The Body of Christ


Monstrance for San Bernardino

Madre Carmen

Madre Carmen witnessing beneath the image of Our Lady or Guadaplue.

One of the things that I learned right away at the missions is that the faithful in Patzún are quite ernest. Being very Catholic one of the matters of faith is the presence of Jesus Christ, the real presence of Christ, in the Eucharist.  Corpus Cristi – the Body of Christ, you see it in the name of the hospital. Christ is not metaphorically present but there, mysteriously transubstantiated from bread. Being American I took a couple whacks at updating their thinking, “Body of Christ means we the people of his Church.” Madre Carmen gave no ground. “We Catholics believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist”. That was the early 1990s. Today I am completely with Madre Carmen, witnessing to the presence of Christ and spending hours on my knees in prayer, Eucharistic Adoration as it is properly called. The stand above is called the monstrance. Jesus, in the form of the transubstantiated host, is displayed in the little round window at the center. The faithful watch and pray. It is one of the most beautiful and most solemn parts of our faith. In the USA it is attended not by large numbers but by faith-filled people.

Seminarians w Monstrance

Seminarians with Monstrance

The Sisters who operate the mission school, San Bernardino, asked us for a monstrance so the 1,100 students could actually see Jesus at Adoration. The priests on the 2012 mission trips put out a call throughout the diocese for a monstrance. A suitable one, retired from from one of our merged parishes, was located at St. Paul Seminary. It is pictured with seminarians Dan Waruszewski, Alek Schrenk and Jeff Craig. With this gift from the seminary Jesus will be worshiped and adored as He should be in the new chapel. Many hands are coming

Chapel Alter

San Bernardino Chapel Alter

together to complete the task. A group

Pat Brister w Monstrance

Pat Brister of Waynesburg University

from Waynesburg University is making a Thanksgiving working visit to the mission. Their leader agreed they would carry the monstrance with them and present it to Hermana Angela who heads San Bernardino. It is a gift to be able to worship the God who is, who was and who will always be. He doesn’t need our gold yet He delights in our presence. He longs to hear our prayers. “Engrave our hearts with lively sentiments of faith, hope and love, true repentance for our sins, and a firm purpose of abandonment.”*

*Paraphrased fragment from En Ego, Bone et Dulcissime Lesu.

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Much to My Surprise

The previous July week was just perfect, among the very best that I ever spent in Guatemala. Fr. Fleckenstein was the first of the Pittsburgh seminarians to return to Patzún after ordination. Young but mature and faith-filled Bob Waruszewski was with me once again as was his fiance Caitlyn. The seminary was well represented by his brother Dan as well as seminary freshman Jeff Craig. Tricia Dougherty, whom I knew from my son’s years at Aquinas, was making her first trip as were Pat Shaffer and Rachel McGrath of Holy Sepulcher. We prayed well. We sang well. We worshiped well. There was just the right balance of real work, visiting the poor, piety and silliness. The Provincial,  my dear friend Sor Balvy, visited from El Salvador. We stayed a night with Madre Carmen at the Franciscan convent in Guatemala City and we even got to see Gladys, a little orphan girl grown up into an marvelous young woman. I loved the trip. I loved the group and I especially loved Fr. Fleck coming back to Patzún, offering Mass in Spanish and English. Nothing, I mean nothing, could touch the experience. I dropped that group off at the airport in Guatemala City and longed to go home with them but instead I waited hour after hour after endless hour for 10 Oakland Catholic girls and their adult supervision.

Oakland Catholic Mission Group 2012

Oakland Catholic Mission Group 2012, Colonial era church Patzún with Padre Juan in the middle.

The group had been, shall we say, less than fully engaged during our year of preparation. The girls were always at soccer or basketball or choir or something and their minds were anywhere other than Dr. Miller and the history of the Franciscan missions or Fr. Stan Rother or helping without hurting. They were completely unprepared and so was I. The facts are clear enough. When they met the poor school kids of San Bernardino our girls

Cachequel girls at recess.

