Sarahi Perez in Guatamala

My 2nd and 3rd graders are my biggest joy, and being their religion teacher is truly what gives me the strength to endure anything…
I have this motto that no matter what space I enter, I should always leave it better than when I entered it – like fixing a torn poster, picking up trash, leaving my classroom clean for the next person…

1803 Perez Sarahi5

I recently went to some of the poorest communities with one of the priests from our parish here in Carcha. The community he went to celebrate Mass in had, no electricity, shortage of water, and the people spoke only their native language – no Spanish. I did not say much. I smiled and nodded a lot, but somehow I felt like I was preaching the word of God louder than if I was speaking. Going to witness Fr. Victor baptize 13 people and welcome a whole family to the faith was the most beautiful thing I have witnessed so far.

1803 Perez Sarahi

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Meet Estefani

  1. Me
  2. Mission
  3. formation camp1801 CommMass (75)

My name is Estefani Crisostomo. I graduated from the University of California Riverside with a bachelors in Psychology in June of 2016. I have been working as a behavior therapist for the past two years. Many of the clients I work with have autism or adjustment issues. I have also been trained to work with emotionally disturbed children. My work with youth ministry has allowed me to develop a fond love for children and youth, motivating me to further my professional career. I am currently on my 2nd out of 4 semesters in a masters program in clinical counseling so I can become a licensed marriage and family therapist.

Mi nombre es Estefani Crisostomo. Me gradue de la Universidad de California Riverside con una licensiatura en psicologia en Junio del 2016. He estado trabajando como una therapeuta de comportamiento para ninos diagnositicados con autismo o problemas de desarollo. En estos dos anos he aprendido sobre como motivar a ninos con deficits de entendimiento causados por problemas de desarollo (sindrome de down o autismo). Mi trabajo es reducir malos comportamientos como berrinches severos o aggression a si mismo o a los demas a causa de infexibilidad. Tambien tuve un ano de experiencia como una asistente de una clase localisada en una escuela no publica. Todos los ninos en mi salon tenian problemas emocionales a causa de ser huerfanos, ser abusados, o vivir en casas inestables. Este trabajo me dio experiencia en como construir buenas relaciones con jovenes que necesitan apoyo pero se les dificulta expresar sus emociones. Atravez de una relacion que establece la confianza y buena voluntad, los muchachos y muchachas pudieron aprender sobre el gran valor que tienen y lograron expresar sus emociones. Los anos que he estado trabajando en el grupo de jovenes en mi parroquia me han motivado para continuar mi Carrera academica. En este momento acabo de empezar mi Segundo semestre de 4 en una maestria en consejeria clinica. Mi meta es estar certificada como una therapeuta matrimonial y familiar.


I hope to be able to put my experience with youth to great use while on my mission trip this summer. I will be on mission from the end of July to the end of August. I am convinced that serving in a mission where Spanish is spoken will be the best fit for me. This will enable me to help my community the most possible if there is no language barrier. My top three choices to serve in this summer are Dominican Republic, Honduras, and Chile. However I am open to go where the Lord places me.

Deseo usar mi experiencia con jovenes y ninos para ayudar en lo que pueda durante mi mision este Verano del 2018. Los dias que estoy disponible para servir son los dias 26 de Julio hasta el 26 de Agosto. Estoy convencida que mi familiaridad con el espanol es signo de que deberia de servir en un pais donde la gente hable en espanol. Tambien hablo ingles y estoy dispuesta a tartar de ensenar lo basico durante mi visita a la mision. Los paises donde me gustaria servir son Honduras, Republica Dominicana, o Chile. Pero mas que nada, estoy disponible a ir a donde el Senor diga.


