Delegation Journeys to Nicarauga Picture4

Groups from throughout the Diocese and the Archdiocese have been traveling to Nicaragua, to visit the late Fr. Teddy Niehaus for many, many years now.  Below are a few stories from some previous delegates on their experience of mission through their journey, as well as a “biography” on Fr. Teddy’s life and ministry.


Learning Many Lessons

Ben Wiechman, parishioner of the Melrose area, journeyed with a delegation of others from Central Minnesota to visit Fr. Ted Niehaus in Nicaragua. The following is an article he wrote about the experience.

2007-Fr-Wichman-Doug-Haeschel-commercial-kitchenNicaragua’s past 50 years have been a time of great change and upheaval. The Sandinista Revolution in 1979 ousted the Somoza family from their 40-year crushing dictatorship. With great spirit and vision for a brighter future, the Sandinistas activated social reforms in many areas including health care, literacy training and access to university-level studies.

Unfortunately, the progress in these areas was short-lived. The Reagan Administration, fearing the socialist countries that stepped forth to offer help to Nicaragua, trained the “Contra”, or counter-revolutionaries, who were largely ex-militia from the Somoza regime, to wreak havoc throughout Nicaragua. Harbors were mined with U.S. involvement in direct violation of International Law. Bridges and roads were destroyed, ships sunk, buildings burned and many people were murdered. Benjamin Linder, a U.S. engineer killed by the Contra while working on a water project in Nicaragua had said earlier, I guess our government [the U.S.] knows quite well how to drain an economy through military spending. That was exactly what happened because of the Contra war. After nearly 15 years of fighting and the loss of over 70,000 lives, Nicaragua was devastated. War-weary, the people voted the Sandinistas out of office in 1990. The current administration is plagued by corruption at every level, and many of the social and economic reforms that had been put in place by the Sandinistas are now non-existent.

In spite of such setbacks, there is an incredible beauty of the Nicaraguan people. Their quiet determination and community spirit were characteristics exhibited daily. In San Pedro few houses have electricity. There is no running water. Many houses have dirt floors, and the roofs are either thatched or corrugated zinc. Some are covered with large plastic tarps. The people have experienced so much pain. Many live in stark poverty. Yet what they lack in material possessions they truly possess in spiritual strength. The Central Minnesotans who were and are privileged to live among them for a short time will remember the community consciousness and powerful spirit that characterizes their new-found friends in San Pedro del Norte, Nicaragua.

 


Focus on Faith

A reflection written by delegation memeber, Sister Carol Schmit, OSF

I am very content in my own home. A good way to test my stamina is to travel in a different culture. For a third consecutive year, with a group of 20 persons, I traveled to the rainforest area in northeast Nicaragua. The challenging horseback ride into the mountains to set up a medical clinic, sleeping in a hammock, bathing in a river that had shrunk to about 3 inches, functioning with flashlight and candles after sunset, took a lot of my attention and energy.

nicaragua2010After I get past my physical issues, I recognize that the two weeks is an even greater challenge to my faith. In the area of Mulukuku, Franciscan priest, Father Teddy Niehaus, our contact in Nicaragua, has a parish that encompasses 72 little mountain areas. He visits each area twice yearly; throughout the rest of the year; lay leaders direct the Sunday worship service and prepare people for the sacraments and other areas of social justice and community building. Some of the lay leaders have only a 4th or 5th grade education themselves. Though they have few material things, their faith is a daily motivator.

In contrast to our well staffed offices and comfortable churches, for the most part, these “villages” have only a school, a church, a kitchen and out house. In the two areas where six of the team set up a medical clinic, the church and school are multipurpose buildings made of cement block, with a cement floor. To construct these buildings, the sacks of cement had to be brought in by horseback; the sand hauled from the nearest river. This dedication to education and keeping the faith alive is more than impressive.

In his first encyclical entitled GOD is Love (Deus Caritas Est), Pope Benedict XVI writes that in GOD and with GOD I love the person I do not even know. (18) He goes on to say, that only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him/her love makes me sensitive to GOD as well. “Love of GOD and love of neighbor are inseparable, they form a single commandment.” In the Church community in Nicaragua I have experienced the reality of the universal Church. Here is just one example.

We traveled to the small town of San Pedro, about an 8 hour bus ride from Mulukuku. There Father Teddy had arranged that our group visit the home of Maria. Her son, Narciso is the Delegate of the Word in that area; that is he directs the Sunday worship, and oversees the on-going faith formation. The half hour boat trip cut the heat of the sun. We walked through several pastures up and down hills to Maria’s house. She is now 89, tired and says she has a right to be tired. Her house was orderly with board walls, thatched roof and dirt floor. She, her family and some neighbors greeted us with a cold drink. Then they invited us to sit down for a full meal, delicious in every aspect. After the meal Narciso called us to prayer. This was Monday afternoon! Jose Maria also a community leader read a selection from Luke about bringing the good news to the entire world. Narciso followed with a homily including the message of how honored they were to have representatives of the North-American Church in their home. The two songs they chose spoke of how everyone is needed to build up a Church, young and old, rich and poor, white or black

2011-Aborca-W-Krantz-Odendahl-WiechmanAs we were about to leave, a daughter gave Maria a sack of oranges from their tree. The mother, in turn, presented them to us for our journey. Our comm was complete.

With some time separation from the trip, I have forgotten about most of the inconveniences. I remember the 15-hour walking and horseback trip as almost enjoyable. But my lasting remembrance is the love received and given by our sisters and brothers there.


2007 Fr & his sister Eileen Niehaus in ManaguaBiography of Fr. Teddy Niehaus, OFM Cap.

A brief biography and testimony of the life and death of Fr. Theodore Niehaus was written a little over a year after his death, by his sister and leader of many of the Nicaragua Mission Delegations that visited Fr. Teddy’s ministry, Eileen “Chuckie” Niehaus.  

Read Father Teddy’s Biography here (PDF). 

Or read more about Fr. Teddy’s Ministry, delegations to Nicaragua and his life and death in past newsletters (contact the Mission Office for past editions, especially those no longer available online):

  1. Winter 2016 (PDF)
  2. Winter 2015 (PDF)
  3. Winter 2012 (PDF)
  4. Spring 2012 (PDF)
  5. Winter 2011
  6. Spring 2009
  7. Summer 2008

 


Interested in traveling to Nicaragua? Although Fr. Teddy Niehaus has passed away, his ministry and charism lives on!  Delegations continue to go to Nicaragua (most often in January) to see the community and ministry built-up by Fr. Teddy’s years of service.  Planning for the January delegations begins early, so those interested in future trips should contact the Mission Office.