Cachequel girls at recess.

cried. The orphans at Hogar San Francisco moved them to love these little ones who just a day earlier were abstractions, “the poor”, “the orphaned”. I interviewed each Oakland Catholic girl twice during the week, trying to see the mission trip through their eyes. There were two common themes; first that in the face of kids with so little our girls expressed shame, not so much for their plenty as for their feelings of entitlement to even more, and second our girls were overwhelmed by the warmth and love that such poor people showered on them.

Those are the facts that anyone could see and hear. With eyes and ears of faith I tell you something else was going on that week. The Bible tells us that the finger of God  has traced his law on our hearts. We don’t talk much about that in mixed company these days, living in the neo-pagan culture that is America in 2012, but it is still true and we should.


God didn’t enter our girls when they went to Oakland Catholic or when they went on mission or even when they attended catechism. The Holy Spirit was there, inside them, all along, placed by the grace of God. Think of it like a tuning fork inside us, still and quiet with us completely unaware. Along comes some event and if it is of God the Holy Spirit tuning fork begins to vibrate. At first we aren’t much aware but it is happening, strengthening and finally, if we are lucky, it wakes us.


If things go really well, if the resonance of the Holy Spirit and external events is very strong and if we cooperate then God, who was in us all along in the third person of the Holy Trinity, bursts forth into the world. We have heard our Master’s call. We begin to be the persons Jesus would have us be – not always but sometimes.

Much to my surprise this mission trip was perfect too. It came to pass that I had a ring side seat as young woman after young woman after young woman woke to the Holy Spirit inside her and joyfully allowed it to escape into the world, eleven young women in all. To a woman they vowed to return. To a woman they vowed to collect needed goods, raise funds and raise awareness. They are already making good on their promises. Maria turned 16 a couple months back and instead of accepting the treatment of a princess she asked for donations for the orphanage and the school, including 0ver $300 toward a new computer lab. Julia pushed the total above $400. Additional Oakland Catholic girls have joined the group. Grace briefed students and parents on fundraising efforts, including money to help the young orphan, Denilson who is losing both sight and hearing. Mrs. Goyal and Fr. Michael are organizing the 2013 Patzún Mission Trip. Alora is off to college but she is already militating for her parish to form its own Mission Group.

What about me, Don Felipe, as I am known in certain circles? I am humbled. God has once again reminded me that He is the potter and I am the clay. I am ashamed because once again I confused myself and what I wanted with God’s plan. I quieted down and trusted God. I became servant to the Oakland Catholic group as I was called to be. Then God was able to roll up his sleeves and turn hearts toward their real home, as only He can do.

Thank you (in order of appearance in photos above) Maria DeIuliis, Allison Walker, Alora Cinicola, Olivia Knight, Mo Deken, Julia Foerster, Lelah McCarthy, Carmen Malloy, Danielle Clark, Grace McHale, Kelly Vigliotti, Meghan Goyal, Fr. Michael Roche and Fr. Thomas Gillespie. It was a pleasure to be in your company.

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Dinner with the Lehman Family

Philip Lehman (He is Philip. I am Phil.) and I have traveled much of the world together first with iCarnegie and now with Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. What I remember most about traveling with Philip are the stories about his family. Paris France,

Philip and Carolyn Lehman

Santiago de Chile, Manchester England and points north, south, east and west – stories of his mother who always phoned on his birthday at the precise hour and minute of Philip’s birth, stories of his father, stories of his grandfather and stories of the siblings.  The Lehman’s are a New York, Jewish family in America since the mid 1800s. They are a baseball loving bunch who know with great certitude that in 1961 Mantle hit 54 homers and Maris 61. They are a smart bunch, mostly Harvard and Yale graduates with just the occasional Georgetown student. Philip and I drove to Washington DC and he made it known that we would have dinner with his niece, Carolyn. I was happy to agree. So here they are at dinner. I mostly watched a Penguins hockey playoff game and they mostly talked of the Lehman family – fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and school and travel. I really enjoyed the talk about Passover and the tradition of hiding matzah for the kids, just like our Easter egg hunt. It was just dinner. It was just family. It was just perfect, an uncle and his niece, clearly intertwined in each other’s lives. God was smiling and the pleasure was mine.