1801 FSC Estefani CrisostomoThe two week formation camp I have attended has helped me grow in my ability to properly accompany the youth I will serve in mission but also while I am at home with my youth ministry. The formation training has allowed me to deepen my faith by providing daily mass and time for reflection and prayer. The time I got to spend with the unaccompanied minors at St. Peter St. Joseph’s Children’s Home has been such a blessing. As the daughter of young immigrants, I felt blessed to care for the marginalized and really accompany them for the short time they were with us. Seeing a smile on their faces and their hunger to learn about God led me acknowledge that they gave me much more than I gave them. At St. PJ’s children’s home we were able to start a bible camp. The children who attended were given the choice to attend and the 30 we had were so attentive and inspiring to see. We led the teens in prayer, the acting out of the story of Joseph, songs, crafts, and team building games.

Durante las dos semanas de formacion, aprendi mas sobre como interactuar efectivamente con jovenes. La idea de acompanar a los jovenes en vez de estrictamente dirigir tambien fue presentada muy efectivamente. La formacion me ha permitido crecer espiritualmente al facilitar que atienda a misa diariamente y hacer mas tiempo para orar y reflecionar. Las horas que pude pasar con los jovenes imigrantes recojidos en la frontera fueron unos momentos de leccion tan hermosos. Los ninos en la casa St. Peter’s and Joseph’s hablaban espanol y ciertos dialectos. Como hija de padres de immigrantes, fue un honor servirles a los muchachos con mucha alegria y interes genuino. Ver la sonrisa de los muchachos y su hambre de Dios fue muy inspirante. Durante mi tiempo con los jovenes imigrantes pudimos ensenarles sobre la historia de Jose de Egypto , actuar una obra sobre la historia biblica, cantar canciones, orar, trabajo creativo, y juegos para trabajar en equipo.

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Meet Karia

Hello, my name is Karia.

Karia Roche with Bishop Pheifer

Karia chatting with Bishop Michael Pfeifer, OMI

I am from California. I obtained a B.A in International Business from California State University, Fullerton and currently work at Cerritos Community College. Throughout my academic and professional career, I have had the privilege to work with youth and adults from diverse cultures and backgrounds. While assisting students in their academic challenges I have developed a strong desire to teach. That is why, upon my return from mission, I look forward to starting the credential program for teaching. Among the few things that I enjoy very much are exploring nature, learning different languages, and outdoor activities. Therefore, I am very grateful for and eager about this amazing opportunity to go to Europe or Latin America and immerse myself in this cultural and educational learning and teaching experience. This is a special opportunity that, without doubt, will be meaningful and spiritual, as it touches the conscience and the heart by empathizing with humble and fragile communities.

The Formation and Service Camp provided is an essential component of the VIDES missionary program, for it provides the information, tools and practice that prepares the missionaries mentally and physically. For example, after learning a bit about the children at St. Peter St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, an entertaining lesson and fun activities were designed to lift their spirits through the Word of our Lord. We also joined the children at St. John Bosco School during their lunch and play time. We gave them a VIDES presentation and shared our mission purpose and plan. Both experiences were greatly rewarding, as the children actively participated, demonstrated their joy and expressed their gratitude. The Formation and Service Camp provided a road map for meaningful and quality service, all with the purpose to ensure success for both the mission and missionaries. I personally enjoyed it very much. In addition, it gave me a feel of what it is like to live, interact and serve in a community of sisters who serve and live for the love of God. I personally recommend it, as I have come to realize that we are all already missionaries, so I invite you to come discover why.

1801 FSC Joseph Skit (6)

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Meet Sarahi

Sarahi PerezVIDES 2018 Formation Camp

About Me:
My name is Sarahi Perez and I am from Illinois. I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Religious studies.  At different stages during my college career, I volunteered at a hospice home, I tutored and mentored grade school children, I led bible study groups, and helped lead retreats. During my junior year of college I was hired as a marketing intern for a non-profit organization called The Resurrection Project and I helped with their social media, monthly newsletter, and website.

Later on I worked with a larger non-profit called, The Big Shoulders Fund, as a summer fellow helping inner city Catholic schools to have enough resources and stay open. I also worked as a marketing intern for Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School toward the end of my senior year.

