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Vocero San Benito Jose
The Newsletter of the St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center
Summer 2009 , Issue 10
God Is Very Near
by Fr. Juan Diego Sutherland, CFR


To the ancients of Israel, God was such a part of everyday existence that they asked, “What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the Lord, our God is to us whenever we call upon him?” (Dt 4:7) Amid the cares and tasks of everyday life the Lord was remembered and honored. This yearning for the Eternal was evidenced in customs and mores of the Jewish people. Even the names the Hebrews gave their children bespoke the Divine reality. For example, Elijah means the Lord is my God; John or Jehoanan means the Lord’s gift or God is gracious; Jesus or Jesua means God saves. Their entire lives were imbued with a sense of the Divine presence and of His providence.

Honduras is a place where the Gospel lives. While many here still struggle, as we all do, to fulfill the basic precepts of the Gospel, Honduran culture nevertheless reflects that same longing for God that biblical Israel had. Almost every Honduran has a name derived from the Old or New Testament, from a Catholic saint or from a feast or doctrine of the Church. Everything that surrounds our life here reminds us that we live amidst a believing people. For us here in Honduras, God is very near.

Natividad (Nativity) is the father of Jairus (cf. Mk 5:22), one of the boys in our Good Shepherd Catechism class. Natividad had been suffering with a lump on his neck and went to San Benito José for a consultation. After an initial examination, Dr. Carlos Suazo scheduled him to be seen in our upcoming brigade by Dr. James Vopal. Dr. Vopal is a specialist in face, head, and neck surgeries of this type. After Natividad was seen by Dr. Vopal he was scheduled for what seemed to be a routine lumpectomy.

After the surgery the team reported that the case was much more complicated than was first anticipated. The growth was extensive. It had taken root on the patient’s trachea and wrapped itself around his vocal cords. Upon seeing the condition of the tumor, many surgeons would have had said, “Oh boy,” and sought a more experienced surgeon. Dr. Vopal, however, was that more experienced surgeon. Before specializing in head, neck and face, Dr. Vopal had been an oral surgeon - he is a doctor with unparalleled expertise in these cases. He worked tirelessly for hours on Natividad and was pleased with the results of the procedure. Only one concern remained.

Because the growth had attached itself to Natividad’s vocal cords, Dr. Vopal had labored under the fear that his patient’s speech might be impaired or lost. The vocal cords are extremely sensitive; the slightest disturbance to them can be detrimental. The crucial work around Natividad’s vocal cords was extensive. The surgical team had reason for concern.

The team gathered round Natividad in the recovery room to be with him when he awoke.
Br. Paul Donnelly was asked to be present to translate. When he entered the recovery room, Br. Paul was surprised to recognize the still sedated patient. He knew him as the father of Jairus, one of his catechism students; he was a man who loved and cared for his family, teaching them the truths of the faith and to love our Lord. Br. Paul waited anxiously with the team to see if their patient would speak.

As the patient was coming-to, Dr. Vopal prepared Br. Paul: “If he ever speaks again,” he said, “his voice may not be the same. This could be difficult for him.”

Natividad opened his eyes, and fixed his gaze squarely on Br. Paul.

“Fray Pablo,” he rasped. He swallowed hard, and with his voice growing stronger he asked: “Fray Pablo, am I going to die?”

“No, Natividad, you're not going to die, you’re fine,” Br. Paul replied. “You are fine, it’s all over. You are well.”

Overjoyed by this news, Natividad sat up in his bed and leaned forward. The nursing staff with gentle restraint laid him back down. He had wanted to hug Br. Paul. From his prone position Natividad grasped Br. Paul's hand and with a voice clear and true gave thanks to God.

“The Lord is my shepherd, Fray, the Lord is my shepherd. Nothing shall I want.”

God is very near.


boy waiting in front of SBJ
operating room
(above) We are privileged to see over and over what is best in people: sacrificial love. No matter how difficult the journey may be, this mother brings her children to SBJ until she knows that they are well.

