a chat with Zorica and 2 of her 6 children.We are learning about and investigating whether medical care is available to them.
Zorica and the 6 children. Could that be Sevkija, father and husband?No, it is our friend and fellow pilgrim, Jose.
Bob must have been assigned to the Footsy work detail; Gabriela is also part of that crew. Most of the camp are measured; some of the adults are shy about removing their shoes; Bob is probably shy as to whether he will be able to get up once the job is finished!


And then the grocery line is set up!! The families each get plastic bags and Mary gets to dole out veggies and fruit and meat and staples; yes bread too.Smiles on both sides of the benches.
The outdoor market is really humming. We spot some of the kids already biting into the Brussel sprouts!
Bob and Gabriel.
Gabriel greets Bob with a demonstration of his school accomplishment! He extends his fingers and as he does he counts 1 through 10 in English!When he finishes; Gabriel wants to know whether Bob can do that?Bob tries and after a couple of attempts gets all the way through the count!Cheers from everyone!
Zorica shows us her Medical card; it was good in 2006 & 2007!A local goes to the bookstore and buys a blank card for 1 KM (80 cents). Then the local registers with the proper office; one month later they can receive approval. Each year they have a 2 month ‘window’ in which they can purchase a stamp for 21.50 KM. That gives big discounts on Medical visits, procedures and medicine.

Bob buys 2 puffers every so often for asthma; one is 9 KM and the other 45 KM; with a card that drops to 1 KM each! Wow!

We return a few days later; we have found some jackets at a local store for 5 KM each; we bought a bit and Gabriela is so proud of her new jacket; they are attending school today and were just getting ready to go>Mama Zorica is also very proud.
And one of the jackets fit Amela!Joy, Joy, Joy!
And a pair of the shoe boots that we received through Franjo at Caritas is just the right size and style to further complement the new jacket!Caritas is the European equivalent to America’s Red Cross but is administered by the Catholics and supervised by the Bishops. In this area it is the Bishop of Mostar responsibility.
Pasionka greets Mary with a huge hug; very quiet, seldom asks for anything, grateful for whatever comes to her. Her husband, Safet, looks on.
It is the culture here to never visit empty handed. We have brought soap for the clothes washing; shampoo for the hair and some extras.
Sabahudin invites us to his new home construction site! Stones are being laid now in the hope that, someday, a cement truck will appear and unload the balance of a load directly onto Sabahudin’s floor.We also hope for that.

We think of the male bird building a nest hoping that it will attract a curious and loving bird.

Quick, Mary, leave that place!

Then we head over to Sarajka’ home and her son, Dean. It is a 2 foot step up to the fragile porch but Mary makes it ok.
Dean invites us in and is eager to show us his TV (just to his left); he can connect it to the red car battery below the table and enjoy an evening of sweet entertainment!
Ah, there is a bathtub!
We all admire the last year’s school picture and we spot Dean in the front row center; Dean is in the Muslim side of the Stolac town school.
Pasionka is waiting for our visit to her dwelling. Pasionka will be 19 in March and has two children.
We have set up a meeting with a charity group called ‘Orchid’ in Stolac. We had googled ‘Stolac’ and ‘Roma’ and found this source!We meet with Minva and Sanel; it is a low budget group but big hearts. We tour the office and are treated to chocolate coated figs! Mary and Joseph tell me they are delicious! We order and pick up a few boxes.

We ask for information about the Roma and we find that everyone knows them by their first names. They want to help.

We will return.

Feb. 13 and we find that the Chapel has an experienced altar boy among the pilgrims; it’s Briceton B. and we are so happy that he volunteers to help. And that he does a beautiful reading; thank you Briceton!
Feb. 20: A good day to head for Stolac.Today we want to hear the school kids read for us; time for them to to show off!
Joseph has received a donation of 17 good blankets! We stop at the store and get a few more so that each of the Roma can receive a blanket. A big hit!Mary spreads them on the ‘counter’ along with the food; it’s self service!
Joseph has brought some pencils and school items for the kids; they get to choose the colors!We chat with the parents and let them know that we know that the kids can have free medical treatment if they are younger than 6 years. They also applies to the children who are attending school. All they need is the 21.50 KM ($17) for the year’s stamp to stick in their ID card.

