Activities During 2011

This is an archive page for reports about the work of the Companion Diocese Commission in the Dominican Republic in 2011.

Annual Report for 2011

The Annual Report of the Companion Diocese Commission
Prepared for the 191th Convention of the Diocese of Georgia
February 2-4, 2012

DR Diocesan seal

The seal of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic

The Diocese of Georgia continues to be a very active mission partner with our Companion Diocese of the Dominican Republic. During February 18-20, The Reverend Tar Drazdowski, Christ Church (Valdosta), represented Bishop Benhase at the annual convention of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic held in Santo Domingo. She addressed the convention, bringing greetings from the Diocese of Georgia.

The Exploration Trip to the Dominican Republic, February 22-28, was productive and successful. The ten team members were from the following parishes: Trinity, Statesboro; Christ Church, Valdosta; St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s, Darien; and St. Peter’s, Savannah. The team traveled throughout the southern and central parts of the Dominican Republic taking in the beautiful countryside while looking for possible mission sites. In both urban and rural areas, opportunities and mission sites are plentiful, and the team members were made keenly aware of how many communities are looking to form partnerships with churches in the U.S.

From April 5 to 7, The Rev. Jay Weldon, rector of St. Patrick’s, Albany, and The Rev. Lonnie Lacy, rector of St. Anne’s, Tifton, visited the city of Azua, where St. Patrick’s parishioners were active in 2010 to seek out potential worksites for their next mission trip. As a result of this trip, projects have been identified for a trip planned in January 2012.

Deacon Susan Gahagan (St. Paul’s, Savannah) made her second trip to the Dominican Republic during May 28-June 7 to participate in the “Latin Experience”, a program sponsored by the Association of Episcopal Deacons and the Deacons of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic to learn about the ministry of the deacons in the Dominican Republic. While Deacon Gahagan was participating in the program, she was partnered with a Dominican counterpart. She stayed in the home of Deacon Susanna and basically shadowed her through her weekly responsibilities.

During June 18 to 25, Christ Church (Valdosta) sent the largest team ever in the ten-year history of our work in the Dominican Republic. The team of thirty short-term missionaries represented churches from four states – Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. Churches in our diocese whose priest or parishioners participated included: Trinity, Statesboro; Saint Anne’s, Tifton; and Christ Church, Valdosta. The team worked at the Camp of the Transfiguration in El Pedregal, near Jarabacoa. The one-week mission included daily instruction for four knitting projects with supplies included; Vacation Bible School instruction, music and crafts with supplies included; and several construction projects in the community as well as at the camp. During two of those construction projects, one new house was roofed and the aging roof on another house was replaced with new metal sheets.

During October 22-25, the Dominican Development Group held their bi-annual meeting at Christ Church, Valdosta. Bishop Scott Benhase, Diocese of Georgia; Bishop Julio Holguín, Diocese of the Dominican Republic, and Bishop William Skilton, retired from South Carolina and now assisting Bishop in the Dominican Republic, and members of the companion dioceses met together to develop and support a plan to obtain secure funding to help build the Endowment Fund for the support of the Dominican Church. The Diocese of the Dominican Republic has been negatively affected by the budget cuts at the national Episcopal Church, and is taking measures to become more financially independent. Progress is being made in this effort. The Diocese of Georgia is helping by maintaining their full partnership with the Dominican Development Group. The line item in our Diocesan budget for $11,000.00 is used solely to support the efforts of the Dominican Development Group and the work being done in the Dominican Republic.

Much of our work in 2011 has laid the foundation for a flurry of mission team activity in 2012, with four mission trips in various stages of planning to take place during that year. One of those trips will feature a team from the Southeastern Convocation, a new sponsor of Dominican mission work, whose trip will be to El Carreton, a Dominican community where teams from the Diocese of Georgia have never worked before. 2012 will also see another exploration trip and the presence of an official representative from the Diocese of Georgia at the annual convention of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic in February.