(above) From its inception SBJ has been proud to offer 1st class medical technology to those most in need. Shown here is Dr. René Loyola, a longtime participant in the Light of the World surgical brigades, and a good friend of San Benito José. Dr. Loyola is using “state of the art” laparoscopic equipment. San Benito José is one of only a handful of surgical centers in Honduras to offer laparoscopic technology. It is the only clinic to offer these surgeries to the poor. This equipment was generously made available through Light of the World Charities.


(right) Devotion to our Blessed Mother is a hallmark of Honduran piety. The patients at San Benito José are eager to pray and to hear the word of God. The saints, most especially Mary, the Mother of God, are invoked frequently and with great love. This touching image is a beautiful icon of the deep faith of our patients and the Honduran people.

patient holding Our Lady of Guadalue holy card


Dr. Mark Tasch
young patient

(above) Laughter is the best medicine. Surgery is a stressful and frightening experience, especially for children. The staff at SBJ goes out of their way to bring a smile to the face of our young patients. This little guy was encouraged not so much by his stylish headpiece, but by the love and attention shown him by the SBJ nursing staff.

(left) Dr. Mark Tasch is pictured here performing a pre-op examination. Dr. Tasch is a veteran of many surgical missions both here in Honduras and in other exotic locales like Kazakhstan. He brings years of experience and enthusiasm with him wherever he serves. We are grateful for Dr. Mark’s generous and faith-filled service which he renders to Our Lord’s most beloved ones.


(right) Christian friendship is an indispensable part of each of our vocations. Our Lord said to His disciples “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” To Christian friends the Lord might say, “You have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another.” C.S. Lewis once reflected that it is the Lord Himself who brings people together, “A secret Master of Ceremonies,” he says “has been at work.” Fathers Justin and Juan Diego studied together in the seminary and were ordained in 2007. Fr. Justin now serves in Hopewell Junction, NY. He is pictured here during his visit to Honduras with his classmate and friend Fr. Juan Diego.

Fr. Juan Diego & Fr. Justin




Outstanding Benefactor

Cecilia Mejia comes from a tiny mountain village outside of Matazano. Her village has no running water, electricity, or public transportation. The walk from her home to our friary and to the medical center takes four hours. She and her husband have five children and oftentimes struggle to put food on the table and shoes on the children’s feet. A few years ago she became part of a cooperative commercial venture. She and a group of her neighbors make crafts by hand and export them for sale in the US.

Some days ago she arrived at the friary. The friars had received a delivery for her from a friend of ours who is a nurse in Miami. Our friend had met Cecilia and was thrilled with her project and her products. She ordered a number of handmade products and took them to Miami and there sold them to friends and family. She sent the revenues back to Cecilia through the friars, an amount equal to what many women would earn in about forty working days. Now, the products require much labor, so Cecilia had spent approximately three days on each of the products.

Cecilia arrived at the friary with her son Noah. A friar greeted them and told them he had received something for her. The brother went to retrieve the money, happy to restore it to the person who deserved it. Cecilia received the money and counted out the bills, separated some of them and put them in the friar’s hand: twenty percent of what she had just been given. With no hesitation the friar gave it back, insisting that she keep it. “You deserve it,” the friar explained, “You’ve earned it.”

She wouldn’t listen. With sincerity and determination she put the bills back in the hand of the friar, an amount equivalent to eight days work, saying “I am so grateful to the Lord for his goodness, I want to give some back. This is not much, but at the medical center maybe they can use it for something small.”

“Truly, I say to you, this poor woman has given more than all others... because she, out of her poverty, has put in all the living she had.”(Lk 21:3-4)


Franciscan Sisters
These handbags, pictured here with Sr. Chiara Rose and Sr. John Paul, are not only fashionable - they are environmentally friendly. They’re made from 100% recycled material - used potato chip bags that are folded up and then woven together. They’re handmade by friends of the friars involved in a co-op which helps better the lives of poor women and families. Those who have bought these purses have helped the poor, the environment, and the world of fashion!