However, the best experience I’ve had was after I graduated college and was hired as a summer teacher for a catechetical program. I enjoyed teaching children about salvation history, the rosary, and having the opportunity to watch them grow with each activity we did. The Totus Tuus program helped me realize how much children long for Jesus and how meeting someone who is passionate and on fire about their faith can change their perspective about religion. This program connected me to a small young-adult retreat team and for a couple of months I helped organize and lead retreats for several Catholic schools and parishes within the Diocese of Joliet. Lastly, before becoming a VIDES missioner, I also worked for Our Lady of Victory convent as a receptionist and helped with tasks in the human resources department.

In the future I hope to continue my studies and finish my Master’s degree in
Sociology and Divinity. From all the work I have done I have mostly enjoyed the work with children. Being able to help youth and empower them with knowledge and truth has been the most rewarding work.

About Mission:
My mission site is Guatemala and I will be working in el colegio Nuestra Señora del
Rosario in San Pedro Carchá. From what I know so far I will be teaching English, assisting the sisters with psychological cases of children, giving value formation classes, and possibly teaching catechism on Sundays.

About Formation Camp:
The formation camp was extremely helpful. I truly enjoyed the accompaniment
training guide and all the wisdom sharing. I think the faith journey sharing was also a great exercise that helped the group grow and connect better. All of the videos we watched were great, but I mostly enjoyed the story of St. John Bosco because it brought to life a lot of things we read and learned about. I also really liked the Lectio Divina we did together on the story of Joseph and all the meditations guided by Sister Theresa.

1801 Sarahi lector looking upAbout Service Project:
Although we were only allowed to go one day, the service we did at St. Peter St.Joseph’s Home for Children was incredible. I did not think volunteering a few hours of our day, playing games, and singing songs with the boys would make such a difference in my life. I was able to see the suffering and trials in a lot of these boys’ eyes, as well as the loneliness and desire for authentic care and love. Most of the boys were around my younger brothers age and it really made me reflect about how much they need someone to just listen to them, or tell them how much they are loved and have a purpose. I thought a lot about something Mother Teresa said once – “Do small things with great love.” Simply being there for these boys with a big smile and open heart made a small impact. The way they responded to the story of Joseph also helped me see in a vivid way how our Scripture is truly the living word of God.

NOTE: Sarahi left for her mission in Guatemala on January 24, 2018.  Please keep her in your prayers.

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The Best Christmas Gift

On December 24th I received the best Christmas gift of my life. We went to the midnight Mass at the Nativity Church of Bethlehem with four of the sisters and Anna, a young volunteer from Italy. It was cold and raining heavily, but we were dressed for the weather, and we could get in the church fast. To attend, you need to order in advance free tickets issued by the Franciscans, who are the custodians of the holy sites in the Holy Land.

Natalie Liviero at Nativity Church in Bethlehem

We arrived by 9 p.m. and spread out inside of the grotto, where each of us found a special place for prayer. Anna and I sat at the grotto that was the manger where Jesus was born. Priests celebrated Mass at midnight  here.

Mass at manger - Copy (2)
It was so special to be there that it took me one hour to pray one rosary. I thought about all the people I know and don’t know and prayed for everyone, naming the ones I know one by one. I prayed a rosary for all my family and my friends and their families.

I prayed for all who are sick or are going through a special situation in life.

I prayed for peace in our hearts and in particular for peace in the hearts of the Israelis, Palestinians, and extremists in all religions so there could be peace in the Holy Land and in the Middle East.

I prayed for all the Christians in the Middle East who are persecuted and for the priests and nuns who so lovingly and courageously work in this part of the world.

I prayed for all the refugees, for everyone I met in Jordan, for Caritas and the Restaurant of Mercy and their teams, for all the Israelis and Palestinians I know and that I recently met, and for VIDES+USA, the Salesian Sisters in San Antonio, Texas, and the ones in the provincial house of the Middle East, all who so warmly welcome me into their homes, and for the entire Salesian Family.

I was very fortunate to be in Bethlehem and in the Holy Land at this time of the year, and I truly appreciate all who have supported me during my mission in the Middle East in one way or another, who were also included in my rosary prayer.

