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

When our fourth day of travel in the Dominican Republic with Cross Catholic Outreach began with a recitation of the glorious mysteries of the Rosary, I had no idea how much I would need the graces of that quiet prayer time with our band of journalists. As much as I steel myself for the poverty I will witness during these travels, I am never fully prepared. But the great gift of Day Four was that along with the hardship we encountered, we also experienced hope in the form of human and divine intercession. 

To offer some context for today’s journal, I wanted to share an excellent conversation between two of my fellow travelers, J.D. Long-García, senior editor at America Media and Mark Irons of EWTN News In Depth. In this brief video, Mark and J.D. reflect upon some of the moments we experienced that day. 




After our prayer time on the bus, our first stop for the day took us to the city of La Romana to the Fundación Hospital General el Buen Samaritano (Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation). At the hospital, we were warmly welcomed and given an overview of the many health care initiatives underway there in partnership with Cross Catholic and other partners.   



Fundación Hospital El Buen Samaritano works to provide medical and nutritional support for thousands of patients each year through its hospital in La Romana and its mobile clinics in surrounding communities. It is also working to support a vast network of aid organizations throughout the Dominican Republic by distributing urgently needed resources. (Source: Cross Catholic Outreach



Moises Sifren, CEO of Hospital El Buen Samaritano


Our host for the morning was Moises Sifren, the hospital’s CEO. Moises, an incredible communicator with an infectious smile, was born in La Romana to Haitian immigrant parents. As a child, he faced many trials like those families he works to serve today. In the hospital’s modern conference area, Moises explained how the hospital works with partners like Cross Catholic to provide medical and nutritional support for patients. We learned about an innovative product, Vitafood, a fortified rice meal loaded with vitamins and minerals for malnourished children. Moises also explained the challenging conditions faced by expectant mothers in the Dominican Republic. He shared the hospital's initiative to distribute prenatal vitamins for pregnant women.  

After a delicious breakfast at the hospital, we boarded the bus and headed to a mobile medical clinic at Batey La Pinita. Before this trip, I had never heard the word “Batey.” In the Dominican Republic and Cuba, Batayes are communal settlements adjacent to sugar cane plantations and mills. The Batey serves as home to the many families, most immigrants from Haiti, who come to work in the fields. 



A pop-up medical clinic at Batey La Pinita



Eye exams and glasses are provided at the Batey medical clinic.


On the day we visited, a free medical clinic was hosted in the Batey. I met an American physician who comes annually with a team of professionals and young students to volunteer their time and skills. Speaking with some of the high school students who had devoted their Spring break to the clinic, I sensed the excitement they felt at being able to serve these families.  



A mother and child await free services at the Batey medical clinic



The children of the Batey wait for free medical services at the Batey mobile clinic.


After observing the medical treatments, I went outside to join the many children who had come to the clinic with their mothers and teachers. Again, I lamented my lack of Spanish. But I soon learned that a smile, some fun dance moves, and a chance to play soccer can be a bridge across language divides. Our friend Brandi Milloy quickly had children around us doing viral dances and playing fun games.  



Making new friends at Batey La Pinita


All too soon, it was time to make our way to our next destination. But shortly after leaving the clinic, the bus pulled to a stop on the side of the road adjacent to a sugar cane field. The sugar cane crops, which resemble long stalks of brown sticks that are six feet tall, stretched as far as I could see.  



A team of sugar cane workers, immigrants from Haiti, offers an overview of their jobs and living conditions.  


We quickly exited the bus to have a good look at the fields. Soon a group of workers approached on a large cart pulled by a team of massive cattle. With Moises interpreting for us, the men welcomed us and began to share about their lives in the fields and the Batey. Again, we were hearing about the unique challenges faced by families who flee Haiti in search of work and hope for their families. They offered us sugar cane stalks, encouraging us to taste the dry sticks.  

My mind flooded with feelings. I pondered how I’d honestly never made the mental connection between the sugar that sweetens my favorite treats and the humans laboring to harvest it. I bid goodbye to the men with a lump in my throat and pain in my heart. Some situations are so complex. I gave mental thanks for people like Moises and the Cross Catholic team who are working alongside those in the Bateyes for a brighter future. I gave thanks that the small gifts we share with Cross Catholic can be a part of helping these families enjoy secure housing, effective healthcare, educational solutions, and hope.  

Our last stop for the day was the moment I had anticipated since I knew I would be making the trip. We had the opportunity to visit the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia in the Diocese of Higüey.  



The exterior of Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia




The interior of Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia


Completed in 1970, the Basilica is dedicated to Our Lady of Altagracia, patroness of the Dominican Republic. Pope Saint John Paul II visited this holy site in 1979 and crowned the icon of Our Lady of Grace that now hangs behind the main altar. Painted in Spain around 1500, the portrait depicts Mary at the nativity of the Christ Child, with St. Joseph watching protectively from behind her. The image was carried to Higüey by early European settlers to the Dominica Republic. It remains a symbol of hope and protection for Dominicans. 



Reverencing the image of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia was the highlight of my trip to the Dominican Republic.



The image of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, patroness of the Dominican Republic 


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


After a tour of the basilica, we each had the opportunity to spend a few moments of quiet prayer with Our Lady. As I approached the icon, I felt emotion well within me. I had been forcing any thoughts of my diagnosis with breast cancer out of my mind during the days of our trip. But under the surface, my fear over what was to come weighed heavily on my heart.  

In those few quiet moments with Mary, I asked her to strengthen me for the months ahead. I prayed that I might be strong, courageous, and willing to accept God’s plans for my life, just as she had been. Tears quickly poured over my face. But when I stepped away from Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, I felt calm and blessed. I knew that all would be well according to God’s perfect will. 

In the months since that wonderful moment, I have prayed the following novena

Oh, Dearest Mother, Sweetest Virgin of Altagracia, our Patroness. 
Look at us here, prostrate in your presence, desiring to offer you this novena as a testimony of our love for you and in thanksgiving for the innumerable favors that we have received from your hands. 

You are our Advocate and to you we recommend our needs. 

You are our Teacher and like disciples we come to learn from the example of your holy life. 

You are our Mother, and like children, we come to offer you all of the love of our hearts. Receive, dearest Mother, our offerings and listen attentively to our supplications. Amen 

[Here ask for one of the graces you would like to obtain from the Holy Virgin of Altagracia] 


In the months since our return from the Dominican Republic, especially when I experience pain or illness from my treatment, I often think of the men, women, and children we met on Day Four. Blessed with excellent healthcare and a good prognosis, my heart flies to Batey La Pinita. I pray to have the strength and joy of that community who welcomed us with open arms and danced with us in the dusty shadows of the sugar cane fields.  

Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, Our Lady of Grace, pray for us all. 


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.