Remembering Brooke Lahr

This April 21st marks the Fifth Anniversary of death of Brooke Lahr PVI, Honduras, Aug, 2010 – Oct, 2011.

Having served with PVI in Honduras, Brooke went to work for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos in Cuernavaca, Mexico. While on a personal holiday in Acapulco she suffered a fatal vehicular accident, April 21, 2013.

Brooke brought an infectious happiness and buoyancy to her PVI year in Honduras. Her “Yes” did not waver from her first interview at the Chicago Passionist Monastery Discernment Weekend. She added a welcome vibrant spirit and voice to Melissa, Chanel, Molly, Rosi and Andrew, her exceptionally dynamic and dedicated PVI team serving in Talanga at San Diego Church and its aldea missions along with the Casa Pasionista.

It is appropriate for PVI to honor Brooke’s memory first, through gratitude to God for giving us her remarkable spirit. Also we would do well to continue offering supportive prayer for Mark and Colleen, Brooke’s parents along with her family and all who continue to feel mystified by the mystery of her too short life. Personally, I continue to engage her regularly in PVI’s on-going life and service by asking her to pray for us. Having walked the PVI Journey I’m confident she will help us. Te queremos mucho, Brooke! Que duerme con los angelitos!



Fr. Lucian, C.P.

From her community:

As her friends and roommates, we couldnt let today pass with spending a few moments together to think about our dear friend, Brooke. We can’t believe it’s been five years since we heard that laugh or seen that smile. There are no adequate words to describe Brooke Lahr. Her larger than life personality and compassion for people made everyone around gravitate towards her. Her life was guided by her values and principals, which she stood by in both her words and actions. 

As a PVI, she was the epitome of accompaniment and was often the example for our group as to what the word meant. She quickly integrated into the community and made herself present in every relationship. She was bold. She was fearless. She was authentically and unapologetically herself. This approach made her stand out to our community. She had the determination and strong will to be invited to play volleyball with a men’s local team but kindness to win over the love of one of the oldest community church members, Dona Manuela.

Brooke had the uncanny ability to connect us all. She was the first to start a dance party, suggest we have a game night, diffuse an argument, or console a homesick roommate. She made sure that we were a family, that we spent time together and that everyone was included. The memories we have of Brooke are too many to countFor Chanel, the memory that stands out it her memory is one of dancing bachata to Prince Royce at midnight on 95th street and Park Avenue in New York. For Molly and Melissa, it was singing the wrong words to “Demos Gracias al Senor” at the top of our lungs after church every Sunday. For Andrew, the fondest memories were made sitting on a stoop, having juice and cookies while talking to the neighbors about their day. For Rosi, no matter where she and Brooke were together, there was no better feeling of always having each other. These memories demonstrate Brooke’s deep connection to those around her. She was always present and made sure that every moment together was memorable. 

Its so hard to believe that five years have passed since we lost Brooke. We often wonder where she would be and how much she would have already accomplished. She is still so present in all of our lives. No matter at which point we are in in our lives, or where we are in the world, she leaves us little reminders that she is still with us. In those moments, whether it be driving through Paducah, Kentucky, passing a sunflower field, ordering horchata at a restaurant, or hearing Prince Royce on the radio, we reconnect with our housemates over text message. Brooke’s memory has remained ever-present in our friendship and in our lives. We remember the things that would make her laugh, or the way that she might frame an observation of injustice, or even sharing with her where we all are nowWe miss her incredibly. Her loss left a gap in our friendship, one that has not eased over five years, and wont be eased in the future. It is through our memory of Brooke that we keeps our friendship alive. Five years later, she is the glue that holds our house together. 

– Chanel, Molly, Melissa, Andrew, and Rosi

“Trust the Power of Showing Up” by Victoria Iosue

I arrived in Jamaica for the first time in February of 2016 to lead an
Immersion Experience with John Carroll University. If you asked me at the time if I’d
be back after that week I wouldn’t have had an answer for you; and if I did, I’m not
sure it would have been yes. But a year and a half has passed and I’m currently
writing this post from the veranda of my home in Mandeville, Jamaica. Shortly after
returning to the states after my week in Jamaica I felt the universe encouraging me
to participate in a year of service upon graduation and before I knew it, I found
myself back in Jamaica. The past four months has provided nothing but reassurance
that my decision to commit to not only a year of service, but more specifically to PVI
was the right one for me.

