As COVID continues, new missioners begin their ministries - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2022 newsletter


John O’Donoghue, Bolivia


John preparing for food distribution

Dear friends,

Greetings from Cochabamba, Bolivia. We have just begun our winter season. It has been a cold fall, and people keep talking about the effects of climate change. There is a certain dread among the locals that this coming winter will be colder than previous ones. However, we are very lucky that no matter how bad the weather is, the afternoons are always nice for the most part, and the temperature can reach into the mid-60s even during the winter season.

When I first arrived here, the folks at Maryknoll told me that in the morning you will need to put on your sweater, in the afternoon take it off, and in the evenings put it on again. The difference between the morning temperature and the afternoon can be as high as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s quite a phenomenon.

Louise providing physical therapy

The coronavirus is still with us, and we have now entered our fifth wave. There is a new sub-variant of the omicron virus circulating, and it is very contagious. The number of cases at the moment is low, but since we are about to enter the winter season, cases are expected to increase significantly. Approximately 22,000 people have died in Bolivia as a result of the virus. The population of Bolivia is just over 11 million people. There is still a lot of misinformation circulating, and a lot of people are not taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves, such as social distancing, the wearing of facial masks and using hand sanitizers. I still use a private taxi to go to work everyday, since travelling by the minibus taxis is still too risky.

The economy has been hit hard due to COVID, and unemployment has increased significantly. We continue to do monthly food distributions, but we now have people coming to our back gate every morning looking for food. Our food stocks are running low, but we continue to do the best we can. COVID has been such a shock to the economy that people here feel it will take years for Bolivia to get back on its feet. The new government with President Arce is just not living up to expectations, and people are losing faith and are fed up with all the political bickering between the various political parties of government. In June, the previous president, Jeanine Anez, after nearly 15 months in pre-trial detention, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sedition.

John assisting Arturo to walk again

In January of this year, two new lay missioners joined us. Due to the pandemic, we had gone two years without receiving any new missioners, so it was a welcome change. Both the new missioners — Louise Locke and Victoria Arce — are settling in well and already have found suitable ministry assignments. Louise has decided to join me two days a week working with the Missionaries of Charity, and the patients and staff really like her. Louise has a lot of experience working with the elderly and people with disabilities, and the sisters are grateful for her presence.

We currently have 16 patients at the center, and we continue to do physical therapy exercises with them every day and supervise them as they try to walk using the parallel bars in our rehab center. Some patients who are capable like to do some lightweight lifting to strengthen their arm muscles, and we encourage this. A great deal of our work involves very close supervision of the patients since we have had a number of mishaps with patients falling.

At the moment we have two patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease; two suffering from cancer; four patients who are developmentally challenged; two with HIV/AIDS and the remaining six who are wheelchair-bound with various physical disabilities. All are abandoned.

I find it hard to believe that on September 10, I will have completed 16 years with Maryknoll, a journey that took me from Asia to Africa to South America.

Best regards to everyone, and thank you for your support.
It is most appreciated.

Cochabamba, Bolivia

Please consider making a special gift to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ “Walk With Us” campaign, which raises money for the recruitment, training and ongoing support of all of us lay missioners. We can only “walk with” the people here because you are “walking with” us. Thanks to matching gifts, every $100 given to the campaign in effect becomes $150. To donate ONLINE, click the “Walk With Us” button below. Thank you so much for your generosity!


John O'Donoghue
John serves in a men’s HIV/AIDS Shelter with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Cochabamba, Bolivia.