3 religions FMA Cremison chapel at Christmas

This altar at the chapel of the Salesian Sisters House in Cremisan portrays the three religions of the Holy Land: Judaism with the menorah, Islam with the moon, and Christianity with the Star of Bethlehem. It says: “And it will be peace.”

Natalia Liviero, a VIDES+USA volunteer currently serving in the Middle East


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Anticipation Trepidation Appreciation

1801 United Nations Reflection
Theresa Nguyen at UN4:45 AM – When the alarm suddenly shook me out of sleep I knew it was time. Today our internship group would pick up our United Nations badges. Upon eating breakfast and wearing our Sunday best, we were out the door by 6:25 AM to catch the number eight Bus OMS to Palais des Nations. Our group got off the Appia stop and walked towards the UN building, prepared to go through security. Luckily there was not one person in sight – just us. It was a miracle!

I was holding my badge in front of me – a most precious identity. The Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice (IIMA) Human Rights Office, which is a part of ECOSOC (The United Nations ECOnomic and SOCial Council), had entrusted me with the great task to help represent its organization as an intern. For the last two years I worked with the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco, Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice (FMA), who founded the institute and its lay missionary organization, Voluntariato Internazionale Donna Eduazione Sviluppo (VIDES), to promote and defend the rights of women and children through education. Now, here I am, again, hundreds of miles away from home continuing to share their mission commitment. This time I am at the heart of their mission to help bring witness to why we are at the UN, which is to promote a world where young people may realize their full potential.

Why me? What would I be able to share?

This time was different. I did not have any experience working with human rights issues. Not to mention, I did not speak French, Spanish, or Italian, which is essential for this internship.

As we walked from room to room within the United Nations, I began to imagine the long hours and effort each country must have put into each of these rooms as they discussed. In a few days, I would have the chance to attend the 37th Regular Session for the Human Rights Council. So many nations. So many ideas. So many faces.

Inside the place where change happened, I felt even smaller. I had come to Geneva with uncertainty and without much faith in my abilities to be a voice for change, yet, here was a great opportunity to grow and learn. The UN is impressive, but what was even more impressive was seeing how the IIMA organization had so much trust in its young people to allow them to be the very face of their institute. They were educating their young people to advocate for their own rights. I may have felt small, but through humility and God’s grace, I achieved many things I did not think were possible. How certainly blessed I am!

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Bringing in the New Year

Midnight Prayer Service
Sister M. Gloria Mar and Sister Theresa Jones gathered with the young women participating in the VIDES Winter Formation Camp at 11:20 pm in our chapel to await the New Year. S. M. Gloria extended the invitation to our whole community and to FMA in the surrounding area. Several members of our community joined them. During this hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, they made an Examen, thanking God for the blessings of 2017, expressing sorrow for their offenses, and stating something which they planned to do in 2018. They also reflected on Mary’s attitude of faith and wonderment as she expected the birth of Jesus, and asked her to accompany them as Jesus is formed within them. Right before midnight, they played the Te Deum, and at midnight, lights were turned on and bells were rung. Their prayer time continued as they each received their VIDES shirt and a Rosary. They also pledged and promised to live in chastity, poverty, and obedience while they would be on mission. Their time of prayer concluded with the singing of the Magnificat.1801 new Yr r Srvc holdng pldg

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Revisiting Syrian Refugee Camp

Natalia Liviero Refugee Camp4We went to visit the Syrian refugee families in Azraq, near the border of Syria and Saudi Arabia, the same we had visited a month earlier.

The trip, like the previous one, was organized by Fatima, herself a refugee, from Iraq, who raised funds from friends to buy a playground and new clothes to bring to the children of the camp so they could celebrate Eid al-Fitra, which she explained is like Christmas for Muslims and it is very important for the kids to wear new clothing on that day. We went together with our inseparable friends from the Caritas Restaurant of Mercy, Shnoda (Egypt) and Judith (Switzerland), and I invited Ricardo, an Argentinian from the Focolari Catholic Lay movement, since he had told me he wanted to visit a refugee camp before leaving Jordan, but couldn’t find a way to do it.