Oh, oh, no one comes up waving their funds. Well we have received two donations with which we can fund the kids!

Who has the cards from previous years?


We ask that someone gather the cards that they do have and meet us at the government building when we call them in a day or two.
We go meet Sanel and we get to have cappuccinos (coffee) at a downtown cafe with Sanel. We are looking for information on how the Romas’ get medical treatment.You must be a resident of this town in Bosnia and there are different categories which must be complied with. Each year medical cards are available and there is a 2 month window to take advantage of it for the year. The stamp for the year is 21.50 KM ($17) and one has to go the proper government office.

Sanel will guide us a little later.

Do all the Romas’ have cards?

We head for the Rectory; Father Rajko is not here today but the two nuns are; maybe we can find out more from Sister Aloysius.We leave an envelope with a request for Holy Masses to be said for a number of our groups intentions.

Alexandra has given us a number of English books and we pass those on to Sister (she teaches in the school on the Catholic side) to pass them on to the English teacher.

Joseph snaps a picture.

Feb. 21: we see a large crowd at the exit door of the church after the Croatian 7:30 early Mass; Vicka has attended today’s Mass and has smiles for everyone.
Feb. 22: Going into the 7:30 early Mass we spot a number of large groups of very attentive pilgrims; they must be part of the thousands of European pilgrims maybe down on their luck but about to enjoy a free weekend of rooms and meals and guides and bus rides contributed by various pansions here (Nancy and Patrick will be housing at least 125 of them). God bless one and all.
This is the luxurious Grace Pansion, one of the hosts to the arriving bus travelers.
We finally meet John from Macedonia; before that John was in Medjugorje for 20 years; before that, I will bet, Ireland.John works with and for the poor wherever he goes!


Father Justin celebrated the Holy Mass today; Father arrived with our friend, Penny.We celebrated by passing on to Penny a box of those chocolate covered figs!


Feb. 25th and we have only a few days to get the medical cards stamped. We stop to pick up whatever they have found; we get a number of them. We search through them to identify which are the kids.We are able, with Sanel’s help, to get 8 stamped. We return with the cards and explain why some and not some others.

Two of the adults ask if we can help their brother, Mirisad. The van was involved in an accident and the police have warned him to get it fixed (178 KM) before taking it on the road.

Click to viewWe look at it and tell the group that we will see if we can find someone to come up with the funds.This is the main vehicle for everyone at the camp; we are told all agree that this is the top priority.

How could we refuse?

Next day we needed to return.Gabriela is busy with homework and will be going to the afternoon classes in a few hours.
Zorica was sweeping when we arrived; Joseph takes over that task to the delight of Amela!Amela even sleeps in her beautiful ‘new’ coat.
We admire Gabriel’s last year’s school picture and examine the written reports from his teachers.
Then it is Rafael’s turn; we check his school picture and then the teacher’s report.
There are 3 different offices which we must go to in regards to the medical card verifications and stamp purchases.One of those is the Social Center which is located in the school building.

We pass by the school lunch store; we pause and introduce ourselves to the lady who manages it.

We explain, she understands; all four kids are receiving daily lunches; we calculate and leave funds for the balance of the school year.
Feb. 27: Wednesday, third day this week journeying to Stolac; mainly for the Roma group. Everything has to be done by the end of this month as far as medical cards for each else medical cards will not be available again until next year!So we are trying to wrap it up.

We do; we are finished, all of the stamps have been purchased within the deadline. Only Safet and Pasionka still have offices to visit and they will be helped by those at Orchid!


A young French volunteer has been injured; falling off the path at the historic cavern and onto a series of terraces in Stolac. An ambulance is called and they arrive; whoops; the volunteer is associated with one of the Muslim humanitarian orgs.; not this ambulance driver’s problem and they leave. Another 2 hours and the proper ambulance arrives. He is taken for treatment to Mostar.Arriving at the hospital he is to wait while the staff take their break; they will return in half an hour or so.
We continue to press the Mayor’s office by appearing and by phone; no success thus far.Perhaps we are wrong and are placing the Mayor into a “no win” position.
Almost time to start our pre Easter deliveries of food to a number of needy families. We will be measuring foot sizes as we make the rounds.