A bare few days after five missioners departed for Bolivia, seven missioners who had returned in December from their time of service in Bolivia and Tanzania arrived here at Casa San Salvador for our annual re-entry program. The program, which lasts three weeks, is intended as a time of retreat for the missioners to look back on their experience, name the good and bad, let go of what needs to be let go, and prepare for the next stage in life. This year’s program was designed and conducted by Lay Mission Program Director Beth Riehle and Sr. Carolyn Giera, OSF.

Once the missioners began telling stories, it was impossible not to be enthralled. We heard about the land and culture of Tanzania and Bolivia, daily life there, the joys and sorrows of ministry; most of all, though, we heard about the people. A large part of ministry had been simply to listen to people’s stories. It was pretty telling that though all the missioners had been involved in very useful and beneficial programs, the thing that they all mentioned as most important was the relationships they’d formed with the people who welcomed them. Check out the returned missioners’ blogs (listed on the right) to read some of the stories.

At the end of the three weeks, FMS hosted a Wine and Cheese reception at Casa San Salvador. We had around 70 guests; friends, family, supporters, and well-wishers from the DC mission community. The reception wasn’t so much to welcome the missioners back to North America, though, as for the missioners to continue to welcome people to Tanzania and Bolivia. They’ve embarked on the next stage of mission, that of sharing their mission experiences with the people of North America.

The returned missioners at the Wine and Cheese event: Richard Nalen, Kristen Zielinski-Nalen, Sharon Wahl, Jean Lechtenberg, Lee Lechtenberg, Ginny Dachenhausen, former Executive Director Joe Nangle, OFM, Emily Ward.

Kristen gave an exhibition of Bolivian folkloric dancing. She and returned missioner Kimberley Acquilano (Class XXII) danced together in a group in Cochabamba.

Richard and Kristen explaining one of the dances.

Fr. Martin Day, OFM Conv., talking with Sharon Wahl. Visible in the background is some of Lee Lechtenberg’s artwork from mission, which was on display during the event. For more pictures from the event, check out our website.