Natalia Liviero Refugee Camp PhotographerI’d like to mention that to enter into a UN refugee camp it is very difficult and it can take months of security background check, unless you work for an NGO working with the UN or for the government. Also, the US Government doesn’t allow its personnel to go to the border areas nor visiting refugee camps unless they have been authorized by the US Government, and recommends US citizens to follow the same guidelines. Two days before our trip, Fatima went with the truck to deliver the playground because she said it could have been dangerous for us as foreigners to be seen bringing aid to refugees. This is just to explain the situation on the ground. We didn’t encounter any problems coming and going from that camp and we felt safe.

Natalia Liviero Refugee Camp3This camp, which was composed of a big family of about 150 members, was reduced to about 60 members since a portion of the family moved to another area due to work opportunity, and it’s not a formal camp supported by the UN. These people had fled the city of Hama in Syria six years ago due to the war and have been moving their tents around looking for land to cultivate food. At the time of our earlier visit, they were on a piece of land where they grew tomatoes and many of the children worked in the field. Back home in Syria, they lived in a nice house and worked in agriculture as well. Someday soon they hope to go back home to Syria once the war is over.

When we arrived at the camp, the kids were playing with the playground brought by Fatima; she was so happy to see them having fun!

Natalia Liviero Refugee Camp5For now, I am still offering my time and love to touch the lives of the young people – one child at a time and living out Salesian loving-kindness and joy. I am just happy to be of service!

Your prayers, love, support, and contribution will have a huge impact in my mission!

-Natalia Liviero, VIDES missioner

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Unexpected Week in…

1705 Natalia Liviero The Holy Land 2010My mission in the Holy Land was going to start in September, but, life is amazing, so I ended up in Jerusalem in July for a short week!

It was Sunday, in the afternoon before going to Mass, and I was cleaning up my emails and organizing my contacts when I found an email from Bishop William Shomali of the Latin Patriarchate in Jordan replying to an email thread where I was copied, last year… when he was Monsignor of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Last year, his name wasn’t familiar to me, but this year, I’ve seen him in almost every important celebration in Jordan and have met him briefly once, so I was intrigued and checked the email. It was about his involvement with the Interfaith Conference of Forgiveness to be held in Jerusalem!

I was in the email thread because of a phone conversation I had last year with Father Kelly, the Vice Chargé of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem. He had suggested that I participate in the organization and to attend the conference since he knew of my profound interest in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to him, education on forgiveness regarding such a deep conflict was necessary to heal so many decades of grievances on both sides. At that time, I was busy with lots of projects at work and although I got acquainted with the details of the conference, I couldn’t do much. Also, I wasn’t sure I could take time off from work to attend.

On that Sunday, after seeing the Bishop’s email, I contacted Fr. Kelly and Dr. Enright, the founder of the International Forgiveness Institute in Wisconsin, and asked them if they needed volunteers for the conference, to which they said yes, very enthusiastically. After the evening Mass, during a farewell reception to the Vice Nunzio of Jordan at the Italian Embassy, guess who was there…? Bishop Shomali!

1705 Natalia Liviero Italian Embassy Goodbye Msgr Roberto

At the Italian Embassy to say goodbye to Msgr. Roberto (middle) to his right Sayyedna Tawal and to his left Bishop Shomali. Sister Rita and Sister Jacinta, the Fucularini, a group of Italians with the Franciscans, and many more guests.

When I mentioned to him about the story of the email, he said “Oh, you should go, I’ll be presenting on a topic. Ask the sisters to host you at their house in Jerusalem, it’s around the corner from Notre Dame!” I asked the Superior of the house where I live if I could take that week off to go to the conference, and she said I had to text the Director of the Middle East Province, who was in Rome, for authorization. The Director said she had no objection if there was a room available for me at their house in Jerusalem. Next morning, while I was attending a conference about refugees in Jordan, I got the confirmation for the room, and in the afternoon, I was traveling to Jerusalem!

