Mario's joy - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2022 newsletter


John O’Donoghue, Bolivia


Receiving training from Marcia, a physical therapist

Dear friends,

Greetings from Cochabamba, Bolivia. It’s springtime in our part of the world, and everywhere it’s hot and dry. Spring is the hottest season here, and during most afternoons the temperature averages between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The rains are late, and people are getting worried; like in most places in the world, the effects of climate change are uppermost on people’s minds. Cochabamba in particular is very dry this year, and we are worried that the late rains will significantly affect the harvest.

Physical therapy exercises with Francisco

The political climate here at the moment is tense. The former president Jeanine Anez is still in prison awaiting trial on charges of sedition, and in the city of Santa Cruz, east of Cochabamba, there have been strikes and demonstrations for more than a month over the government’s timetable for holding a population census. The economy has been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic, and unemploy-ment 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 the government.

My Maryknoll lay missioner colleague Louise Locke contracted the COVID virus a few weeks ago, but she is now doing well. She has been working with me now for over six months. Both of us are still receiving training in physical therapy so we can better assist our disabled patients. At the moment we have 19 patients at our center, and most of them need physical therapy. We are trained in the basics, but more training will go a long way.

Of all the patients we work with, one in particular stands out and is very inspiring and a joy to work with. Mario has been with us for over three years now. He is blind and is confined to a wheelchair.

Physical therapy with Mario

There was a time over a year ago when he loved to read, especially Misioneros magazines, the Spanish edition of Maryknoll magazine. However, the wound on the side of his face turned out to be cancer, and we had to send him to La Paz for special treatment.

Sadly the disease progressed, and when he returned to us six months later he had lost his eyesight. We expected him to be depressed, but somehow he was joyful, and when he would exercise on the parallel bars at our rehab center in the garden, he would often do a dance and make us all laugh. He also found a new love — music, so we bought him a radio, and he takes it everywhere with him. The sisters have said that what makes him so joyful is his strong faith, his prayerful disposition and a great sense of humor.

Recently we had Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ new director of mission, Elvira Ramirez, visit us, and also Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, our director of communications, and his wife, Mary. They visited all our projects in the field, took lots of photos and videos and participated in many activities. The field staff were very grateful they took the time to come visit us in Bolivia and learn about our work here with the Bolivians.

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

Happy holidays,

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.