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New Clothes and a New Year

I got a Christmas note from Connie Cheren thanking the Holy Sepulcher Mission Group for sending shoes and clothes to Kenya.

Connie Cheren and Child

Connie Cheren and Child

“I wanted you to know all the clothes and shoes you

Jiggers without Shoes

Jiggers without Shoes

sent went to the children of Nick and who live in the CT children’s home. I have learned in Kenya Christmas to a child is a new outfit and chapatis. We made the chapatis and you supplied the new outfits and shoes. It was like somehow you and your church members knew the size of all the children! I will send photos later. The little guys refused to remove the tags from the clothes! … Be blessed this Christmas as we celebrate His birth.”

Jean on Medical Mission

Jean on Medical Mission

The need is real and the child’s foot illustrates a common problem. I didn’t use the shots of naked and starving children. Use can your imagination or web browser. I hope to meet Connie on my next trip to Nairobi but this post is a walk down memory lane. Clothing the naked is something that we Diocese of Pittsburgh mission groupers understand. Connie’s note took me back to one of the early St. Richard trips to Guatemala. Jean Gabor had taken over leadership and Laura Weiland, a college student at the time,

Laura in the Woods

Laura in the Woods

was there. The memory that I cherish was of the day when each girl at the orphanage got a new outfit. As usual we carried as many duffel bags of clothing as the airlines would permit. One fine afternoon Jean and Laura decided to hand out the new clothes. I sat with most of the group in the Franciscan Sister’s dining area at the orphanage. One little girl after another went into a back bedroom with Laura and came out dressed head to toe in clothes that we brought.

Kimberly at the Orphanage

Kimberly at the Orphanage

No words were needed. Beaming smiles showed us how the orphans regarded their good fortune. Laura was radiant. I was content to sip coffee and eat cookies. It was a good day at the mission.

Holy Sepulcher made possible this reprise in a Kenyan orphanage. I wish I had been there to sip coffee, eat cookies and watch. I wish you all had been there, and there that day in Patzún.

Christmas and even Epiphany have passed. Before you know it we will be into Lent in preparation for the central event of our lives. This will be a huge year for the Patzún missions. I am sure that Connie’s mission in Kenya, Partner’s for Care, will flourish.

Paz y Bien

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Steve Jobs (long 1201 words)

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Don’t look for me in the Walter Isaacson biography. There are two reasons. Number one is that I’m probably not there. The other reason is that I might be and Steve had a sharp tongue.

When I accepted responsibility for the introductory programming courses at Carnegie Mellon in 1979 I started looking for ways to make tricky concepts clear for students. That led me to look at Tim Titlebaum’s Cornell Synthesizer which really knocked me out. When I talked with my Department Head, Nico Habermann, about using Tim’s synthesizer Nico easily convinced me to build an environment using tools from his Gandalf project instead. I walked into Nico’s office expecting a conversation and I left with a project, a significant budget and an experienced graduate student. Such was the greatness of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon. We built something pretty slick, the GNOME programming environments, but it was not half as

1st Mac

1st Mac 128 K-bytes of memory whether you need it or not.

slick as Steve’s first Mac. I immediately wanted to have GNOME running the single user Macs for each of my students and christen it MacGNOME.. Today this is obvious but back in the day it was heady stuff. As luck would have it Pat Crecine, CMU Vice President, had recently opened certain international markets to the Mac and was becoming Steve’s close friend. Pat and I took the afternoon PIT – SFO fight to California, drank way too much Anchor Steam Beer and met Steve in the morning. Pat pitched Steve, we met Bill Campbell (now Chairman at Intuit) and left Cupertino that afternoon with a check for $100K (which back in those days was $100K) to get started. I bet on bright undergraduates. Rob Chandhok, John Pane, Glenn Meter and a host of others, too numerous to mention, did not disappoint. There were numerous trips to Cupertino. In addition to Steve and Bill I got to know Bud Colligan and Bob Longo from the sales and marketing side as well as Wayne Rosing, Larry Tesler and Company from the technical side.