1705 Natalia Liviero Jerusalem Conference on Forgiveness

The Jerusalem Conference on Forgiveness was held at the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame in the Jerusalem Center for two days, on Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday, the day before the conference, I spent almost my entire day at Notre Dame helping to finalize the press release, getting the final design for the volunteers’ t-shirts and getting them ordered, and receiving the instructions for our tasks during the days of the conference.

At the end of Day 1 of the conference, we joined Fr. Kelly for dinner, who so generously hosted us for meals during the volunteering days. I was introduced to Fr. Kelly in 2013 by email and it was great to finally meet him in person! He is very smart, profound in his reflections, and has an extraordinary sense of humor! He is from Ireland as well as Edel (my volunteer friend), and, once again, I can confirm that Irish people are so wonderful and fun to be around!

1705 Natalia Liviero Fr. KellyVolunteering at such an important conference and with the responsibility to handle the technical aspect of the presentations for over 300 people helped me get out of my comfort zone. It was also a great opportunity to listen to religious leaders of the main three Abrahamic religions agreeing that God is a God of mercy and forgiveness. God always forgives us, it is us who are not ready to be forgiven by Him, at times.

You can watch the conference and hear everyone’s perspectives on forgiveness and what is being done globally by clicking on this link:

1705 Natalia Liviero Cardinal Tagle (3)Jerusalem, unexpectedly, also put me in touch with the Filipino community! On Tuesday, I decided to go to 6:30 pm Mass at Notre Dame thinking Fr. Kelly was going to be the celebrant, but, instead, the Mass was celebrated at the auditorium by Cardinal Tagle!

About 450 people attended Mass, the majority were Filipinos living in Israel. Filipinos, mostly women, usually emigrate to other countries to work as caregivers, leaving their kids behind to be raised by their fathers and grandparents, while the mothers take care of other women’s children. Cardinal Tagle delivered a very warm message to all these women.

I wouldn’t have liked to end this post on a sad note after participating in such a wonderful conference on forgiveness, but, the day after the conference, on Friday, there was an attack on Temple Mount where 3 Palestinians killed 2 Israeli soldiers, and the Palestinians were eventually found and killed. The sisters’ house is a few blocks away from the Old City and we could hear the helicopters and police after Mass was over at 7:30 am and they told us to avoid the Old City area…

May God bring peace to the Middle East and grant us peace in our hearts!

-Natalia Liviero, VIDES missioner

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The Power of Play

1709 MSwanson JacksonMy twenty days in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania was a time of waiting and watching. Back in Kenya the general elections were being held and the whole country was holding its breath. I had traveled to Tanzania in case of any unrest after the elections (update: there is a re-vote for the president in October). I stayed with the Salesian Sisters in Temeke, one of the slums of Dar. The sisters run a nursery school, primary school, technical school, Sunday oratory and young people come to play sports all the time. The mission is very much alive! It is common to see 20 year old walking around, holding the hands of 4 year old (which is such an adorable sight).

Since my duration there was unpredictable, I didn’t have an official role. So, I tried to help out where I could. This included: marking homework and exams, helping the technical students with their English, assisting the other volunteers with their crafts and playing games. Honestly, I would say the majority of my time in Temeke was just hanging out and having fun. I loved it!

1709 MSwanson Dar TanzaniaSome of the ways I played:

  • Skipping with the tiny kids all over the compound
  • Quizzing the 7th graders on their math and science
  • Discussing the educational/ political system of Tanzania with the technical school students
  • Playing basketball and winning in ‘Horse’ (pretty proud of myself)
  • Drawing in the sand
  • Joining the dressmaking students in a dance competition
  • Singing and playing guitar
  • Going to the beach
  • Laughing and telling stories
  • and much more

It turns out that I could have stayed in Kenya during the elections; it would have been safe, but, in God’s divine wisdom, I was given a chance to go to Tanzania.  Although my time there was short, the young people of Temeke left a tangible mark on my heart. During this time, I grew to love Tanzania and its welcoming, friendly people. I look forward to a time I can return.

-Megan Swanson, VIDES missioner

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