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

I often don’t sleep well the night before I am scheduled to fly somewhere. I’m excited, anticipating the adventure that awaits me. When I am in the sky on an airplane, God’s love and magnificence fills my heart with joy. So, when I awoke before my alarm on Day Two in Miami, my heart was filled with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to be in the Domincan Republic. 

I began my day by adding the beautiful Cross Catholic “Prayer for the Journey” to my morning devotions: 

Prayer for the Journey 

You call us, Gracious God, to be your pilgrim people. 
You call us to leave familiar things and to leave our comfort zones. 
May we open our eyes to new experiences and people. 
May we open our ears to hear you speaking to us. 
May we open our hearts to your love in a mutual exchange of gifts with all those we encounter. 
Grant that this time on this trip may stretch us and help us to see ourselves and others as you created us to be, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) 
May we strive to become the people you would have us be. Bless the ministry of Cross Catholic Outreach, Lord, and bless the work of our hands. Bless the work of our hands. Amen. (Author: Father David Caron) 



This beautiful art in Miami International Airport felt perfect for our journey of hope and discovery. 


By 6:00 AM we were on our way to Miami International Airport for our quick flight to the Dominican Republic. The flight time to Santo Domingo, the capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic, is a short two and a half hours. But when we landed, I felt a world away from home. We quickly and easily passed through customs and were greeted by the wonderful local team from Cross Catholic who would be our hosts. It’s interesting to me that on trips like this one, you bond so incredibly quickly with folks who only days earlier were total strangers by sharing transcendent experiences.




Arriving in the Dominican Republic. This simple white bus would be our adventure vehicle for the days ahead. 


As we drove through Santo Domingo, I marveled as I looked out the bus's window toward the Caribbean Sea. Apart from a quick visit to Puerto Rico, this was my first trip to this part of the world. I also immediately lamented my poor Spanish skills. But everyone we met was immediately gracious and welcoming. I have been working on my Spanish since the day we returned from this trip. My hope is that I will have a better grasp of the language next time I visit the DR. Santo Domingo is home to over a million of the over ten million people who live in the Dominican Republic. It is a bustling city full of beauty, energy, and history. 

As we learned from Cross Catholic, forty percent of the population in the Dominican Republic are impacted by poverty, with a tenth of all Dominicans living in extreme poverty. One in every three families face food insecurity. The population is at high risk for infectious diseases and 61% of all babies between six and eleven months suffer from anemia due to a lack of proper nutrition. Cross Catholic Outreach is partnering with visionary Catholic leaders in the country to help this population work toward a brighter future. 

From the airport, we drove to about three hours to San Juan de la Maguana, our destination for Day Two. Our first stop when we arrived was at the offices of the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana. Bishop Tomás Alejo Concepción has shepherded the diocese since November 2020. This largely agricultural area is home to approximately 170,000 people.

A bright tile sign on the front of the diocesan offices states: “Con el poder de Cristo y la guia del Espiritu Santo  pasaremos por la vida haceindo el bien.” These words inspired by Acts 10:38 (“He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him”) proclaim one significant priority of the work being done by the Church in this region. I learned that day that “Maguana” means "the first stone, the unique stone." We soon witnessed the way stone is being used in San Juan de la Maguana to create brighter and safer futures. 



Our intrepid band of Cross Catholic Outreach travelers in front of the offices of the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana.  


From the diocesan offices, we set off to see firsthand the work of Cross Catholic’s ministry partner FUNDASEP, the diocese’s social outreach entity. Since so many families in the Dominican Republic live in hazardous conditions and severe weather, FUNDASEP is at work helping residents construct new homes which are built with metal frames and concrete panels. I typically try to do the work I witness when I am on trips like this. I very quickly learned that building concrete walls is skilled and difficult labor!

FUNDASEP trains those who will live in these homes, giving them not only safe housing but also valuable skills. And safe housing is simply one of many projects FUNDASEP has underway. Gifts from Cross Catholic beneficiaries contribute to FUNDASEP’s work in housing, microenterprise, agriculture and many other initiatives. 


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One of FUNDASEP’s missions is to provide families with durable houses and structures. Local beneficiaries are part of the construction process.


After a tasty treat provided by our hosts, we were off to our next destination. Bishop Tomás Alejo Concepción offered us a tour of a major construction project that is underway in the diocese. The “Hogar de Ancianos” will be a future nursing home and retirement residence. With the sun setting in the distance, Bishop shared his vision for this and other public works he is accomplishing with the partnership of FUNDASEP and Cross Catholic Outreach.  



We visited the future home of the “Hogar de Ancianos” with Bishop Tomás Alejo Concepción and FUNDASEP President Father Mike Seis. 


At the Bishop’s side was FUNDASEP President Father Mike Seis. Originally from Wisconsin, Father Mike has now devoted his life to working alongside families in the Dominican Republic. His energy and enthusiasm for the work he does is infectious. You can also immediately see how the deeply the people he serves love and respect him. 



I was honored to present Bishop Tomás Alejo Concepción and Father Mike Seis with letters of introduction and Venerable Patrick Peyton rosaries from Fr. Fred Jenga, CSC, the President of Holy Cross Family Ministries.


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


We ended our evening at the bishop’s residence, enjoying dinner with him and Father Mike as stories were shared over a delicious meal prepared by our hosts. As I drifted off to sleep that night, I thought about how I had witnessed firsthand a Bible verse in our Cross Catholic materials: 

For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. (Isaiah 25:4) 


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.