It was great fun and we got a lot of things done. The MacGNOME programming environments were good, really good. In fact if they were running on today’s computers you would like still like them. They were adopted for use in freshman programming classes pretty much everywhere – Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Texas etc, etc totaling 100 or more universities.

One fine day I got call from Wayne or maybe his chief lieutenant. Wayne had just left Apple for Sun. Steve (remember this is about Steve Jobs) had come into Wayne’s research lab while Wayne was in Japan and stopped Wayne’s project without consultation or notice. Wayne hit the bricks. That was the beginning of the end of Steve at Apple first time around. This stuff most surely is in the biography, or it should be. Scully was in charge and Steve was kicked out. Interestingly I was kicked out of Apple too. I went from honored insider to persona non grata way fast. Barbara Bowen had to explain to me that I was closely linked with Pat Crecine who went onto the Board of Next along with Steve and Ross Perot.

Pat Crecine went out of his way to spend time with Steve and Pat confided in me (remember the Anchor Steam). Steve started Next and I found myself once again on an SFO bound plane with Pat. There were exactly 5 Next employees at the time, counting Steve. He was happy enough to see me and told me that be just purchased two things – his first porsche and a computer graphics company. I was really interested in riding in the porsche when I agreed to ride with Steve up to Marin County to see the company. I hoped to meet Alvy Ray Smith whom I considered to be perhaps the hottest graphics programmer in the world. Three or four of us went to Marin County so I didn’t get my porsche ride but I did meet Alvy Ray Smith. I think that was the day I met a young former Disney hand animator by the name of John Lasseter. Steve told the following joke in a moment of self-deprecation. “What is the difference between a porsche and a porcupine? With a porsche the pricks are on the inside.” Steve’s graphics company was, if you haven’t guessed, Pixar.

My group was friendly with Steve’s people and when John Lasseter’s Luxo Jr. received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film you would have thought the prize had been won and that we did it ourselves. There were meetings and dinners and conversations but nothing that strikes me as significant. I declined an offer to head Next

Luxo Jr

Luxo Jr

sales for some chunk of the US. I had never been in sales and thought I was not right for the position.

I knew Steve to be troubled and stunningly talented. Steve had impeccable taste. He built products that he wanted to use and I wanted them too. He looked for talent and when he found it he empowered it. He talked about getting people to buy into his dreams but he bought into theirs too. The insiders talked about the “genius – shithead” roller coaster and I saw a bit of it. Bob Longo, who knew Steve very well, always spoke well of Steve and clearly was sad that Steve was, at least in those days, hurting.

I wrote an email message to Steve about 18 months before his death. He answered within a few minutes, declining to hook me up with the Apple software development crowd. I wanted to sell them on Watts Humphrey’s Team Software Process. Oh well. My email wasn’t fair. I put “Pat Crecine protégéas the subject line. If I had been thinking I wouldn’t have done it. Pat, who was very close to Steve, had died of cancer a year or two earlier. I just wasn’t thinking about Steve’s cancer. I am sorry.

I put Steve on my prayer list 6 months to a year before his death. The list isn’t particularly exclusive. There are over two hundred names on it and many of the names represent whole families. When I am making specific requests for everyone on the list the intercessory  prayer goes for on well over an hour. Usually I simply acknowledge everyone by name.  Steve and I never discussed religion. Whenever Pat and I talked about faith he described himself as a lapsed Catholic and changed the subject. Toward the end Pat came home to his roots. I am glad that he did. I hope Steve had roots in Christianity too and returned to them. Bob Longo would know. I am mighty glad that I knew Steve Jobs the little bit that I did. I think he got more than his money’s worth in the MacGNOME environments. I really love the Mac and the iPhone and Pixar and so much of Steve’s work. His work was a mix of genius, labor and love. I continue to pray for Steve and hope to see him in the here-after.

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Request for help from Kenya

Working with ClickMedix I came to know Connie Cheren. She has asked for help with shoes and clothing in Parkishon, Kenya. I expect to travel to Kenya soon and can carry donations. Below is her letter to us. Her url is:  The associated blog is very good:

Need in Parkishon

Need in Parkishon




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I hope God gives me the strength to see you again.

