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Archives From Guggenheim to Honduras

Aug. 16, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

Decades after they met while sharing Christ with youth at Camp Guggenheim, Pat and Shannon Looby and four of their six children are preparing to travel to Honduras to share Christ with youth and families there.

With their two oldest children in college, the Loobys and their four youngest children will leave the United States on Sept. 1 to attend a language immersion program in Guatemala. In mid-October, the family will travel to Honduras and to Finca del Niño, Farm of the Child,  a U.S.-based organization that serves youth and families, with a special focus on serving abandoned children.

“Farm of the Child is a 22-acre property on the coast of Honduras,” said Shannon Looby. “There’s a residential home for abandoned children. There are 20 to 30 orphans staying in small houses on the property. Each house has a ‘tía,’ an aunt in Spanish. They’re paid social workers. There’s also a (kindergarten) to (grade) 9 school at the Finca. It serves the orphans and about 100 students from the surrounding communities. There’s a medical facility on site that’s staffed by American volunteers and missionaries.”

The Loobys said they would be joining three to five single missionaries serving the Farm of the Child, and they will live in a home within the community.

“We’ll be a family in residence to model stable family life and help in the school,” said Shannon Looby. “Our daughter, Tess, just graduated from high school. She applied to defer her enrollment to college. She’s going to teach in the school, too. The younger girls will go to school and have some home schooling, and they’ll teach English and provide companionship.”

The Loobys said their kids, Tess, 17, Helen, 15, Vivian, 13, and Bernadette, 10, are excited about the upcoming opportunity.

“They’ve been excited, and they’re getting even more excited,” said Pat Looby. “In the beginning, I think we were all a bit frightened. We felt called, but we felt lost in the process. Now that we’re getting through that, they’re super psyched about doing it.”

“When we started talking about this – I think it was back in the spring – we floated the idea to the kids and started putting feelers out,” Shannon Looby said. “We talked about the pros and cons. We started looking at specific mission opportunities. We traveled to the Dominican Republic to the Diocese of Arlington’s mission there to see if it would be the place for our family. Through the whole process, we kept checking in with the kids. Helen, our 15 year old, was the one we were most nervous about. She just finished Frehman year of high school. It’s a big year to be gone. I think it was in April, she approached me and said she had been thinking about it and praying about it in adoration, and she said, ‘I figure we have eternity in heaven. I can give up one year to do this to help me get there. If I can do that, everyone should.’”

To prepare for the experience, the Loobys have “detached from (their) possessions” and have spent the summer living in the rectory in Harrisville, where Pat Looby grew up, and serving the parish there.

“The rectory here was empty, so we talked to Father (Don) Manfred,” said Pat Looby. “We thought it would be great to be here for the summer, and we thought it would be a great training ground on what it means to be volunteers and to do mission work. We worked with the parish to identify needs, and we’ve been holding Communion services every day in the morning and leading the rosary every evening. I’ve been leading a Bible study, and we’ve been visiting the sick and homebound. We’ve been involving the kids. It’s great for them to realize what this is all about.

“We’re really thankful to Bishop (Terry R.) LaValley, Father Manfred and the parish here for giving us this opportunity.”

In addition to preparing for their lives as missionaries, the family has been raising the funds needed to support them and their efforts for the year.

“We had to raise $30,000,” said Shannon Looby. “That was very challenging, but it also very encouraging. It helped us really focus on why we were doing this, since we had to explain it to others as we asked for support. And it was really a great consolation to have people praying for us and supporting our mission and fundraising efforts.”

Pat Looby said the family, who has lived out of the area – most recently in Virginia – for decades, has been especially touched by the support received because of their North Country roots.

“We’re reconnecting with old friends, clergy, people from Guggenheim, people from youth ministry – people who were instrumental in our faith formation and people who inspired us when we were growing up here in the North Country,” he said. “It’s really been a great lesson for our kids seeing how these relationships last a lifetime.”

“The Knights of Columbus in Ticonderoga supported our mission,” said Shannon Looby. “Pat’s aunt is a Grey Nun. The Grey Nuns as an organization gave us a donation. It’s been really beautiful.”

The Loobys said growing up in the North Country, him in Harrisville and her in Waddington, gave them a strong foundation of faith.

“There’s a temptation to make the work we’re doing now and what we’re going to do the main story,” Shannon Looby said. “It was the prologue to our story that got us to where we are.”

Pat and Shannon Looby met while they were each serving as counselors at Camp Guggenheim in the early 1990s. Their kids have attended the camp, as well, with three of them attending this summer.

“Actually, we started as campers together when we were 12,” Shannon Looby said. “We’re going back to Guggenheim (for week 6) to talk about mission work. We’re almost 50. Now we’re the people coming back to talk about our vocations.”

When the couple first met, Pat was a seminarian for the diocese.

“We’re not necessarily where we first thought we were called,” Shannon Looby said.

“But what we are and who we are is really because we’ve followed God and stood on the shoulders of the people who formed us,” Pat Looby added. “We’re fulfilling the call God started in us.”

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