As an organization we focus on accompaniment, which the dictionary defines
as something that “supplements, supports, or complements something.” This was
the type of service I was drawn to, however, I knew it would not be an easy mission
to live out. It seemed like a vain thought to think my simple presence at my missions
could be that impactful but the more I showed up to my sites, the more I realized
that my presence wasn’t necessarily supplementing their needs, but rather it
provided a support for them I never realized was possible.

“the margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase

Fr. Greg Boyle once said that “the margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them,” they’re erased by aligning ourselves with those located there. We erase them
by accompanying those that live here. What I have learned, more than anything in
these first few months is to trust the power of showing up. I think that so often
when we think of service we find much more value in the tangible evidence of our
being there; but tangible evidence is seldom found with accompaniment. You cannot
hold the friendships I’ve made, the laughs I’ve shared, or the instances I’ve been a
shoulder to cry on in your hand. But each day I show up to “work” and get to hang
out with my friends, my extended family. And each day that I’ve been able to do so I
have watched as the metaphorical margins have been erased. Walls have come down and vulnerability has been showed. They accompany me as much as I accompany them and at the end of the day I’ve never been disappointed in the company I keep.

“Be Present” by Erica Clohessy

Meet Our 2017-2018 Volunteers!

Out of Many, “One People.” By: Amy Byrne

Last week Jamaica celebrated its national Labour Day (May 23rd). Not knowing differently, I assumed the island holiday would play out similarly to the American Labor Day I always knew: characterized by rest, cookouts, and time with family and friends.

Both Jamaican and U.S. Labour/Labor Days recognize the working class for contributions made to overall country development and prosperity. But, it took me until day of, after quite a few “what are you doing for Labour Day?” conversations to realize the island celebrates in a way specific to Jamaican culture.

Yes, banks, restaurants, and schools close, but instead of idling, people give their free time up to engage in meaningful community projects. Projects that, to be honest, wouldn’t likely be possible otherwise.

I spent Labour Day how I normally would, caring for the residents of Mustard Seed Communities (MSC). However I noticed that town did not have its normal congested, everyone-on-the-move, Tuesday morning vibe.

The fruit man in Mandeville Center, after peeling an orange in perfect Jamaican fashion, said I was lucky to have caught him. He was just heading to repaint his former primary school with a group of alumni. “Gotta give back to the roots,” he commented with sincerity. Shortly after, as I passed through Spur Tree, a group of men mended an old pothole in the road (one of many, many potholes in Jamaica). And when I arrived at Mustard Seed, a group of women and children from a local parish came to renovate our residents’ dorms. (My little friend Malique, pictured below, was thrilled to see new faces painting his bedroom)

I could give multiple accounts of service from that day, both witnessed and relayed, but each were driven by one collective purpose: to create a better life for our children and children’s children to thrive.

Through observation alone, Jamaica has shown me many truths about living and happiness: there is intrinsic value in hard work beyond a working salary. Small and humble acts of kindness are often the most meaningful. There are teachings found in every interaction, from your morning taxi driver to the clerk at the corner store to your closest friend.

Jamaica’s Labour Day, in essence, reinforces these truths. But what I love about the holiday is that it also reveals a greater truth, one that Jamaica holds in such high esteem that it shapes the country’s national motto: we as “one people” are infinitely more impactful than we ever could be as individuals.


PVI’s Lead “Renewal Through Christ” Retreat For Youth in the Diocese

“Community” by Angelina Huber

When I look back on my time in Jamaica, I can summarize the whole experience thus far with

just one word, community. I knew it would encompass a large part of this experience since it is

one of the main pillars of PVI, but I never realized, until recently, just how crucial it is to me as

well as every other Jamaican I have met. Every facet of my life here has some form of

community, whether it be the other PVIs, my mission communities, my support staff, or the

random Jamaicans I come across when I need a helping hand.


“This same hospitality, generosity and loving nature has given me the passion

to go out of my way to do the same for someone else.”


Coming from an individualistic society, it was surprising to see just how selfless and welcoming

Jamaicans were. I felt extremely welcomed and loved in each of my mission sites. No one

hesitated inviting me over to their yard, cooking food for me, or giving me very wise advice

about life, faith, and relationships. Jamaicans have a special way of making you feel like you

belong to a larger family. They are always willing to welcome someone new or extend a helping

hand if necessary. A lady from one of my mission sites opened her home to an 8-year- old boy

because he had no parents to look after him even though she had no connections to the child

whatsoever. Jamaicans are always ready and willing to help those in need in any way they can

without any hesitations. Even when I am backing out of a spot in a crowded parking lot, I know

there will be at least three people trying to help me out. It warms my heart knowing that a

complete stranger will go out of their way to ask me if I am alright or if I am lost and know

where I am going. This same hospitality, generosity and loving nature has given me the passion

to go out of my way to do the same for someone else.

