by Blaine Phillips, Seminarian of the Diocese of Alexandria
Acompaño…what is that? This Notre Dame Seminary mission immersion experience began in 1989 with a handful of seminarians under the leadership of Monsignor Gregory Aymond, in which they worked in Mexico to help the people rebuild and recover from Hurricane Gilberto.
While their labor was manual, their primary task was to “walk with/accompany” the people and share the faith, hence the trip’s name, Acompaño. Three decades later, and the only factor which has changed about this mission immersion is the location: our Theology I class served the poor for a week in the Diocese of Limón, Costa Rica. Under the guidance of Bishop Javier Gerardo Roman Rias and Fr. Pedro Escriva Romani, we served the poor of the city with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s order) and prepared supplies/food to bring to the Cabécar communities on Mt. Alto Cohen.
Just like the previous years, the primary joy and privilege of the trip was to get to know them (our own Gabe Dowden loved playing soccer with them in the pouring rain!) and to bring them the sacraments, as they only get to see a priest and go to Mass once a month (sometimes even less frequent) due to the harsh conditions required to get to them on the mountain. The missionary must drive 2 two hours through the mountains, crossing three or more rivers in the car (depending on the water level), park at the ‘base’, and hike for another four miles uphill through mud, visiting communities along the way. To endure these conditions to bring people the faith and the sacraments, every missionary felt like St. Francis Xavier! What struck me the most about the Cabécar was their immense piety and devotion to the faith, lived out in a life of charity and work. Furthermore,
I saw that Christ’s presence is the one, true universal language which unites all, surpassing every barrier. This love reminds me of words from St. Thomas Aquinas: “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”