Álvaro and Karen’s wait - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2021 newsletter


Joe Loney and Filo Siles, Bolivia

Álvaro and Sergio outside the supermarket

Advent is a time of waiting. Recently Filo and I realized that for many the waiting that we associate with Advent occurs for much more than a few weeks. We recently met the siblings Álvaro and Karen, who exemplify the brotherly love, hope and the extended perseverance that we all endeavor to live out during the Advent times in our lives.

Álvaro earns his daily bread selling candies outside a supermarket in our city of Cochabamba. The business plan of this high school student is simple: Buy a large bag of individually wrapped candies at a wholesale outlet and sell the individual candies to children and adults as they enter or depart the supermarket.

After seeing him frequently, buying his candy and wondering why he is so motivated to sell in all kinds of weather, seven days a week, Filo’s son Sergio decided to inquire. Álvaro informed him that he was not selling just to earn the daily bread for himself, he was also working to help his sister Karen. Karen’s history moved Sergio to contribute to her needs.

Karen is a 17-year-old whose parents are deceased and who needs medical attention. Just two years ago Karen developed a persistent cough, which became so pronounced that she had difficulty breathing and needed emergency medical treatment.

In the general public hospital, they performed an emergency tracheostomy. The operation saved her life, but Karen now breathes through an incision in her throat. She tries to communicate in a raspy, highly uneven and very difficult-to-understand voice. Because she does not have the funds to pay for the medications for regular cleanings of her throat and incision opening, she frequently has become ill with infections and colds.

In addition, Karen now needs another operation to close the incision that the public hospital is too overwhelmed with COVID patients to undertake. Neither Karen nor her brothers have medical insurance for a private clinic or doctor. Complicating matters is the fact that Karen is in the final year of her high school, where physical appearance and the ability to speak clearly are very important.

Karen and Filo

Moved by Sergio´s example of meeting and helping Álvaro and Karen, Filo recognized that she too could help Karen with her speaking and breathing disabilities. Our medical specialist readily had Karen into her office for a consultation and set Karen up for free sessions with a speech specialist.

Today Karen is beginning to learn to speak again through her mouth and to breathe again through her nose. Once that process is completed, the doctor will surgically close the opening in her throat. Karen says of her progress, “My brothers cried with happiness when they heard me speak again.”

Karen and Álvaro have been waiting — waiting for a solution for Karen´s medical needs; waiting for a time when they finish high school; waiting for a better option to earn a living.

Advent too is a time of waiting. As we await the birth of Jesus, Karen and Álvaro remind us that many of our sisters and brothers are waiting for us to express our solidarity.

Filo and I recognize that many of you are already actively expressing your solidarity with as many people as you can. We deeply appreciate your generosity. If, however, you can provide additional help for the more than 400 children and adults who are also waiting for a hand up, we would be additionally blessed.

May your Advent season be filled with much peace, hope and love.

Filo and Joe
December 2021

We are so grateful for your continuing support of our ministry. During this season of giving, we would like to urge you to consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign. This new campaign raises money for the recruitment, training and on-going support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us.

A group of donors has already pledged to match the dollars raised by this campaign 2-to-1. That means that every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. This campaign will ensure that Maryknoll Lay Missioners will be able to continue to send and to support missioners like me in the years to come. Please pray for the success of this campaign and if you are able, please donate at the “Walk With Us” button below.


Joe Loney
A Maryknoll lay missioner since 1995, Joe Loney oversees a social-inclusion project for persons with disabilities (Avancemos Juntos para la Inclusion Social de las Personas con Discapacidades) in Tacopaya, Entre Rios and Cochabamba, Bolivia.