Madre Carmen Arreaga

Madre Carmen Arreaga

That first day as we arrived in Patzún on that first mission trip in 1994, turning the corner into the Hogar at La Clinca Corpus Cristi with the orphaned kids mobbing us I saw Madre Carmen standing at the convent grinning at us, like we were old friends she was expecting to see. It’s funny how things line up. That same year four Franciscan Sisters took responsibility for the 1,300 students of San Bernardino, a clinic and 23 orphans. They took it with a smile. The teachers walked to the school morning and afternoon, four miles each day. Madre, Superiora of the fledgling community, stayed with the orphans who were too young for school. There wasn’t a telephone. It took 90 days to send a letter and receive a response. Electricity was available no more than 6 hours a day. Water was scarce. Cooking was done over a wood fire. Windows were broken. Play areas were bogs. Dogs roamed freely. Every orphan came to the facility infested with worms and head lice. Although there was a nutrition program for children five times the number went hungry.  Yet this little facility, created by the passion and prayers of Sara  Merdes

Madre Carmen and Company

and sustained by the eternal optimism of Padre Justiniano, was a vast improvement over the past. We went every year and every year Madre was there with the welcoming grin. Gardens were planted. Rooms were painted. Electricity was properly wired, Windows were repaired. Orphans were loved and we all prayed liturgy of the hours and attended Mass together.

Phil Miller and Madre Carmen

Phil Miller and Madre Carmen

The 36-year civil war was winding down but not over. Madre quietly put her life on the line when we discovered a local administrator was skimming tens of thousands of dollars intended for poor children. “Don’t worry about me.” she said. “When I am gone someone will take my place.” A hundred priests were killed in the war, as were hundreds of Nuns. When Padre Justi died and the bank stole the entire endowment and the French tried to take the orphanage from the Franciscans and convert it into a baby factory for distant neopagans and Gladis was attacked and other Sisters spirits were broken it was Madre Carmen who stood in the breech. She made it work. She endured. We turned some corners together. We built a girl’s dorm so that teen aged girls would have a safe place to live. St. Richard Parish joined St. Anne of Waynesburg and the orphanage, the school and the clinic were all saved. When Father Oldenski came it was grand. When the seminarians visited everyone was over the moon with joy but that was when we learned that Madre’s cancer was inoperable. The past years Madre Carmen has been happy to be able to help her new community in Palencia as her health has declined. Today she writes, “I hope God gives me the strength to see you again.” That makes two of us my sister, my role model, my friend. Then again, we are Christians. We’ve had all this and we have heaven too.

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So far, very good

Holy Sepulcher bathroom

Restroom That Holy Sepulcher Built

Water filters, roofs, a restroom with running water, soccer balls and a play area are some of the projects that Holy Sepulcher Parish has tackled and completed in its first two years supporting San Bernardino in Patzún Guatemala. The restroom at the left is one of the first with running water at San Bernardino. Money from Holy Sepulcher was added to other funds to complete the restroom project.  One nice surprise on the June 2011 mission trip was the little play area seen at the right. A report in March or April let us know that a bit of our

Holy Sepulcher play area

Holy Sepulcher play area

money had gone to building a play area for students in the primary school but I couldn’t imagine where it might be. It was a bit comical, Hermana Angela and I were on our way to the back side of the primary school to look a a wall that had collapsed in the heavy rains. I saw a modern restroom and beautiful play area and asked, “Whose project was this?” “Yours” was her one word answer. Indeed this is your project, Holy Sepulcher. The simple things pictured here seem like nothing but nothing is precisely what kids had to play with the first 50 years of San Bernardino.

In 2010 Holy Sepulcher noticed that the kids played soccer at every opportunity

America v. Guatemala

America v. Guatemala

but the only available balls were hard plastic. We collected two dozen good soccer balls, sizes appropriate for the littlest students up to full regulation used in this game between the mission group and students from San Bernardino.

Added to our roofswater filters and scholarships and I’d say Holy Sepulcher is making a very nice accounting of itself.

