Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Do All The Good You Can

This is Reina, the woman you can read about in this blog.

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
-       John Wesley (1703–1791)
Reina's house...home to her for more than fifty years.
I have been thinking about goodness a lot these days. A recent experience brought home to me the goodness that resides in the hearts of so many “ordinary” people. Indeed, I suspect that there is no such thing as “ordinary” people.
Reina inside of her former home.
Reina is a woman about eighty years old (so I learn from seventy-one-year-old Meche, who remembers Reina taking care of her as a young girl). She is a deaf-mute (all of her life, says Meche) and has lived for at least fifty years alone in the “house” depicted in the two photos above. At some time in her life, Reina must have broken a hip, because she has only one leg that has strength; when she walks with a stick, she drags her other leg behind her.
Reina walking back to her house from a bath in the river.
I learned from a friend that a young neighbour of Reina, Cecilia, got a job as a nurse and had built an adobe-brick house for herself. There were extra bricks, so Cecilia asked the workers to bring the bricks to where Reina lived and to build a small adobe house for Reina. The workers used the same roof from the older house for the new residence.
This is Cecilia with me; she used her own money to pay the workers to build Reina's new house.
When I learned of Reina’s new house, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could get a bed for Reina!” I’ve seen her lowering herself (painfully, it seems) onto the straw mat on the floor that has been her bed for most of her life, and I’ve seen her struggle to get up from the floor to stand upright with her one good leg—it’s not an easy thing to do.
Reina sitting on her new chair in front of her new house.
I approached a friend in Tlapa, Max, who makes wooden beds, and I asked him if he would sell me a bed cheaply. When Max heard about Reina’s situation, he insisted on the bed being a gift from his family for Reina. He even threw in a little nightstand and a wooden chair.
Max with the bed he donated for Reina.
I approached another friend in Tlapa, Vicente, who sells furniture, and I asked him if he might sell me a mattress at a discounted price for Reina. When Vicente heard of Reina’s situation, he insisted on the mattress being a gift for Reina.
Vicente helped to load the mattress onto the Mission Mexico truck.
A godchild of mine, Araceli, who lives in another state, heard about Reina’s new bed, and she sent to me, as a gift from her family, a woolen blanket and a set of towels for Reina.
Araceli, her husband, and their two children donated towels and a warm blanket.
Two little girls who live near me, Valeria and Lizbeth, brought a set of bedsheets to me for Reina’s bed. This was an especially generous gift, because their father was murdered here in Tlapa about eight years ago, and life is not always easy for them and their mother.
Valeria and Lizbeth giving me bedsheets for Reina.
So, one day I drove about four hours to Reina’s house to deliver her new bed and accessories. The bed just managed to fit inside the house. Reina immediately tried it out; it was evident that it was much easier for her to sit or lie on the bed than on the floor.
Reina's first time in her new bed—and perhaps her first time ever in a real bed.
The next morning, I returned to Reina’s house to see how her first night with her new bed had worked out. No words could be shared between us, but her smile suggested to me that “going to bed” at night will now be a much easier experience for her.
Reina on the morning after her first full night sleeping in her new bed.
Such little “miracles” of generosity happen here in the mountains almost every day. It is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why I feel like one of the most blessed human beings I know on this earth. And it is one of the reasons why I am so grateful to the people in the Catholic Diocese of Calgary who support Mission Mexico and help transform—sometimes in little ways, sometime in huge ways—the lives of the impoverished indigenous peoples here. Thank you, Calgary.
A neighbour of mine offered to give shoes to Reina—but I suspect she has walked barefoot her whole life.

Monday, April 16, 2018

God Takes Us to Where Humanity Is Most Wounded

God is eternal newness…[God] takes us to where humanity is most wounded…So if we dare to go to the fringes, we will find [God] there; indeed, he is already there. Jesus is already there, in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, in their wounded flesh, in their troubles and in their profound desolation. He is already there.
-       Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, # 135