For more information, please check out the Companion Diocese webpage at You will find a wealth of information about mission opportunities, travel diaries, and photographs of everything mentioned above. We are grateful to Julius and Julia Ariail for their continued effort to keep this information current and available for everyone. For more information, contact The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, Chair of the Companion Diocese Commission and Assistant Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta Georgia; or The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon for Congregational Ministries, Diocese of Georgia.

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The overarching purpose of the mission trip sponsored by Christ Church (Valdosta) to El Pedregal in June, 2011, was to establish a ministry of presence. To see other photos from this trip, click the picture above.

Report of the Mission Trip in June, 2011

The Diocese of Georgia conducted a mission trip to the Episcopal Camp of the Transfiguration (Campamento Episcopal Monte de la Transfiguración) from June 18-25, 2011. The Camp of the Transfiguration is located in El Pedregal, a small village about 2 miles east of the large city of Jarabacoa. This mission trip was organized by Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, and included 30 people from 5 dioceses of the Episcopal Church and 1 diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. This trip in 2011 marked the tenth year that a mission trip from the Diocese of Georgia has come to this location. The team flew from Orlando to Santo Domingo on June 18th and rode in a chartered bus from the airport to El Pedregal, a trip of about 4 hours. The bus transport was coordinated by the mission team support staff of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The team members stayed in the dormitory rooms of the Episcopal camp, and their meals were prepared by members of the camp staff and served in the camp dining room.

On Sunday, the first full day of their mission trip in El Pedregal, they attended church in El Pedregal where the three priests on the mission team, The Rev. Tar Drazdowski (Christ Church, Valdosta), The Rev. Lonnie Lacy (St. Anne’s, Tifton) and The Rev. Justin Yawn (Trinity, Statesboro) were the co-celebrants. During the service, their mission team crosses were blessed by Padre Carlos Santana, the priest in charge of the camp, school, and church. The team members presented Padre Carlos with a ciborium to match the chalice a previous mission team from Christ Church had donated in an earlier year.

During the week the mission team members were in El Pedregal, they completed construction projects such as excavating a site for a new electrical power substation, roofing two houses, removing a chain link fence and its foundation to prepare for the installation of a new fence and concrete block wall, cleaning and then painting a tile roof over a carport on a house in the camp property, installing three ceiling fans in the camp dining room, and installing ceilings in bathrooms in a new camp dormitory building. They also conducted knitting classes for approximately 75 knitters and Vacation Bible School classes for approximately 125 children. They attended a graduation exercise for the Episcopal school on the camp property, and helped conduct a water splash party for the village children.

Watercolor: 'Five Palms'

Michael Wood, an artist and a member of the mission team, created three watercolor paintings from scenes in El Pedregal. One of these paintings, “Five Palms,” was painted in El Pedregal during the mission trip, and the others were painted after Michael returned home. Prints of these paintings are for sale, and net proceeds benefit future mission work in the Dominican Republic. To see illustrations of the three works and for more information on purchasing prints, go here.

On Thursday, June 23rd, the last full day they were in El Pedregal, the community joined them in the camp dining room in a covered dish supper with dancing afterward. The team presented team t-shirts and crosses to several members of the community and the camp staff. They also donated a large banner decorated with handprints of the VBS children to the Episcopal church in El Pedregal, and gave a stole decorated with thumbprints of the village children to Padre Carlos. The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, the mission team leader, also received one of the stoles decorated by the village children.

On Friday, June 24th, the team left El Pedregal by bus to travel to Santo Domingo. They arrived in time to see part of the capital city and to eat supper in local restaurants. On Saturday morning, June 25th, they rode busses to the airport for their flight back to Orlando.

For photographs from this mission trip, check here (summary set), here (part 1 of an extended set), and here (part 2 of an extended set). For a detailed daily journal from this trip, check here.

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Deacon Susan Gahagan (at far right) with deacons from the United States and the Dominican Republic on the steps of San Esteban in San Pedro de Marcoris. To see other photos from her trip, click the picture above.