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One of the first things that I learned about Americans on mission, especially the men, is that we have a deep seated desire to fix things.  We want to clean, paint rooms, repair broken windows, improve drainage, establish Internet access, drill wells, plumb, wire, level and widen. There is no denying the need in Patzún and there isn’t anything wrong with helping. My opinion, though, is that mission work that sees and addresses only

material need is the “… seed [that] fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture.” that Christ spoke of and is recorded in Luke 8:6. It grows fast, dries even faster and blows away in the slightest breeze.

Never-the-less these roofs at San Bernardino are in bad shape. The school was built in 1961 and from the look of things many of the roofs might be original equipment. Rainy season in Patzún is really rainy and every few years a hurricane parks itself just off the coast in the Caribbean or Pacific, drenching the entire isthmus that is Central America. In the last few years some interior classroom walls literally became waterfalls during hard rains.  Walls, not even the cinder block walls of San Bernardino, will stand up to the elements for long. If San Bernardino School was to continue, roof repair needed to be addressed. Being an American male I figured it should be part of our mission. As usual the parishioners of Holy Sepulcher accepted the challenge with splendid caritas.

Jessica Zigerelli, Caitlyn Gantzer and Adam Tucek plus the Brothers Waruszewski (Tom, Bob and Dan) –  young people on this year’s trip from Saint Vincent College, are pictured above doing  some of the work themselves. The new roofs are stunning. There are even a few classrooms covered with blue standing seam aluminum. Standing seam metal roofs being my personal favorite, this was a very nice surprise. The roofs are excellent and, as you can see, the ceilings are part of the to roughly $500 USD per classroom price.

Roofing is part of the Holy Sepulcher mission and when complete no student will suffer the indignity and discomfort of wading through puddles in the classrooms. San Bernardino is a wonderful school, the academic pinnacle of the Departmento of

San Bernardino's Priests Meet the Pittsburgh Ordination Class of 2010

Chimaltenango and font of priests.
It is only fitting that students and teachers have a roof between them and the elements.

Roofing is work, an important part of what we do. It is a fruit of who we are, adopted sons and daughters of Almighty God. Material progress throughout 2011 was significant. Roots on this mission trip were deep and well nourished. It was  faith-filled, fruitful and satisfying.

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New Priest

Fr. Michael Roche at his First Mass

First Mass, Fr. Michael Roche, June 26, 2011

Vocations to the priesthood in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are on a modest upswing and with that trend so are the priests who know the Franciscan missions in Patzún. Fr. Mike was one of six Pittsburgh seminarians who made the trip to San Bernardino in May, 2007. I knew Fr. Mike aflame in is love for the Lord, eager to worship, praying with great piety and always prepared to cheerfully take on whatever work came our way.  Fr. Mike was the picture of humility and he was really, really funny. Eric Campbell, currently in seminary in Rome, was leading a group of us in song as I finished up cleaning paint brushes after a day at

Fr. Mike and the 2007 Mission Group

the missions. Kids from the school gathered round, listening with great attention. Eric was a gifted musician and made the rest of us sound good. In evening reflection Fr. Mike said this was the first time  in his life that anyone willfully came to hear him sing. Those of you with sharp eyes might recognize seminarian Fred Gruber is the group photo. He is in Rome and will himself be ordained a transitional Deacon October 6th, 2011. Fred’s sister-in-law sang Latin hymns from the choir loft at Fr. Mike’s First Mass, a Mass that struck me for its piety and Fr. Kim Schreck’s powerful message on the miracle that precipitated the Feast of Corpus Christi. I found myself humbled in the presence of so many with their eyes fixed on Jesus, guided by the Church – their lives well lived.

Fr. Mike and Maria

Fr. Mike and Maria

At his ordination as a transitional Deacon, June 2010, I presented a print of this beautiful photo of Fr. Mike with an orphan girl at the Franciscan Hogar Para Niñas. Looking at it he noted, “Finally there is a picture of me that looks decent.” The picture of Fr. Michael Roche, a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek looks good, very good indeed.

Please join me in praying for the priests of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, for our seminarians and for an increase in vocations.


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