God's Gifts: Gehlen continues aid with
By Kenny Keane, Globe staff reporter
Posted December 5, 2002
LE MARS - When Hurricane Mitch tore through Honduras in the fall of 1998
nothing was spared - electricity, roads, bridges, schools, clean water and most
importantly 14,000 people dead and missing.
Two years later, the idea of Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras - Changing
Lives was started at Gehlen High School in Le Mars. The mission began with one
senior girl, Catherine Withrow, who traveled in February of 2001 to a village of
about 1,000 people a couple hours north of the capital city of Tegucigalpa.
"The village name is El Guante. In El Guante are two Roman Catholic
sisters, Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary out of Monroe, Mich.,"
said Richard Seivert, guidance counselor at Gehlen, referring to Sister Valeria
Knoche and Sister Barb Zimmer, who had served as missionaries in Honduras for 30
and 20 years respectively.
"I made the connection to the sisters through my brother Francis, and
the rest of it is history," Seivert said. "Hurricane Mitch literally
destroyed that nation as it sat over the country for 10 days. You can imagine
the aftermath of that - diseases like typhoid, cholera, yellow fever and malaria
to name a few.
"It is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There was a
need, and we tried to fill that need."
Mission Honduras has helped to fill that need with four trips so far. The
school followed up the first trip with one that Easter sending nine seniors and
four adults for mission work. Seivert said there was so much interest in
following the large student trip that parents and others had started asking him
if he would set up a trip for them, which he did in January of 2002.
"It became a large medical mission as well as a construction
mission," he said. "They did fantastic work. Then we did another
student trip last April over Easter involving 12 seniors and four adults."
Following that trip, Seivert said the sisters asked the adults on the trip if
they would help them build a medical clinic right in El Guante. He said they
eventually contacted him, and he agreed to help them raise the money for the
"We've been trying to raise $50,000 towards the clinic," said
Seivert, who also noted that he has formed a not-for-profit organization under
the name Mission Honduras Le Mars, which has taken over the fundraising part for
"In the meantime, I began last June to set up this next trip for
January," he said. "We leave Jan. 9 for 10 days. It is a medical team
again and a construction team composed totally of 20 people. They will do their
medical clinics in six different remote villages."
One man who will help with the construction of the clinic is Norbert Janning,
a K-8 counselor for the Catholic Schools of Sioux City (CSSC). He said when
Seivert mentioned the idea to him, he didn't have to mention it twice.
"It's just a lifetime opportunity to actually make a difference in
people's lives," Janning said. "That's what Mission Honduras is all
about. It's not only for the people that we're ministering to, but it will
probably also make a difference in my life. I think from that standpoint, I'll
be a very different person when I come back."
Janning said their work in Honduras is the essence of what we are all about
as Catholics with the idea of ministering to others. He also likes the fact that
adults from the community are going down there, which he thinks is an excellent
thing to model for the youth of the community seeing the adults going on a
Dr. Peggy McGinty, a dentist from Ponca, Neb., who will travel to Honduras,
has been on a couple of medical/dental missions in the past. She said it really
was a wonderful experience and a time to give back and give thanks to God for
all the blessings in her life while at the same time helping those who don't
"These people live day-to-day with a tremendous amount of pain,"
she said. "If you've ever had a toothache or an abscess tooth it's pretty
hard. It's worthwhile just to go and take at least a little bit of the suffering
out of their life by taking a bad tooth out.
"As our Lord says, 'Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto
me.' So we do have a responsibility, all of us, to reach out and to help those
who have less than us and those who are suffering."