Hopefully everone will read Gaudete et Exsultate, by Pope Francis
I smiled often as I read for the first time Pope Francis’s latest apostolic exhortation, called in English “Rejoice and Be Glad! On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.” So much of what the pope wrote led me to think of the vision and the mission of Mission Mexico—the “daring” effort of the Diocese of Calgary to “go to the fringes” and to accompany and assist our “most wounded” brothers and sisters among the indigenous peoples of the mountains of Mexico.
Father Lawrence Moran, CSB, began the connection between the Diocese of Calgary
and the impoverished in Mexico. His picture still hangs in a meeting room in Los Reyes Metzontla.
Living here in the mountains offers daily many opportunities and challenges to respond to the God who is “already there” in the “wounded flesh” and “profound desolation” of the impoverished peoples. As I was writing this line, a young orphan knocked at my door; he wasn’t allowed into his high school today because the old shoes he has worn for years finally fell apart, and the school uniform code demands black shoes. I knew Lalo’s mother before she died; I never met the father who abandoned the family years ago; and I know that his elderly grandmother can hardly walk and is quite ill. Tomorrow, Lalo will show up at school with new black shoes. Thank you, Diocese of Calgary.
Edgar, seen here with grandmother and mother, is more mobile with
the wheelchair donated by Mission Mexico.
Last week it was Elena, a woman from San Marcos who was on the back of a truck that went over a cliff. Both of her legs were broken in several places, but the doctors here in Tlapa said that they couldn’t operate, that she would have to go to Acapulco or Mexico City. I was with Elena’s family on several occasions, and I was willing to transport her in the Mission Mexico truck, but personnel at the local hospital wouldn’t give us a medical recommendation so that Elena (who doesn’t speak Spanish) would be assured of entry into a hospital. It was only when a lawyer from the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center threatened to denounce publicly this lack of a dignified response to indigenous Elena that the director gave the family the medical recommendation—and included an ambulance to deliver her to Acapulco.
A sweater is only a sweater—or is it? What else might it be?
Other days involve young people trying to register for high school or university or vocational school for next year. For example, on Friday I will drive five hours to Puebla with five indigenous students—and the director of their high school—the five will write an exam on Saturday at the Iberoamerican University in Puebla; the exam is for a scholarship offered by this Jesuit university. None of the five students have ever been to Puebla, and this accompaniment is one small way to support the dreams of these students who are so used to living “on the fringe.”
Living on the fringe doesn't mean that one doesn't dress up on special days.
On Tuesday night I took an overnight bus that went from Tlapa to Mexico City. I accompanied Daniel, a nineteen-year-old young man from Tlapa who was heading to the U.S. border in the hopes of crossing. His dream is to work in the United States for three years, to help his mother in educating his younger brothers and sisters.
Daniel's last breakfast in Mexico City before boarding a bus "for the north"
After saying farewell to Daniel, I went to the National Cardiology Institute to visit Abel Barrera Hernandez, the founder/director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain. Abel was driving alone in his car at midnight ten days ago when he felt intense pain in his chest. He managed to get out of the car and stretch out on the pavement. A taxi driver alerted the police, the police called an ambulance, and on Tuesday Abel had surgery at the Cardiology Institute. He is now recovering at home; he has strict orders from the doctors to take care of his coronary stent, to watch his diet, and to not overwork. For Abel that is almost requesting a miracle.
Abel Barrera—surely the most respected man in the Mountains
in the eyes of the poor
During Holy Week I was on the road offering different kinds of service in many communities: Xochitepec; Cruztomahuac; Arroyo Prieto; Potoichan. One gets used to long days here—and night-driving. Easter Sunday involved twelve hours on the road (I might add “the worst road in the mountains”). This past Sunday was only nine hours on the road (I got home at two in the morning). But it’s all about compassion and service—and it’s all made possible through the generous support of donors in the Diocese of Calgary.
Abel Barrera being greeted by a child with Down's syndrome
(photo used with permission from Mirna Xibille)
When he was still a bishop in Argentina, our present Pope Francis was one of the bishops from there who wrote in a document: Personal encounter with Jesus Christ has to lead us to transform through the power of the Gospel our criteria for judgment, decisive values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration, and models of life. Mission Mexico tries to live out and witness to this transformation by going “to the fringes” and accompanying the “most wounded” in their “troubles and in their profound desolation.” I have read that “misery shared is misery halved”—but I don’t believe it. Misery shared is misery’s death; misery shared is the birth of hope. This is Mission Mexico’s most enduring gift here on the fringe: hope. Thank you, Diocese of Calgary, for birthing and nourishing that hope.
Thousands of students' families are grateful to Mission Mexico
for helping to build and maintain the Champagnat High School of the Mountain

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Caring for Others out of Love

