Fr Pat recalls cholera and Cuba visit as missionary

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Fr Pat recalls cholera and Cuba visit as missionary

Thetford parish priest Fr Patrick Cleary served for ten years with the Missionary Society of St James the Apostle, first in Bolivia and then in Boston, New England. He has reflected on his decade of service in the Society’s latest newsletter.

Fr Pat recalls a cholera outbreak in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in the early 1990s: “Many poor people were dying since the price of medicines was beyond their means. In one single day, I had seven families come to the parish house looking for Baptism for their babies who were gravely ill with cholera. Some had died before even arriving at the parish.

“After Baptizing one boy I asked the family to take him to the hospital in town, which the German government had established to offer free treatment for cholera victims. The boy died enroute to the hospital. So, the next day, I went to their home (a one room shack) to celebrate the funeral. His grave was dug on the edge of the jungle.

“After the service and burial, I could see that the mother was very sick so I got her and her husband into the car and I started driving to the local hospital in the city. The only comment from her husband, in this grave situation, was to ask whether the hospital would charge him for his wife’s care. I realized in that moment, that for the world’s poor, life was livable on a day-by-day basis; there were no safety nets, and no health care or insurance for moments of tragedy or extreme need. This poor woman died on the way to the hospital. Earlier that same day, another mother back in the parish had told me, ‘maybe my child will die and God will give me a healthy one next time’. These are words I could never have expected to hear.”

Fr Pat also recalls visiting Cuba for a visit by Pope John-Paul II’s when he got the chance to shake hands with Fidel Castro.

Click here to read the full newsletter article.

Find out more about the Society of St James.