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Vocero San Benito Jose
The Newsletter of the St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center
Winter 2008, Issue 9
Mission of Charity
by Fr. Juan Diego Sutherland, CFR


“I was beginning to think I might not make it.” His teary, shell-shocked eyes told half the story. This aged country man fixed his eyes on mine and began to tell his story.

José Santos Martinez, a seventy-year-old cattle herder, was among the 200 guests the Friars and Missioners of Christ housed in Casa Guadalupe over the week of October 19. We were privileged to house evacuees and victims of the recent flooding, which affected Honduras nationwide. In their wake the floods left 35 people dead, 19,000 in shelters, and destroyed countless homes and crops.

On a rainy Sunday morning in Comayagua, José Santos was watching over a herd of cattle beside the Humuya River. Before he knew what was happening the river had risen dangerously and he had nowhere to go. The water was up to his chest and would soon be over his head. Santos knew he was not a strong swimmer; his only hope was a submerged tree, which lay some fifty feet down the now raging river.

Trusting in God, he pushed himself into the river’s current and prayed. In only a few seconds he found himself tangled in the branches of a Guanacaste tree. Sputtering and coughing he pulled himself above the water’s surface. Santos’ hold was tenuous. He was able to keep his head above water, but his body remained submerged fighting against the force of the current. There he remained for 8 hours.

It was after some hours that José Santos began to think this might be the end for him. After so many hours he was beginning to lose strength and hope. His desperate solitude was broken by the distinctive “wup-wup-wup” of a US Black-Hawk Helicopter. The Chopper stopped and hovered over Santos. Then, from a precarious height, a US Airman dropped down to secure Santos with a rescue line. Half drowned but wholly grateful, José Santos Martinez was lifted out of death and into our lives.

Of the 200 guests we housed at Casa Guadalupe during the recent flooding, none had a story quite like José Santos. Some had lost their homes, many had lost belongings, but all were grateful for the work of the Friars, the Missioners of Christ and the staff of St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center.

The first evacuees were housed with Enlaces Christian Ministries. As the numbers of evacuees grew I dropped in to Enlaces to see what we could do to help. As I was pulling into Enlaces I thought: “Some of the SBJ staff should come down to attend to the evacuees. I’ll be sure to call when I get home.”

To my surprise I found the SBJ ambulance parked outside the front door. Inside I found Dr. Carlos Suazo, our medical director, and two of our nursing staff busy seeing patients. Herman Ruiz Gaekel, SBJ’s director, met me as I came in and explained his decision to send Dr. Carlos, “as there were virtually no patients at the clinic because of the rain.”

“Brilliant idea,” I replied.

During this period of flood relief, the staff of St. Benedict Joseph distinguished themselves on many levels. They were the first to respond to the overwhelming medical needs during this time, and they were the last to leave the field. Drs. Carlos Suazo, Ibimael Izaguirre, and Eleana Hersperger worked well into the night attending patients. They were supported by our enthusiastic and ubiquitous director, Herman, as well as our ever-present nursing staff. The staff of SBJ attended patients at a number of different and sometimes remote locales. It was often true, the more remote and difficult the site was to reach, the more critical was the need for medicine. This was no normal week at the office - for all our staff it became a personal mission of charity.

As always, the services and medicines of St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center were provided to the very poor completely free of charge. Thanks to your generosity, we are able to continue to give the best medical care to those most in need.
A heart felt thank you to the entire staff of SBJ for their generous ongoing Christ-like service to the poorest of the poor.

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40)

helping woman into truck
man at house
(above) The loss of life and property was felt all over Honduras. This home, located minutes from the Medical Center, was among those badly damaged by the floods. The day before this photo was taken the Humuya River broke its banks, and rising 5 meters above its normal level turned this humble house into a disaster. Many of the guests who stayed at Casa Guadalupe came from this same neighborhood.

(above) The week of October 19, 2008 was unique on many levels. It was an opportunity for us at SBJ to collaborate closely with many different organizations. The Honduran Military made up part of the multi-organizational task force that helped in the immense work of mercy and charity towards those affected by the flooding. Here Br. Matteo Dengler helps Honduran soldiers lift one of our guests and patients for transportation home.

(right) The medical team of SBJ made several visits to remote sites to attend patients who would not have otherwise received medical attention as the floods made conventional travel almost impossible. One of the areas most affected by the flooding was the Municipality of Ajuterique, Comayagua. Here Dr. Carlos Suazo is pictured in the town of Los Encuentros, Ajuterique. In one afternoon Dr. Carlos saw over 60 patients. With the help of our nursing staff and the Missioners of Christ medicines and clothing were made available free of charge.

Dr Carlos


Fr Juan Diego with kids
Fr Terry praying with woman
(left) Fr. Juan Diego is pictured here with two children who were among hundreds of others evacuated from their homes in Comayagua. (above) Prayer pulls us out of ourselves and connects us directly with God. Friars often offer to pray with people - especially the poor and those in difficult situations. Pictured here is Fr. Terry Messer, praying with a woman who lost her home in the floods. In the midst of hardship, prayer reminds us that we are never alone.


kids with food
(above) Marisol Zelaya Guevara and Pura Maria Caranza worked tirelessly alongside our Doctors attending patients. They are shown here at our mobile dispensary. This particular day found them at Enlaces Christian Ministries, in Comayagua. Our medical teams were first to respond to the overwhelming medical needs in Comayagua. At Enlaces Christian Ministries over 100 patients were attended by our nurses and doctors.
(above) When children feel secure and loved they are happy. Medical attention, a warm plate of food, and a safe place to stay was made available to these happy children because of your generosity. Thank you for helping us help those most in need.


milk line
Our St. Gerard program at SBJ focuses on pre and post-natal care for babies and mothers. Proper nutrition is something that is introduced and re-enforced at SBJ. Among the hundreds of people we were privileged to house during the floods were many little-ones. With the help of the Missioners of Christ, a group of lay missionaries from Honduras and abroad, we were able to dispense formula and milk for each child. Katy Hernandez Talavera is shown taking orders and pulling pints for toddlers at our “milk bar.”



During the week of the 12th of October Honduras was hit by Tropical Storm 16, pouring a lot of rain throughout the country - and Comayagua was no exception. During the night of October 18, the waters of the Humuya River flooded the lower parts of Comayagua forcing the people living in these areas to evacuate. Suddenly they realized they had lost all their personal belongings and the security their homes offered. They had no place to go.

By a quick response from Fr. Juan Diego, we contacted the different institutions and authorities involved in this situation. In a matter of minutes our regular activities were put aside. We had to provide medical care, food, transportation, and accommodations for 200 people at Casa Guadalupe. Working together, the people from Enlaces Bilingual School, Red Cross, the Fire Department, COPECO, the National Police, the Governor’s Office, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, Missioners of Christ, Casa Guadalupe and St. Benedict Joseph staff, we were able to provide medical care and medicines to at least 300 people and accommodations and food to at least 200 people.

Herman Ruiz-Gaekel
St. Benedict Joseph Medical Center