“…they have loved me unconditionally despite all of my flaws.”

Since coming here, I have made a more conscious effort to see other peoples’ needs before my own. I have made a strong effort to complete little acts of kindness and extend the same warm Jamaican spirit to everyone I meet.

Community has definitely been the most crucial part of this entire year. Each community I am a

part of has shaped me in some way, but none more than my fellow Passionist Volunteers. These

incredible individuals have looked out for me, put up with my shenanigans, challenged me to be

the best version of myself, and most importantly, they have loved me unconditionally despite all

of my flaws. It is hard to sum up just how important and impactful my Jamaican community is to

me; all I can say is that it is truly something special.


“You Never Know When the Teaching Will Come” by Amy Byrne

       Most Sundays I spend visiting families that live close to Somerset Primary School. Sundays, in my community at least, entail washing clothes, playing soccer, and chatting outside little snack shops.
       Last weekend I spent the afternoon accompanying a couple I’ve grown to love for many reasons. For one, they function as a unit. They are on the same page when it comes to work, their values, and raising their five children, which unfortunately isn’t that common in the Jamaican culture.
       The father is always eager to teach me what he knows of Jamaica, like cooking jerk chicken with gungu peas and rice or speaking authentic Patios (Patwah) with “Jamaican style.” He tells me last week he’s going to teach me to mix music like he does from his shop every Friday and Saturday.
“You never know when the teaching’s gonna come” he said with a warm smile. 
This family has shown me the meaning of resourcefulness, hard work, and hospitality. Whether it’s tending to their yam field, running their shop, or cooking for everyone in the yard, it’s always all hands on deck. As I learned to fade music in and out of his stereo system that day, I thought about all the things Jamaica has taught me through its people. Allowing myself to be present here has pushed me way out of my comfort zone, but it’s also pushed me to form meaningful relationships and gain insight in places I’d never expect.
       Then there’s my friendship with Ms. Blossom, who welcomes me to her yard on a weekly basis. Ms. Blossom is nearly immobile, yet finds a way to care for her daughter, her two grandchildren and her garden. She also offers her warmth and medicinal wisdom to several widowed and sick people in the neighborhood. Through countless afternoon conversations, she and I share stories, advice and spiritual insight. “God will provide” she says with assurance every time she or another is challenged or struggling.
       And there’s Dan, a farmer and grandfather to a few kids at Somerset Primary. I crossed paths with Dan while preparing space for a garden behind the school. We had a conversation that day about how “loving” the soil is when we revere the Earth and the importance of instilling that mindset in our youth. As cliché as it sounds, I actually teared up as we talked. After telling him about the project, Dan offered to remove thick grass from the area for me, and when I came with a group of volunteers to turn the soil a week later, Dan helped us finish the job without hesitation.
       Outside of my school community, I gain perspective from people like Miss Peggy, one of many people I’ve been supported by as a PVI. Miss Peggy provides meals and hospitality to retreat groups that come in from the states, and since PVI works with many of these groups I get to see her often. I always find myself with Miss Peg when she’s around; she emanates wisdom through her culinary skill and strong yet loving demeanor. I will never forget a time I was really missing home: without even telling her what was wrong she looked into my eyes and said, “it won’t be easy, but you will be loved.” Her words were exactly what I needed to hear.
When I committed to PVI, I knew accompaniment was a foundation of the program, but I couldn’t understand how meaningful it would become to my everyday life.
       God works though people; from the lady that sells my favorite newspaper (the Daily Gleaner), to my regular taxi drivers, to my kids at Mustard Seed and Somerset Primary, to the people that welcome me space in their daily lives. Yes, I’ve learned cool things like mixing music, new farming and cooking skill. But walking with the people I serve, embracing their joys and struggles as my own, has taught me so much more.
       Ms. Blossom teaches me new perspective on faith, love, and patience every single time I walk through her gate. Dan has taught me selflessness, humility and deep love for the Earth. And Miss Peggy has taught me the essence of Jamaican resiliency.
       I always think back to a quote from one of my favorite books. It explains the human experience as “part of a rich and profound tapestry crafted masterfully by invisible hands of love.” I believe everything we encounter is laid in front of us for a reason: to comfort us, to enlighten us, or to inspire some greater good. If there’s one thing I’ve learned to value most in Jamaica it’s being present, because even in the most minuscule moments there is something to be learned. 

