Today’s post features an exciting update about two current missioners in Cochabamba!

Great news: second-year missioners Annemarie Barrett and Jeff Sved have each decided to stay in Bolivia for a third year of mission! When our lay missioners are commissioned, they agree to a minimum of two years of service, but they can renew their contracts for up to six years. Franciscan Mission Service is very pleased for Annemarie and Jeff to continue to deepen their commitment to their ministries in Cochabamba.

Annemarie works in a parish garden with local families and collaborates with women in the community of Santa Rosa creating gardens to provide healthy food for their families.

Afternoon meal in the parish garden after a morning of sharing work together (photo by Annemarie)

Discernment

“The way I am living a ministry of presence here is aligned with the life that I have wanted to live for so long. I feel so much closer to people on the margins, able to live that solidarity in practice rather than in theory. I feel that my deepened faith allows me to relate at another level with the marginalized communities I am accompanying. I am beginning to understand at another level their faith, their resilience, and their reliance on community.

My faith feels more at the center of my life than it did before this experience, but I also feel that I have so much left to learn and grow in. Mission life is ripe for that deepening faith. A third year, without knowing what that third year will bring, is to me an act of faith, of surrender, and trust that I pray will open my heart to be more available to where the spirit of God is calling me,” says Annemarie.

Jeff serves several area prisons through a ministry of presence. He also sells inmates’ crafts outside the prisons in order for them to afford food and the rent of their prison cells while awaiting trial.

“In reflecting on the roughest and smoothest parts of my time in Bolivia, as well as where I can see parts of my life continuing to grow and flow,” says Jeff, “I felt overwhelming consolation at the thought of continuing my time in Bolivia.”

Looking Ahead

At the heart of each of their decisions to serve a third year is a desire to honor a central Franciscan value: relationships.

“As I grow in my relationships in the community where I work, I am constantly invited to a deeper commitment to living in solidarity with these people. Although we may know very little about what the future may bring us, we find consolation in the good work we share together and the common commitment we share to caring for the Earth and our community. These relationships have given me the courage to invest in another year of shared work together and inspired me to have faith amid an often overwhelming reality of so much unknown,” says Annemarie.

In order to be more present to her community, Annemarie is going to take classes in Quechua, a common indigenous language spoken in southern Bolivia, especially Cochabamba.

“The more deeply I grow in my work, the more I feel the need to learn Quechua,” says Annemarie, “I am being invited into more and more spaces where Quechua is the only language spoken. I anticipate that as I learn this language my relationships of solidarity in the community where I work will continue to deepen and enable more shared understanding of the complex reality of these people.”

After moving residences, Jeff is particularly excited about his new neighborhood and the parish community he joined: “I have been invited into this parish with open arms and can’t wait to see how these relationships grow as we continue to worship together, celebrate life together, and share meals together.”

Jeff is also looking forward to becoming more involved in the post-penitenciaria process for former inmates.

Jeff at Cochabamba’s outdoor market, La Cancha, selling crafts made by Bolivian inmates

“Very little exists in terms of halfway houses or post-prison rehabilitation, which makes the transition from prison here particularly difficult,” says Jeff.

He also plans on visiting a prison in Araní more often. Home to only 25 inmates, the smaller setting allows for relationships to grow more freely, especially since there are no guards, only inmates.

“The lack of police presence allows me to come and go more easily and creates the dynamic where the inmates themselves are opening the door to let me in and welcome me into their space,” says Jeff.

Jeff and Annemarie both continue to appreciate the generous donors who help make their mission possible.

“I would not be making the commitment to another year serving as a Franciscan lay missioner without the encouragement of my generous support community,” says Annemarie, “Every time you make donations or write an email to me, I am encouraged by your shared confidence in our work.”

From St. Paul, Minnesota, Annemarie graduated from Loyola University in Chicago in 2012 with a degree in Communication Studies. Possessing a strong interest in social justice issues and some experience with international travel, she began her two years of mission in Bolivia in January 2013. 
Click here to support Annemarie’s mission in Bolivia!

Originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., and a graduate of Villanova University, Jeff is in his second year of mission in solidarity with the people of Cochabamba, Bolivia through prison ministry. 
Click here to support Jeff’s mission in Bolivia!