Interview with Olga Alegria and Pedro Uz
Delegates to St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, Minnesota
February 9-19, 2018
Interview By Carrie Stengel
What did you like about the delegation?
Olga: I liked everything. I hold everything in my head, everything we experienced there. Every place we went, I have my memories. I will never forget, because we will never have this experience again.
Pedro: I liked everything, starting with the welcome. Here, sometimes we forget to hug each other, but there every other minute they were giving us hugs. I liked the affection and care they gave us. I will never forget that. One person told me, “My Spanish isn’t very good,” but just with her laugh, we had a wonderful time together. Everything was excellent with our host families and with our brothers and sisters there.
Each experience was new for us. The mass, for example, I had never seen a mass like that. Every moment, every detail, I will hold in my memory. I have no more words except thank you.
Pedro and Olga meet their host family for the first weekend.
What were the most powerful experiences?
Pedro: The activity with Mobile Loaves was very powerful. We went to give out food to people in need. Sometimes we think that everyone there has work. We don’t know how people are really doing. There are no dollars. There is an American Dream. But not everything is perfect. Without work, one is lost there.
Olga: It was very powerful for me to see how people give their time to go and bring hot chocolate to people in the street in that extreme cold (with Mobile Loaves). They give their time to coordinate and organize everything and then to go and hand out the food. It is hard for me to give my time like that.
Preparing to go out in the Mobile Loaves truck.
Pedro: The indigenous mass (at Gichitwaa Kateri Catholic Church) was also very powerful. It made me remember my culture. Sometimes I forget where I come from. The experience there made me remember where I come from, who I am.
The other wonderful thing about the trip is that Olga and I know each other better now. Our friendship is stronger. This is really nice.
Olga and Pedro with members of St. Joan of Arc and members of Gichitwaa Kateri.
Olga: And we brought something from there to our community, from the children at NAZ (Northside Achievement Zone, an organization that works with the whole family so that children excel in school). We presented what we had learned with the scholarship students in Tierra Nueva II. We told the youth that they need to keep studying, that they can be somebody in this life. The students’ parents agreed with us. Education is important and they should keep trying even if it is hard, so that they can go to university, and be somebody. I brought something back from all the activities on the delegation.
A talk with NAZ in North Minneapolis.
What did you learn during the delegation? About yourselves or about your sister community?
Pedro: I learned a phrase from my host family, “A lot of the time, we focus only on our work, without seeing the people around us, if they are okay, if they need something.” And our brothers and sisters at St. Joan of Arc, with their smiles and affection, they are not thinking only about themselves. I close myself up in my work a lot. I don’t see my friends around me. It is hard for me to listen. I learned that. When I came back, I rested a little. Now I am more open.
Olga: What I saw at St. Joan of Arc, I carry in my mind. I learned that there are people from different cultures, different religions that respect each other. How nice would it be if all people were like that. Our city would be different.
I also learned to appreciate my family even more because I really missed them.
I learned that sometimes we shut ourselves up in church and talk about God, but we don’t see God in our brothers and sisters. I was so impressed by the way that St Joan of Arc works for others. I learned that seeing the other person is important to be able to understand their needs. I didn’t realize what others needed, not even my neighbors. Now, I see my neighbors and the people in need. I learned that it is important not to ignore that.
Pedro: Everything was excellent. For each activity, there was a reflection after. Each program had something to teach us.
Retreat with members of the Sister Parish committee.