May 02, 2004

Of Cows, Cabbages, and Sister Dorothy Pelt

In the port town of Puerto Honduras, 24 cows bear the HM (Hermanas de la Misericordia) brand on their backs. The cows belongs to 24 families living in four different aldeas (villages) in the mountains. Each family received a cow as a gift from Heifer International through the efforts of Sister Dorothy Pelt. (Honduras/Chicago). She hopes that, when the cows are mature and bred, the milk they produce will provide much-needed nutrition for the children and pregnant women in these aldeas where malnutrition is a constant problem. Each family has agreed to give the first offspring to another family, and in this way, the project “forms a chain of benefits” says Dorothy.

The “cow project” is only the latest of Dorothy’s endeavours. She has lived and worked in Honduras for over 26 years, coming in 1971, as a volunteer at the Colegio San Vicente library in San Pedro Sula. She returned during her vacation in 1972 to work with Sister Agnes Perez of Belize, visiting various aldeas around La Ceiba, and again in 1973 when she collaborated in the formation of catequistas in the parish in Tela.

In 1975 Dorothy was invited to work for La iglesia Catalica Ambulante, a project of the Conference of Religious in Honduras to make the presence of the Church known in places not reached by the local parish priest. With a team of lay persons, Dorothy travelled from aldea to aldea, offering a program of catechetics for men, women, and children. Recognizing the need, Dorothy committed herself to work in this project for one year. Then she was invited to work within the large parish of Sagrado Corazon and thus began the work that would keep her committed to the Church and the Honduran people for the next 26 years. In 1977 the coordinating team of which Dorothy was a part worked with 28 aldeas; today they work with 65.

Dorothy helps in the Maestro en Casa (Teacher at Home) program which offers first to eighth grade classes daily for youth and adults on the radio. She also helps the people with physical survival. With the participation of Caritas and INFOP, a government organization, she has introduced agricultural programs, including the growing if vegetables and better methods of cultivating the land. “Only through the help of God and many dedicated lay men and women have we been able to accomplish these things,” says Dorothy. “I came here in order to give, but I have received much more.”

Eva Lallo (Providence)

Reprinted from Living Mercy Winter/Spring 2004
A Magazine of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
© Used with permission

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