As the 2015 Multi-Specialty Mission Trip wraps up in Cochabamba, we received the following note from our dear trip chaplain, Fr. Bob Oldershaw. As you will discover, Fr. Bob caught up with the team after a brief stop in our nation’s capital.

Fr. Bob Oldershaw and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky in Washington, DC had the privilege of seeing Pope Francis.

Fr. Bob Oldershaw and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky in Washington, DC had the privilege of seeing Pope Francis.

I began my 9th Solidarity Bridge Mission Trip in a roundabout way, by first traveling to Washington, DC, on September 24th. Having been invited by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky to the gallery of the Joint Session of Congress, I had the unique privilege of seeing Pope Francis up close and hearing his call to solidarity with all of our sisters and brothers. "I come to you as an American," he said, "since we all share this continent." He urged us to enlarge our embrace to reach out to the peripheries, both geographically and existentially, working for the common good in all things. 

Fr. Bob visiting with a patient from the 2015 Multi-Specialty Mission Trip

Fr. Bob visiting with a patient from the 2015 Multi-Specialty Mission Trip

That’s the heart of  Solidarity Bridge, I mused, as my mind traveled 5000 miles to our Multi-Specialty Mission Team already on the ground in Cochabamba. Pope Francis soon called my attention back to the Congress, as he offered a deeper and wider meaning to the Golden Rule:

Care for the other with passion and compassion, as we would have them care for us. 

I recall that historic moment a week later, as we wrap up mission trip activities in Cochabamba. Through these days at Univalle Hospital, we have both touched the peripheries, and been touched and transformed by them. Our surgeons performed dozens of hernia, gall bladder and gynecologic surgeries, while our dermatologists, cardiologist, gynecologists, and family practitioner shared their medical skills with our Bolivian sisters and brothers who live in deep poverty. Sisters like Luzmila, mother to 22 children, only two of them she bore herself. And brothers like Mario, whose dark skin is leathered by a lifetime of field work under a blistering sun. And also daughters, like 17-year-old Angelica, whose only family is formed by her neighbors. Each of the hundreds of Bolivians whom we served this week has his or her unique story. And all of them have outdone us with their immeasurable gifts of passion and compassion, of hope, of gratitude, and of joy.

On my last day in Bolivia I saw this image of El Papa!  I knew then that my DC-Bolivia journey was complete.

On my last day in Bolivia I saw this image of El Papa!  I knew then that my DC-Bolivia journey was complete.

It was an extraordinary 10 days, summed up for me by four-year-old Jose Alejandro as he ran to me proclaiming: “Padrecito, amo usted!” while he threw his arms around me. I felt like Pope Francis as I took him in my arms.

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