Two seminarians from Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, accompanied by Deacon Dr. Lawrence Sutton, assisted in Mission ILAC in Santiago, the Dominican Republic, over spring break 2023. ILAC is an acronym for Institute for Latin American Concern, whose mission is to seek to integrate health, spirituality, education, and community development in low income rural areas of the Dominican Republic.
Mr. Erik Roman of the Diocese of Charleston and Brother James Raber, O.S.B., of Belmont Abbey, and Dr. Sutton, who is director of pre-theologian formation at the Seminary, entered Mission ILAC as part of a Spanish language immersion encounter and left four days later humbled through the pastoral experiences they had.
Three times per year medical staff members from the greater Pittsburgh area—especially from the Washington Hospital, as well as medical staff members from Miami, Florida—travel to Mission ILAC to provide first-hand and face-to-face medical services to the poor and needy of the region. In the March mission this year, over 900 individuals were served including completion of 70 surgeries.
The medical staff members and their non-medical volunteers provide free medical assistance and support. That assistance includes support to both the medical providers for their interventions as well as spiritual support for the medical teams and local residents.
Each day began with morning prayer and a Eucharistic service led by Deacon Sutton.
Later in the day a spiritual reflection was led by either Brother James or Mr. Roman.
Each resident who received surgery was given a special prayer before the operation by Deacon Sutton as well as afterwards by Deacon Raber.
Mr. Roman, who is bilingual, provided a variety of services including important translation and interpretation services for the staff urologist as well as pastoral counseling with a number of residents.
Among the participants and sponsors of these missions are the Knights of Malta. A number of the Knights were represented throughout the week and provided both medical and spiritual help including cardiologist Jorge J Centurion and emergency medical physician Frank Gaudio. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, officially the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, is a Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of a military, chivalric, and noble nature. The Order’s membership includes approximately 13,500 Knights, Dames, and Chaplains a number of the current members with a medical background were present for this mission.
The seminary’s visit to Mission ILAC grew from a Spanish language immersion experience to a deeply human and very personal pastoral experience for each particpant. It is the hope, said Deacon Sutton, “ to continue this work with Mission ILAC in the fall and spring of each academic year with other seminarians hereafter.”