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Lisa M. Hendey describes the final day of her exciting journey to the Dominican Republic to see up close the work of the Church being done globally. 

I woke up well before my alarm on Day Five of our Cross Catholic Outreach journey to the Dominican Republic with a heart full of mixed emotions. We’d spent the night in a hotel along the coast. So I packed quickly and headed to the shoreline for my morning prayer. With an incredible view of the Caribbean Sea, I thanked the Creator of such beauty for all I had experienced.  



Praying along the shore in La Romana, Dominican Republic 


My heart was heavy for many reasons. As is typical for me, I had already bonded with my fellow travelers, even in the few days we’d had together. I knew that saying goodbye to them and the Cross team would hurt my heart. I felt trepidation about being able to capture the potent activities of our short trip in a way that would help our readers understand and be moved to participate in the beautiful work of Cross Catholic. Looking back through my photos, I remembered each encounter with joy and hope. I wasn’t ready to go home and face the health challenges that lay ahead of me.  

A few quiet moments in front of crashing waves and a rising sun did my heart good. Quietly thanking God for the many gifts of this experience, I pulled myself away from the view and went off to start the day. 

Before we venture into the activities of Day Five, I want to share yet another In-Depth piece by EWTN’s Mark Irons. In this brief video, Mark offers a backdrop for the immigration issues that drive many of the situations we encountered in the Batayes we visited on Days Four and Five. In this video, you’ll hear from Moises Sifron, who I introduced in last week’s post, and Leony Batista, who will be introduced below. 



Once we were aboard our bus and en route to our first stop, we prayed morning Psalms and Readings (version of liturgy of the hours) for those who serve the poor. Included in our reflections were Psalms 113 and 146, Ephesians 1:3-10 and 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13. Particularly moving for me was a written reflection from St. Vincent de Paul which focused on the beauty of walking in solidarity with those in need. It read in part,

Charity is certainly greater than any rule. Moreover, all rules must lead to charity. Since she is a noble mistress, we must do whatever she commands. With renewed devotion, then, we must serve the poor, especially outcasts and beggars. They have been given to us as our masters and patrons.” (Excerpt from the writings of St. Vincent de Paul


With these prayers illuminating our hearts, our first stop for the day was a beautiful new youth center at Batey 106. Pulling up to the building, we were greeted by many young people who participate in programs at the center. We spent the next hour being entertained and informed about how being a part of the work of the center was making a difference in their lives.  



Liony Batista, Director of Fundación Nueva Alegria, shows packages of “Manna Pack,” a formula created to meet the nutritional needs of children around the world who are severely malnourished. 



A participant of Fundación Nueva Alegria invited us to visit his “El Boss” sportswear boutique, opened with the support of the foundation.



Talented student participants from Fundación Nueva Alegria presented song and dance performances. 


From the Youth Center, we made our way out of the sugar cane fields and back into the urban core, stopping at a school in East Santo Domingo for another Box of Joy distribution. As a reminder, the Box of Joy is a shoebox-sized gift filled with toys, clothing, school supplies, a rosary, and The Story of Jesus. These boxes are sent to children in developing countries like Haiti, Malawi, and the Dominican Republic. As we passed the gifts into the arms of these precious little ones, my heart broke open. Such a simple gesture of generosity can make such an immense difference. 



The highlight of another school visit in East Santo Domingo: another Box of Joy distribution


Following our school visit, we were gifted to attend Mass at a lovely parish in the city. Father Pascal Kumanda, CICM, our trip chaplain, celebrated, and the small community welcomed us with open arms, feeding us a delicious lunch after the liturgy was completed. 



Wonderful chefs from Fundación Nueva Alegria treated us to a fabulous lunch. 


We spent the afternoon with Liony Batista as our host and guide. For more on Liony’s background, I want to point you to an excellent article at America magazine, written by my fellow traveler J.D. Long-Garcia. In this piece, J.D. gives some of Liony’s personal story and why his commitment to the work of this foundation means so much to him and the families he serves. 



A young mother shares how Fundación Nueva Alegria has helped her have hope for her future. 


During the first stage of our visit, we stopped at a very small building where very big work is underway. The young men and women in this community have access to personal development and job training. Some of the foundation’s programs include plumbing, sewing, screen printing, barbering, and digital marketing. Next, we made our way to a large two-story building for a dramatic performance and several inspiring speeches by Liony and student participants in Fundación Nueva Alegria.

Watching Liony interact with these students and their response to the opportunities they have at the center, I felt the tangible hope that comes when a young person is given support and encouraged to strive for a brighter future. Liony’s partnership with Cross Catholic Outreach means not only access to nutrition and education for these boys and girls. It means the chance to make a difference in our world. 



Young adult performers from Fundación Nueva Alegria present a dramatic spiritual performance. 




A few last hugs and goodbyes from beautiful new friends in the Dominican Republic.


As we left the youth center, my mind replayed images from the day: the dances and songs we’d watched, the bright hopes we’d heard expressed, the Mass and prayers we’d experienced, the food we had shared, and all the many dreams we had dared to dream together.  

It is easy to become overwhelmed with and discouraged by the vast amount of adversity our world faces today. It’s too simple to lose hope in systemic solutions and to turn our gaze inward, away from pain and problems.  


Is change possible? I asked myself that day. 

My answer then, as it remains now, is a resounding “Yes!” As I learned during my five days of witnessing the work of Cross Catholic Outreach in the Dominican Republic, change can happen even in very small steps when we fully engage ourselves and commit to being a part of solutions.  

Change can look like a small shoebox packed with items that bring joy. 

Change can taste like cheese, handcrafted by microentrepreneurs with big dreams. 

Change can sound like the voice of a talented young singer who is encouraged to develop and share her God-given talents. 

Change can smell like a room of overexcited teens bursting at the seams with excitement that comes from learning a trade or a new skill that will provide a better way forward. 


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Read Lisa Hendey's travel diary from her journey to the Dominican Republic with Cross Catholic Outreach. #CatholicMom


I have chosen to believe that change can and will happen when we partner with caring organizations that act as faithful and visionary stewards. Cross Catholic Outreach is helping such change happen. I feel honored to invite you to be a part of this journey forward with me. In the months since I took this trip, I have worked diligently to recuperate and get strong again. I feel a sense of urgency to be well so that I can be as courageous as the folks I met in the Dominican Republic. I have work to do. 

Together, we can respond to Christ’s gospel invitation to love one another. Let’s not wait another day to get started. 


Become a Part of the Cross Catholic Mission 

As we lead up to the holiday season, we invite you to become a part of the work of Cross Catholic Outreach.  

  • Box of Joy provides schools, parishes, organizations, and families with an inspiring opportunity to send gifts to Haiti, Guatemala and other developing countries. A Box of Joy is a Christmas shoebox that is donated and packed with toys, clothing, school supplies and other treasured items. Each child who receives a Box of Joy also receives a rosary and a booklet in their own language that tells The Story of Jesus. Families can participate by donating a Box of Joy for $34 or donating affordable items from the Box of Joy Amazon Wishlist
  • The Cross Catholic Christmas Catalog is a simple way to give a gift to a family in need in another part of the world. Giving options include Bibles, health care supplies, housing, clean water, business training and even soccer balls. Choose a simple gift given in honor of someone special in your life and bless both recipients! 

Catch up on the Dominican Republic Diary series

Copyright 2023 Lisa M. Hendey
Images: copyright 2023 Lisa M. Hendey, all rights reserved.