Discovering My Home Away from Home by Stacy Dahl

About 2,000 miles away from home and living in a foreign country with three strangers. This unfamiliar situation probably sounds scary and I’ll admit it was a little at first for me. For 23 years, I have lived a sheltered life in Minnesota surrounded by loving family and friends. After finally graduating from college I decided to take a huge step outside of my comfort zone by volunteering in Jamaica for a year with a program called Passionist Volunteers International (PVI).

After thorough research and weighing the pros and cons of several different volunteer programs, I decided that PVI was the perfect fit for me. Out of the programs that I considered, PVI was the only one that I believed would allow me to use my passion for helping others in a developing country while simultaneously allowing me to grow in my faith with God by living in a community with other volunteers who are also attempting to grow in their faith. Thus, began my year long experience with PVI.

The first couple months of my life in Jamaica were really all about introductions. They involved familiarizing myself with this new country and getting to know my co-volunteers and the people at my mission sites.

Adapting to a whole new country is an experience that is difficult to understand unless you’ve been through the experience yourself.

The first three months were an adjusting period for me, but once the fourth month in Jamaica came around, I could finally call this place home and mean it. I think I got to the point of truly feeling at home when the other volunteers I lived with started feeling like my family. Coming home every day and sharing my day with three other people who are genuinely interested is the best feeling. Whether I have an exciting story to tell or need someone to vent to, there is always somebody there to listen, which makes me feel cared about. Whether we are eating community dinner together and recapping our day or playing a card game or watching a movie, we always make time for each other which is what family is all about.

I’ve found that it is hard to feel lonely when I am never alone.

I live with three other volunteers who love and care about me and that has been one of the biggest blessings I have received since joining PVI.

Although my co-volunteers are a big reason as to why I’ve come to feel at home here in Jamaica, the people at my missions are also a big factor. At the infirmary and nursing home I volunteer at, I have found so much love with the people I accompany. There is always a story to hear, a day to be asked about, and a hand to hold. Between the nursing home and infirmary that I volunteer at, I visit about 100 patients each week, and each place two days out of the week. My relationship with each patient is special in its own way. Some patients ask me about my day and how my family back at home is doing, others love it when I play board games with them, and even a couple reprimand me for not washing my backpack since I last saw them. Each individual relationship is special and unique and has brought so much joy into my life.

The past 5 months as a PVI has been rewarding, challenging, and full of lessons. This year is a growing experience and so far, I have already learned so much about myself that I did not know before coming here. But most of all, being a PVI has been a great blessing. Discovering my home away from home here in Jamaica has been an amazing journey for me.

I have found home in the laugher I share with my co-volunteers. I have found home in the patients’ hands that I hold at the infirmary and nursing home I volunteer at. I have found home in the loving eyes of the children at the basic school who never fail to make me smile. So far, my experience has been that of love, laughter, accompaniment and so much more. There is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be at this moment than as a PVI here in the beautiful land of Jamaica.

Mastering the Art of “Flexibility” by Angelina Huber

I always thought I was a fairly flexible and go with the flow person so to speak, well until arriving to Jamaica that is.

In these past few months, I have been learning how to truly accept the fact that most things are inevitably out of my control.

I have realized that plans will change in a moment’s notice and instead of getting frustrated on what I cannot change, I’ve been focusing on bringing a positive and open mindset to anything I enter. My goal these past few months has been trying to be open to anything or anyone at any time.

I have realized that being flexible goes hand in hand with accompaniment.

Service is never set in stone and it is not extremely structured either for a reason. It is because the needs of the people are constantly changing. The needs of you and I are never the same day in and day out. You need to adapt and be present with people in order to see what they are struggling with. Ever since coming to Jamaica, no two of my days have been the same. I go to the same service sites every week, but every day brings something different. I feel myself constantly faced with new challenges, meeting new friends, discovering a new perspective, and always each and every day finding a new way I can better serve my community.

Being flexible is what service is about. Going out of your way to make sure a need is met, even knowing that it might not be beneficial in the long run. It is all about trial and error, but most importantly it is about being present with the people and building relationships with everyone you serve so you can to share in their joys and sorrows of life.


Pictured above is Angelina, PVI 16′-17′ with her youth group members