Report of the Exploration Trip for Deacons, May 28 – June 7, 2011

The Rev. Deacon Susan Gahagan, a member of the clergy of St. Paul’s, Savannah, participated in a cross-cultural field experience for deacons sponsored by the Association for Episcopal Deacons and the Deacons of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic. She joined a group of 11 other deacons at the Bishop Kellogg Conference Center in San Pedro de Marcoris for several days to learn about the ministry of deacons in the Dominican Republic, and was then assigned as a partner with a Dominican deacon to work and live for several days in that deacon’s home community and to share in that local ministry. After she returned home, she wrote the report below. More information about her trip is available from the Association of Episcopal Deacons here.

A Latin Experience

I received an e-mail from AED (Association for Episcopal Deacons) on December 23, 2010, telling about A Latin Experience for 12 US deacons and 12 deacons from the Dominican Republic to be paired up for an immersion experience in Latin culture. Having been to the DR last September, I wanted to go back. After sending an e-mail to a member of last fall’s team who was out of town for the holiday and getting back a response, “haven’t you registered yet?” I did register on Christmas Day at 9:00 a.m. Now for those who know me, they know that I always, by the Grace of God, have my needs met, but there has never been an excess of money in my life. The fact that I had the money for registration on Christmas Day was a sign to me. I stepped out on faith that the airline ticket would somehow happen. And it did!

I flew to Santo Domingo on Saturday, May 28th. After a missed meeting at the airport I finally found Deacon Bob Snow (somehow two people wearing collars could not find each other) and my ride to San Pedro de Macoris Retreat Center where I could relax and meet the other participants. We all turned in early that night.

Passing the Peace in St. Stephen's. To see other photos from this trip, click the picture above.

Sunday morning we attended mass at St Stephen’s on the grounds of the retreat center vested. The group picture was taken on the steps before the procession began. Deacon Snow had told us to bring at least an alb and stole. Dominicans like to have visiting clergy vest. Some of us did participate in the service reading the gospel both in English and Spanish and at the table. I read the gospel in English. It was also good to see one of the seminarians we had met last fall, Lorenzo, who was assigned to St Stephen’s.

Sunday afternoon we began our introduction to the culture and ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The first class of deacons have been ordained about five years. They talked to us about the process and what they have and are doing in their ministry. They had some hurdles to leap because there was no process for them to follow. Deacon Snow (Neb) and Sr Priscilla (Southern Ohio) were both deacons when they went to the DR.

The staff at the retreat center fed and cared for us well. We ate a lot of rice, beans and wonderful fresh fruit.

The Rt. Rev. Julio Holguin, Bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic.

Monday morning we had an invasion of men in purple. One of our participants was recently retired bishop of Western NY, Michael Garrison, who has moved to Western Florida. He is an AED board member. Bishop Julio Holguin of DR, Assisting Bishop Bill Skilton, and retired DR Bishop Taliaferro Isaac were also present. Each of the Dominican Bishops added to our knowledge of Latin American Culture and the Church, Spirituality in Latin America, Evangelizing of Latins, Latino/Hispanic Ministries of the Episcopal Church and the Latin America Family. Along with the bishops we had Dean Ashton Brooks from Epiphany Cathedral and Dean Napoleon Brito from the seminary as speakers. By evening we had information whirling around in our heads trying to understand. Dean Brito had brought his guitar and we enjoyed the evening singing.

Tuesday morning dawned with morning devotions and another wonderful meal prepared by the staff at San Pedro de Macoris Retreat Center. They fed and cared for us well. After breakfast more talks on “Understanding Latinos and their Needs,” “Roman Catholic Church Influence on Latinos” and finally “The Gringos Among Us” and “Understanding Latinos Through Mission Trips” by three of the Dominican missionaries, Deacon Bob and Ellen Snow and Karen Carroll. Tuesday afternoon our heads had absorbed all our seats could endure and we were off to see some unique and historical caves near San Pedro. The only unwelcome guests on that trip were the mosquitoes we encountered at the caves.

