Abstracts from THE MALTESE MISSIONARY EXPERIENCE – 16
By Fr John Caruana
Fr Joseph Camilleri of Gozo started his mission with Bishop Fiordeli of Prato, then, after two years he moved on to New York where he worked with Maltese and Italian emigrants. After these 22 years he made a radical change in his life by moving to Guatemala, leaving all the American luxury and started off in a parish which had 35 villages. While in Guatemala, he embarked on two projects: Project Gozo which dealt in agriculture and Project Hospital Juan Batista mainly sponsored by the Knights of Malta. Doctors from the USA, Canada and Cuba offered their services, providing surgery to the poor.
Fr Anton Grech also of Gozo, worked in the municipality of Chaparron in Guatemala, bordering with El Salvador. Fr Anton worked hard to build and open the Colegio Madre Teresa offering quality education to hundreds of village children most of who had never before stepped in a school. This was possible due to the generosity of Gozitan and Maltese benefactors. A fish farm was also installed. In all these projects, Fr Grech had the support of Maltese specialists in various fields like Carmelo Agius, Alex Scicluna, Charles Decelis and the Mission Fund, amongst many other benefactors.
In the Diocese of Juticalpa where Mgr Joseph Bonello is bishop, Fr Albert Gauci was responsible for social projects like Santa Gertrudis and Santa Maria de los Angeles which was founded in 2002 in response to the urgent need of children who live in an area of high risk. A Kindergarten Centre dedicated to St Francis of Assisi was opened to help poor families and unmarried mothers in the education of their children. A small bakery was also opened to help support all these initiatives. Fr Albert was responsible for prisoners in five prisons. He used to visit every Saturday with a group of youths distributing food, cigarettes, sweets and clothes. The conditions in the prisons were deplorable. With the help of his friends, he built a Rehabilitation Centre for 800 people. The plan for Olancho to have a respectable prison came true.
Fr Angelo Falzon was sent to Honduras in 1985. His pastoral work started by rebuilding six big churches that were crumbling. A Retreat Centre was built for weekend retreats and seminars. In time, 40 chapels were built in forty different villages. Apart from these buildings, they also constructed a Centre for Youth and a workshop to teach sewing, carpentry and other trades. Clothes were distributed annually and non-perishable food was handed out every month. Medicines were dispensed as the need arose.
The late Fr Peter Paul Mejlak was born in Nadur in 1922. On his first mission he accompanied several groups to Adelaide, Australia. In 1985, he asked to join the Franciscan Mission in Central America. He returned to Malta at the venerable age of 85 years. In Honduras he helped in the building of fourteen chapels, a clinic and a convent for nuns. Fr Peter Paul always sought the protection of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu not only to help him in his pastoral activities, but also because politically Central America was in turmoil culminating in the death of Oscar Romero and six Jesuit Priests.