Tuesday, June 5, 2012

People who Influenced Our Ministry

Fr. Bruno and Family

ELLEN - Somehow I can't think of just Fr. Bruno.  I think of them as a family.  They are so special to Bob and I that it is hard to describe them to you.

We met Fr. Bruno when we returned from a furlough in 2000.  At the start of his ministry at Epiphany, he had moved into the rectory without his family.  A month or so later his whole family came from Haiti.  His wife, Maryse, his daughters, Dominique, Ann, Sarah and the youngest Cristal, came together.  Another daughter, Rachel, was finishing up her degree to become a doctor in Haiti. 

As our friendship grew, we got to know each one of them individually.  Since they had all daughters, and we had all daughters, I had a special bond with Maryse and the girls.  Each member of the family had unique personalities and special gifts.

We got to know Fr. Bruno first, because he was without his family.  Bob was his deacon for nine years.  Fr. Bruno is tall and thin and has grey hair and a grey beard.  He looked like a tall thin Santa Claus.  He had a wonderful laugh and I still love to hear him laugh.  He is a man of great faith.  I learned that I could talk to him about anything.  Since he spoke good English, it was easier to share with him.  We immediately bonded.

We grew to trust each other.  We started bible studies and prayers groups almost immediately after he arrived.  We had dinners and lunches together.  We found out he was a man after Bob's own heart.  He likes Taco Bell.  

We girls started praying for each other.  I especially had a strong bond with the youngest daughter, Cristal.  She became like a daughter to me.  To this day, she still comes to me for advice and prayers.  

Although, the Bruno family is often at their ministry in Haiti and the girls have a life of their own, we still keep in touch and when we are together, it is like we have never been apart.  Our affection for Father Bruno and his family is so special and precious.  I feel very blessed to have had them in our lives.  We thank God for this family. 

BOB  – Fr. Jean Monique Bruno came into my life as we began our fifth year of ministry in the Dominican Republic.  We would serve as pastors at Epiphany Church for nine wonderful, but sometimes difficult years.  Father Bruno was more than my friend and companion in ministry. We developed a deep and truly loving family relationship.

Fr. Bruno and I grew up in two very different cultures.  He grew up in a family where each day was a challenge.  For this reason, he understands poverty and the struggles it brings.  I grew up in a lower middle class American family.  I had food on the table each day and school was just something I had to do.

Fr. Bruno spoke four languages nearly perfectly, and I was struggling to learn Spanish, my second language.  He understood prejudice as both a Haitian and a black man.  I lived in Nebraska where there was a very small minority population.  I did not become friends with an African American until I was at the University of Nebraska.  Even in the DR where I am definitely a part of the minority population, I did not feel prejudice.  Well there is one exception.  The prices of nearly everything increased when vendors saw me coming.  Even with these significant cultural differences, we connected on the spiritual level.

Father Bruno and his family are perhaps among the most committed Christians I have ever met.  His five daughters are committed to especially helping their Haitian brothers and sisters, and this was intensified after the earthquake.  Through a foundation they formed, they have a school of over 700 children.  They feed these students every day.  The ministry also includes a clinic and community out reach projects.

In our mission life, we have been blessed with many loving friends.   Yet, the Bruno´s are more than loving friends.  Our DNA comes from two very different culture backgrounds.  But the true blood of life comes from the Holy Spirit.  Here we are the same, and we have a very special bond that can never be broken.
Episcopal Church Women and Cursillo

Ellen - In addition to Vivencia and Hijas Del Rey. the groups  that have been an inspiration to me are the Episcopal Church Women and Cursillo.  The Episcopal Church Women have been the spine of church activity.  It is like it used to be in the States.  When Episcopal Church women have conventions in the DR, over 200 women from all over the diocese attend.  Because many members are poor, this is a financial sacrifice for many.  These women continually have projects to help the needy and the church.  The force that moves these women is the love of God and it shows.  Cursillo, is alive and well here.  The leaders of Cursillo are the leaders in the churches across the diocese.  They give of themselves unselfishly all the time.  They are an inspiration.  When we first arrived, the first group to reach out to us was Cursillo.  They enveloped me in their activities.  As I became more active with my own ministry, I had to pull away from them.  They made me strong enough to go out and do things that I didn’t feel I could do.  They helped when they could to establish my ministry.  I will always be grateful for loving support.  