School children in Buen Pastor. Click this image to see other photos from this trip.

Wednesday morning found us going to Buen Pastor for morning devotions and visiting the church, school and clinic run by Sisters of the Transfiguration. The children sang for us in the church after our devotions. In each of the schools we visited, the children wanted to be greeted by the Americans and pose to have their picture taken. They were fascinated by the cameras that would show them their picture. We visited Angelina school and church, Consuelo church and school and then back to the retreat center for lunch. In the afternoon we visited Sante Fe Church and School. We had also visited what is to be a bakery and vocational learning experience for members of the community. They have the building and equipment, but are waiting for the power company to run the 220 voltage line for the ovens. Several members of our group expressed their feelings related to the attitude of the power company. Back on the grounds of the retreat center, we visited a health clinic and AIDS program run by an American doctor missionary and his wife.

A computer lab in a Dominican Episcopal school. Click this image to see other photos from this trip.

Thursday morning we left the retreat center after breakfast and traveled to the church at Santo Thomas where we celebrated the Ascension Mass along with a mission group from Charleston, SC, who were preparing to travel home. We traveled on to Boca Chica and visited San Jose Church, School and Bishop Isaac Home for Seniors. I had visited this site last fall. Since that time they have been able through generous donations to furnish the third floor at the Hogar (home) and are constructing the third floor of the school building. The Dominican government requires two things of the schools run by the church: 1) they must have a basketball court; and 2) they must have a computer lab. That evening we traveled to the dormitories at the Diocesan House and a tour of the Colonial Zone including the oldest American cathedral (Roman Catholic), museums and, of course, shops.

Friday morning we visited Epiphany Cathedral (Episcopal) and the Diocesan Seminary. The seminarians were preparing to leave and return to their weekend assignments but it was good to see several seminarians we had met and worked with last fall. Upon returning to the Diocesan House, we were picked up by our host family for the weekend. I went back to Boca Chica where I stayed at the Hogar. The quiet evening was a welcome rest after a very busy week.

Saturday morning I met my hostess, Susanna, at 7:30 for a bus trip to Santo Domingo and her formation classes at the seminary. The deacons in formation and the part-time seminarians attend classes at the seminary on Saturday taught by the seminary professors. There were two other US deacons accompanying their hostess to class. After class we all, deacons and hostesses, went to some shops in the colonial zone. We treated our hostesses to pizza before we returned to the bus station for the ride to our various destinations.

After a siesta we attended a Bible Study held on the lawn of the San Jose Church. After the study everyone went inside for a time of singing together. Susanna and I did the altar guild duties for Sunday. She seemed surprised as she filled the vessels that I knew how to set the credence table. She did not understand that what she and the congregation did at San Jose was part of a much larger church that spanned not only countries but languages. After that I went back to the hogar to rest and prepare for Sunday.

Santo Tomas.

Fr Sanchez came for me at 7 a.m. and we were off to St Thomas with his son, Victor, driving. As we traveled we passed the winter home for the New York Mets, Florida Marlins and the Yankees. When we entered St Thomas and began vesting there were only about five or six people in church. I participated in the service as the deacon at the table. Sitting behind the altar facing the open outside door I saw people passing the church in the street stop in front of the door, bow and cross themselves, then go on down the street. How often in the US do people even pay any attention that they have passed a church on the street? By the time we got to communion there were about 40 people in the church. After the service Fr Sanchez and I unvested and the ladies brought us juice to drink. As soon as the service and attendance was recorded and the money counted, we were off again.

Back at San Jose we vested about 9:45. There we were joined by Susanna and Ricardo, a full time dentist and part time seminarian assigned to San Jose whom I had met on the previous trip. When Latinos pass the peace it is a real social event. They do not stop until they have greeted every person in the church. It is a joyful event of laughing, hugging and even some dancing. The children, especially the little girls, wanted to be greeted by this strange deacon. Most of the time I was greeting two children at a time, one under each arm. All of the people were so warm, open and friendly. Neither of the churches I served in had communion rails. The people formed a line down the main isle receiving from the priest and then moving to me, the deacon, with the chalice. The vast majority presented the host for intinction, meaning I had poured much too much wine for the hundred people present.

