There are many people who have made it possible for people of the Diocese of Pittsburgh to support the orphanage, hospital and school in Patzún, Guatemala. These two, Padre Justi and Sara Merdes, are foundations on which all the rest is built.
Padre Justiniano Babuin, Franciscan Missionary Priest, came as Pastor to Patzún and its 22 aldeas (outlying villages) in 1954. Until his death in the late 1990s Padre Justi was the Catholic Church to the Cachequel and ladinos who live there. Sara Merdes, a Pittsburgh native, visited Padre Justi around 1990 at the invitation of a priest in Corpus Christi, Texas where she lives. Sara could not help but notice the many children who came to the church for food and who appeared to have no home or family. Padre the lone priest for some 50,000 people, did the best he could to clothe and feed the little ones but Sara knew that was not enough. Sara found some open land not more than half a mile from the church. Sara, a woman of modest means, got onto her knees and prayed to God that He
would build an orphanage and a clinic on this ground. The reflection in the plaque thanking Padre Justi for a lifetime of service shows the orphanage and grounds of La Clinica Corpus Christi, fruits of Sara’s labor, dedicated to her deceased daughter, Janet.
Sara was in Patzún with a Houston surgical team during my first visit, June of 1994. I spent hours listening to Sara’s stories, stories of faith and perseverance. It was the only time I met this remarkable woman. I got to know Padre Justi those last few years of his life. He gave strength and courage to the Franciscan Sisters who operate the missions. Buried in the local church, Padre Justi remains the most highly respected person of Patzún. When the Franciscans want people to respect me they make a point of saying, “He knew Padre Justi.” Indeed I knew this servant of Jesus Christ. Peace be with him.The dates and facts are my recollections. More information on Sara Merdes and Clinica Corpus Christi are presently available at these web sites: http://www.clinicacorpuschristi.org/index.html and http://www.faithinpractice.org/docs/sara.pdf