Esthervina Gonzalez

Estervina is in the pink
ELLEN  – When I speak of Cursillo, there is one person who pops into my mind immediately.  It is Esthervina.  When we first arrived here, she was the first person to grab my arm and lead me into a Cursillo meeting.  My Spanish was terrible.  She had enough gumption for two of us.  She pushed when I felt inadequate and she encouraged and pushed some more.  She is always ready to help when the need arises.  She is always willing to serve.  She never runs out of steam.  She has some health problems, but that never stops her from helping.  She always says I love you and never stops.  What a woman and an inspiration to me. 

BOB -  Louis, her husband, and Esthervina are members of Epiphany Church.  Louis is laid back and easy going.  Esthervina is a driver.  You want something done, go to Esthervina.  Want an honest and forceful opinion, go to Esthervina.  Want someone who will help you on just about any matter, go to Esthervina.  Want someone to care, go to Esthervina.

    Every church needs to have someone like Esthervina.  I was sitting with her at our diocesan convention when the Bishop named Epiphany as the diocesan Cathedral.  I am so glad I was because this is something we both desired.  Her enthusiasm is contagious and we found ourselves hooting, hollering, and jumping for joy.   Estervina is a doer and a shaker, and I am so blessed to have her at Epiphany Cathedral.


Bob – ¨Did anyone ever care about him, or love him.¨ This was the first thought I had when I first met Manuelito.   There are many people in Santo Domingo who call the streets near Epiphany, their home.  However, Manuelito is unique among all the street people, I have met.
Gasque, where Epiphany and our apartment are located, is an old middle class area.  This part of Santo Domingo combines some of the better tourist hotels with tall apartment buildings, several hospitals, and clinics, discos, and the street businesses that the tourist trade often attracts.  Manuelito strolls through Gasque, as if he were truly the owner of everything he surveys.  Most people live on the street out of necessity, but Manuelito acts as if this is the life he prefers.

Manuel is normally barefoot, has no front teeth, and those teeth he does have are decaying.  His cloths in most instances are dirty, his beard is scraggly and his hair even scragglier.  In a word he is scary.  In my opinion he probably suffers from a mental disorder.
When he first came to Epiphany, he was disruptive during our coffee time.  Some church members were so concerned that they wanted to bar him from entering our church garden.  For a time period, we actually did have two policemen monitoring the situation.

As deacon I saw it as my responsibility to work with street people coming to the church.  In the beginning his responses to me were angry.  But over time, Manuel mellowed.  Honestly, at times I was fearful myself, because I could not predict his reactions.  When he periodically had violent outbursts I learned how to calm him down.  Over time, these outbursts became fewer.
Everyone knows Manuel, especially other street people and the police.  I have seen him dig food out of the garbage, and I have also seen him share food and clothing with other street people who he judges are needier.  There are times when he will disappear from the area for a long period.  He always honestly tells me where he has been.  Sometimes he has been in jail and other times he has been ¨traveling¨.

For me, Manuel is a good friend, even though I know his attitude can change very quickly.  He has a street wisdom that is absolutely remarkable.  He expresses himself openly and on occasion in a way that embarrasses me and other people.  I am sure Manuel did not experience positive love when he was growing up in San Pedro, and I judge he has been living on the streets since his teens.  You and I could probably not survive in the conditions in which he lives.  But for Manuel all of Gasque and beyond is his house and home.  I make it a point to always touch Manuel in some way when we meet.  I imagine few people do likewise.  But I believe touch sends a message of care and concern.

Through concern and love, Manuel has come to see Epiphany as a church with people who care.  I often see people sigh deeply when he enters the garden.  Some even move away from him.  But Manuel talks freely about his life on the streets, and I have learned how to reach out to those whose life is difficult to comprehend. Through him I have learned how to touch those who call the street their homes.  I cherish my friendship with Manuel, and I am confident I will never have another friend like him.

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