Deacon Gahagan received a certificate of participation in the 'Latin Experience' trip.

After the service I rode the bus back to Santo Domingo with Ricardo. His son picked us up with the car and they delivered me to the Snow’s. Soon after I arrived we went to the Diocesan House to begin preparations for the dinner Sunday evening with the US guests and hosts of the diocese. In between I had time for a wonderful time of sharing with Ellen Snow. At the dinner each of the US participants was given a framed certificate from the diocese and a green stole with the Diocesan Seal on it made by one of the seminarians, who makes vestments to supplement his income while he is in seminary. I have a beautiful dalmatic and stole he made after our last trip.

Monday we went to the market in pouring rain and flooded streets. For a minute I thought I was back in Savannah with the flooded streets from rain. We also spent some time with Deacon Snow reflecting on our experiences. It is his hope that this is just the first of such trips.

Tuesday morning early we began to return to our various destinations; Maine, Pennsylvania, Florida, Louisiana, California, Oregon, Georgia and Vancouver, B.C., with our experiences whirling in our heads. From the e-mails that have been circulating since our return, we are still processing our experiences.

Note: In addition to participating in this trip, Deacon Gahagan was also a member of the team from St. Paul’s Savannah that was in Santo Domingo in September, 2010, to work with Episcopal seminiarians on a service music project. She had the opportunity to visit a home for the elderly operated by the Diocese of the Dominican Republic and to distribute letters of greeting from the youth of St. Paul’s. A report of that mission trip with links to an online album with photographs is available here.

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Report of the Exploration Trip in April 5-7, 2011

Padre Jesús Mosquea with some of the members of his three congregations in Azua.

During April 5-7, 2011, The Rev. Jay Weldon (St. Patrick’s, Albany) and The Rev. Lonnie Lacy (St. Anne’s, Tifton), conducted an exploration trip to examine potential mission work sites in Azua in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. Azua has a population of 85,000 and is near the southern coast about 60 miles west of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Azua had been visited by the Diocese of Georgia’s exploration team in February, 2010, and a mission team lead by Fr. Weldon worked there in October, 2010. A report and online photo album from the October 2010 mission trip is available here.

They flew from Atlanta to Santo Domingo on Delta #599 on April 5. After landing at the Santo Domingo airport, they rented a car and drove to Azua. They stayed one night in the Hotel Ramon, the same facility used by the October 2010 mission team. While in Azua, they met with Padre Jesús Mosquea, the local Episcopal priest, and visited the three Episcopal congregations in the area to determine their needs for future mission work. They ate their meals in Padre Ramon’s house. Identified needs included continuing the construction of the unfinished building of The Church of the Reconciliation to a state where services can be held inside the building; finishing construction on the two houses that were worked on by the October 2010 mission team; constructing a house for a woman with 10 children, all of whom currently live in a shack made of flattened metal cans; and constructing outhouses to replace the flimsy outdoor bathroom facilities currently in use in some areas. An outhouse could be built for approximately US$100, and the church and house construction projects could be completed for approximately US$12,000.

On the afternoon of April 6th, they returned to Santo Domingo and stayed one night in the Hotel Mercure before boarding their Delta #598 flight back to Atlanta on April 7th.

An online album with photographs from this trip is available here. Videos from this trip are currently being prepared, and links to those videos will be posted here as soon as they are ready for use.

For additional information on this trip, contact The Rev. Jay Weldon or The Rev. Lonnie Lacy.

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Report of the Exploration Trip in February 22-28, 2011

The unfinished high school building in Carreton, near the city of Bani west of Santo Domingo.

