Priest says Dominican parish making strides

By | July 22, 2009

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Fr. Mike Seis, a priest of the Green Bay Diocese who serves at the diocese’s mission parish in the Dominican Republic, observes local residents during a social gathering in one of the rural outposts outside of Elias Piña. (Photo courtesy of Casey Chrudimsky | For The Compass)

“They have a strong faith in God,” Fr. Seis said. “I guess when one has nothing, they are completely dependent on the Creator. It’s amazing to see the faith of the people in this area, especially in trying times.”

He reports some good news in the area. Five hundred families who had to walk miles in search of water will now have access to public faucets with the new installation of an aqueduct. The project, in the rural community of Los Corocitos, took several months as the digging was done all by hand.

“All the work was done by the families who will be utilizing the water,” said Fr. Seis, adding that the aqueduct will provide water using gravity to public faucets. A dedication for the aqueduct was to be held on July 25.

“This is a major help for the families in this area,” Fr. Seis said.

The Catholic school in Elias Piña – Centro Educativo Santa Teresa de Jesus Fe y Alegria (St. Teresa of Avila Educational Center-Faith and Joy) – continues to do well. It will soon enter its fifth year of operation. Currently the school houses grades kindergarten through seventh. A Catholic high school in Elias Piña is still a goal.

“The hope is still there,” Fr. Seis said. “In a recent meeting I had with Dr. Margarita Cedeño de Fernández, the First Lady of the Dominican Republic, and I reminded her of her husband’s promise to help make the high school a reality. So we are hopeful.”

Enrollment in the school remains steady – about nearly 600 students. According to Fr. Seis, the community is excited and welcoming of the school and its future.

“The mission school is very important because the public schools in the area are in very bad shape in every way imaginable,” said he. “The school is a beacon of hope in the community.”

A few improvements, including a new roof on the school building, were completed this summer.

On July 15, Rodolfo De Leon was ordained a transitional deacon. He will be ordained a priest next year, making him the third local resident to enter the priesthood.

“Having native priests helps in recruiting other young men to enter the seminary,” Fr. Seis said. “It’s also important because there are so few priests with a rather large Catholic population. We need more priests here.”

The mission has welcomed a variety of visitors over the past few months.

Earlier this year, members of the Fox Valley Mission Group traveled to the Dominican Republic to construct a chapel in a rural area outside of Elias Piña. Fr. Seis said that the new chapel will serve many rural communities.

High school students from Xavier High School in Appleton made a visit to the Dominican Republic during Holy Week to get a feel for what life is like for local residents.

Fr. Seis said the accommodations varied a bit from house-to-house, but from what he could see, the students had a good experience.

“We’re also in the process of assembling 10 prefabricated homes in a rural community through the efforts of Cross International, a group based out of Florida,” Fr. Seis said. “The houses will benefit the neediest families.”

Dentists and doctors from St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Oshkosh made a visit to the area in the spring. While there the team helped build a chapel and used their skills to hold dental and physical check-ups for area residents.

“They cleaned teeth and checked blood pressures,” Fr. Seis said.

Fr. Seis, who was recently home on vacation, visited parishes in Oshkosh and Omro to share his experiences in the mission and describe some of the mission’s needs. This year marks Fr. Seis’s 13th year serving the Dominican Republic mission, a place where he believes God meant for him to be.

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