Celebrating the Risen Jesus in El Nieto
- by Lori Golaszewski

The El Nieto community rejoiced
when its chapel was dedicated.

Popular opinion is that if you build something needed, people will come to it. When a much-needed chapel was built in the barrio of El Nieto in Haina, Dominican Republic, people did indeed come to it — prayerfully and with great joy in their hearts. During April, the people of El Nieto had two important occasions in which to rejoice: Easter and the following Sunday, April 23, when their finished chapel was dedicated.

Named "Jesus Resucitado" (Risen Jesus), "The chapel speaks of the hope which is ever a part of our people," said Carol Gross, OP, who has ministered in El Nieto, an economically impoverished community, for 10 years. "Despite the difficulties of daily life, there is confidence in God who cares for us. Even death cannot end our hope." Sister Carol, who is carrying on the ministry started by Rose Ann Schlitt, OP, and Rosa Reyes, OP, was recognized at the dedication by Monsignor Freddy Britón, Bishop of Baní, who referred to her as the "abuela," or grandmother, of El Nieto. (El Nieto is the Spanish word for grandchild.)

Sister Carol is known as the grandmother of El Nieto.

The chapel had been a work in progress since before Sister Carol began ministering in El Nieto. When she first arrived, the community was using a rented classroom in a public school as a chapel, but its capacity was only 80 people. In 1996, the community purchased a small lot with contributions from sisters residing at the Maria Residence in the Dominican Life Center. It was soon apparent, however, that the lot wasn't large enough to build a chapel that could accommodate the growing community. When Hurricane Georges hit the DR in 1998, its destructive winds tore the roof off an abandoned factory building near the lot — a blessing in disguise for the people of El Nieto because they were able to buy the factory at a significantly reduced price. Little by little, whenever the sisters received funding for the Haina ministry or the El Nieto community did a fund-raising project, the building was gradually turned into a worship space that now accommodates more than 300 people.

A plaque commemorating the many donors who helped to make the chapel possible was dedicated last September and now hangs in the chapel. "A number of Adrian Dominican Sisters were present in the Dominican Republic to celebrate our 60 years of presence in the country," Sister Carol explained. "We took advantage of their presence to have a special ceremony of blessing and placement of the plaque. We were sorry that all of our Dominican sisters, family and friends could not be present, but we were happy to have some people represent them." The plaque is in Spanish; its English translation reads: "Risen Jesus Chapel, constructed by the El Nieto community and Adrian Dominican Sisters, their family and friends."

Children enjoyed participating in the dedication of Risen Jesus Chapel.

Aside from religious services, the chapel is also utilized for health and education purposes. While the education component is still being developed — Sister Carol envisions a place for children to receive tutoring and help with homework - the health project has been going full-tilt since last fall. And thanks to a grant from the Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters, the program will continue to be operational for the remainder of the year.

Two physicians — one full-time and one volunteer — have an office in the chapel where they see patients on a regular basis. They also make house calls. Those who can afford to pay are charged only a few pesos to cover office expenses. In addition, the physicians make frequent visits to schools where they give talks to young people on disease prevention, specifically sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS. The doctors also established eight emergency treatment centers in the barrio where mothers can take babies who are suffering from dehydration as a result of diarrhea — a serious problem in poor areas because of contaminated water and unhygienic conditions.

Sister Carol showcases the plaque commemorating the chapel's donors.

Common ailments such as diarrhea, intestinal parasites and skin problems, as well as major illnesses like epilepsy and neurological disorders, were addressed during a recent three-day health screening in El Nieto. More than 1,200 people were seen by the barrio's two physicians, four volunteer Dominicans and two doctors from El Nieto's sister-parish, St. Owen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. "Our visiting doctors served the special needs of epileptic children and fragile older adults," Sister Carol said. "They brought medicines, medical equipment and school supplies, but most important, the example of their dedicated service."

Sister Carol's own dedicated service is extended not only to the people of El Nieto, but throughout Haina and in Santo Domingo. The city of Haina is a parish comprised of 35 communities similar to El Nieto. Sister Carol serves on a parish team that organizes the catechetical program for the 35 communities and provides formation for catechists. She is also the coordinator of religious education for the Diocese of Baní and ministers with Ana Feliz, OP, in the spiritual direction program.