During February 22-28, 2011, the Diocese of Georgia conducted an exploration trip to examine potential mission work sites in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The exploration team included ten clergy and lay members from five congregations within the Diocese of Georgia: The Rev. Sam Buice, St. Peter’s (Savannah); The Rev. Ted Clarkson and Allison Clarkson, St. Andrew’s and St. Cyprian’s (Darien); The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, Christ Church (Valdosta); Julius Ariail, Christ Church (Valdosta); Dorothy Cunningham, St. Cyprian’s (Darien); Karulynn Koelliker, St. Andrew’s (Darien); Fred Richter, Trinity (Statesboro); and Dave and Judy Sweeterman, St. Peter’s (Savannah). They flew from Orlando to Santo Domingo on February 22nd, and stayed four nights in the Hotel Mercure in Santo Domingo. During the day, they rode in a chartered bus to visit sites, returning to the hotel each night. At the diocesan camp, they stayed in camp lodging rooms for two nights and returned in a chartered van to the Santo Domingo airport on February 28th for their flight back to Orlando. While based in Santo Domingo, they ate in commercial restaurants or in Dominican Episcopal church or school facilities. At the diocesan camp, their meals were prepared by the camp’s kitchen staff and served in the camp’s dining hall. A daily journal of their trip with a link to an online photograph album is available here.

Sites visited were the following (in alphabetical order, city name first, church name and facility type second, link to photographs of this location third):

Angelina – Santiago Apostol (church and school | photos here)

Bani – La Transfiguratíon (church and school | photos here)

Bonao – San Juan Bautista (church and education center, along with a fire station and two prospective church sites | photos here)

Carreton – San Antonio de Padua (church and unfinished school | photos here)

Doñana – (unfinished church | photos here)

Gautier – San Tomas (church, unfinished social services building | photos here)

Haina – San Marcos (church and school | photos here)

Jarabacoa (El Pedregal) – Campomento Monte de la Transfiguratíon (church, school, camp & conference center | photos here)

San Francisco de Macorís – Buen Samaritano (day care center | photos here)

San Pedro de Macorís – Bishop Kellogg Center (conference center and medical clinic | photos here); Buen Pastor (church, school and medical clinic | photos here); Santa Cruz (church and school | photos here)

Santana – San Matias (church and school | photos here)

Santo Domingo – Epifanía (cathedral | photos here); San Andrés (church, school, clinic, mission team dormitory facility | photos here); San Pablo y San Pedro (unfinished church | photos here); Sagrada Familia (church and school | photos here)

The team had two productive meetings with The Rt. Rev. Julio C. Holguín, Bishop of the Diocese of the Dominican Republic, to learn about his priorities for integrating the work of mission teams in the development of the Dominican church. The team members were also greatly assisted by The Rev. Deacon Bob Snow and Ellen Snow, two missionaries who work on Bishop Holguín’s staff to coordinate the work of mission teams in the Dominican Republic. Deacon Bob Snow traveled with the team as a guide and translator for four days, and Ellen Snow for three days.

The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, the Chair of the Companion Diocese Commision of the Diocese of Georgia and a member of this exploration team, wrote this statement to summarize this trip:

“The February 2011 Exploration Trip to the Dominican Republic was productive and successful. The team traveled throughout the Dominican Republic taking in the beautiful countryside while looking for possible mission sites. In both urban and rural areas, opportunities and mission sites are plentiful, and the team members were made keenly aware of how much work needs to be done. One site in particular, Carreton, located in the rolling countryside west of Santo Domingo near the city of Bani, particularly interested the team members. No public high school is available in this area, and one of Bishop Holguín’s top priorities is the completion of a church-supported secondary school here so that local high school students do not have to leave their home community while completing this important part of their education. What the team observed in Carreton is an excellent example of how the churches in the Dominican Republic are looking for partners to help them build their Church with its extensive set of educational programs and social services. Successful partnerships are formed when church communities share their resources and build buildings and relationships.”

For more information on this trip, contact The Rev. Tar Drazdowski, Chair of the Companion Diocese Commission and Assistant Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta GA; or The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon for Congregational Ministries, Diocese of Georgia.

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