This caring for others out of love is not about being servile. Rather, it means putting the question of our brothers and sisters at the center. Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, “suffers” that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people.    - Pope Francis, Homily on Sept 20, 2015
Between the branches one can see the road that I hope to be on in about an hour's time
I just returned from Tlapa’s new cemetery on the hillside outside the city. My good friend Jesús died yesterday and was buried today. Jesús owned a restaurant, and years ago, when Tlapa had a rustic movie theatre, I used to take the children from the orphanage to a movie (I remember “The Lion King” and “Titanic”—and always with popcorn), and then we would go to Jesus’ restaurant for chicken enchiladas.
The local band was present in the cemetery to wish Jesus farewell
Of course, that movie theatre no longer exists. The owner, Don Enrique, was kidnapped. And even though the family paid a ransom, Enrique was not returned. Months later, a police officer confessed that he was involved in killing Enrique, and he took the family to where Enrique was buried. The leader of the kidnapping gang turned out to be the mayor of Tlapa. The mayor was arrested, and he later died in prison. Such is “life” here in the mountains of Guerrero.
Last February Doña Modesta thought she might die. Today, thanks to Mission Mexico,
she can take her two goats (can you see them in the background?) out to pasture.
Many days here involve activities like that of accompanying Jesus’ family during this difficult time. Mission Mexico supports several projects here in the mountains, and I keep in touch with those, but every day involves “other” activities that seem to keep me busy. This is definitely not a complaint; it is an honour to serve—and be served by—the noble indigenous people here in the mountains of Guerrero.
Fifteen-year-old Priscila (in blue) is pregnant and has been fainting a lot, so her husband
asked Mission Mexico for assistance to take her to a hospital for the first time in their lives.
Request granted.
Most families in the mountains do not have a vehicle, so I get a good number of requests for transportation with the Mission Mexico truck. Most of these requests involve people who are ill, so it is difficult to say “No.” I try to avoid travelling alone at night, but sometimes circumstances require it. So far, so good.
I see a fair number of sunups when I'm on the road; they are always awe-inspiring.
And sometimes I am very accompanied. Last weekend the “PeregrinosTonantzin Guadalupe” youth group from the cathedral had a camping trip in the village of Tlalixtaquilla, so I helped to deliver them there on Friday and get them back home on Sunday.
The youth group at the end of their weekend experience in Tlalixtaquilla
I went the other day to the Intercultural University in La Ciénega to be present as Veronica defended her thesis in order to get her Engineering degree; she was successful. She is now the first and only member of her family to have a university degree. It wouldn’t have happened if Mission Mexico hadn’t supported her with a scholarship during her four years of study.
Veronica (with the flowers, in the middle) is now an engineer
I am expecting a phone call any moment/day now from Luz and Miguel, a young couple from Olinala who are hoping to be the proud parents of a baby boy this week. They have already named him: Stephen. Four years ago I was at the hospital with them day and night for about a week, but on that occasion their first child, a boy they named Jesus, was born with anencephaly and lived only a few minutes.
Luz and Miguel are praying that they will have a healthy son to bring home
So the days go by, and I tend to topple into bed quite tired most nights. But always gratefully. And I am very aware, as are the people here, that none of these efforts to offer more hope for life and dignity and justice would be possible without the support of the people in the Diocese of Calgary who support Mission Mexico. Thank you, everyone, for caring for these sisters and brothers in the mountains of Mexico. God bless.
Braulio (seen here with his niece Mairene) has received medical care thanks to Mission Mexico
This "caring for others out of love" is nothing new for Mission Mexico. Here is a photo
from 2008 of Father Fred Monk (Mission Mexico's founder)  with Pedro, a young boy from
Xalpitzahuac who had two operations to give him the gift of sight.
PS: Did you know that Mission Mexico now has a Facebook page? Please check it out at .

Saturday, February 3, 2018

A Quick Winter Visit from Mexico to Calgary

Xalpitzahuac is one of the coldest places (temperature-wise) in La Montaña,
and Marcelino appreciates having firewood for cooking and for warmth

It is not unusual for Canadians to escape from the cold winter of Canada and travel to a southern destination where there is sun and warmth. I did the opposite a few weeks ago: I traveled from Mexico to Regina and Calgary for a quick visit. And, yes, I noticed the difference in climate (to say the least).
Give me Mexico's climate...
As many people familiar with Mission Mexico (MMEX) know, MMEX has been an outreach project of the Diocese of Calgary for more than fifteen years. MMEX was founded by Father Fred Monk in 1999, initially as a parish project in Cochrane, after a visit to the mountains here in the State of Guerrero, Mexico. Later, Bishop Fred Henry endorsed the project as a diocesan effort.
A card drawn by Paty Gasca to assist in Mission Mexico's fundraising efforts
Now, in 2018, Father Fred Monk has retired from parish ministry, and the Diocese of Calgary has a new bishop—William T. McGrattan was installed as Calgary’s eighth bishop on February 27, 2017. And Mission Mexico will now be coordinated by the diocesan Mission Council; this council is coordinated by Sister Rita Kim, f.m.m. In reality, these are now my new “bosses.”
Bishop William T. McGrattan and Sister Rita Kim, f.m.m.—my thanks to both
Since Sister Rita and Bishop McGrattan had never met me, I went to Calgary to talk with them personally about the projects that MMEX is supporting and about their impact on the lives of the impoverished indigenous people of the Mountain. I brought with me messages of greeting and gratitude from many people from this area, including Tlapa’s present bishop, Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga.
The coordinating council of the Champagnat High School of the Mountain sent their thanks for support
I had the good fortune to stay for a few days in the FCJ Christian Life Centre, in downtown Calgary. The hospitality offered by the FCJ sisters and the personnel there was incredible.
The FCJ Christian Life Centre—what a beautiful blessing for Calgary
I had a wonderful supper in Cochrane with Father Fred Monk and other members of the Mission Mexico committee that had collaborated with him in the past. My gratitude is extended to all of these wonderful individuals. Leslie Davies, I am sorry that you couldn’t be there that night.
Thank you, Joann, Fred, Mary Anna, Warren, and John
I spent quality time with Father Fred Monk and Sister Rita Kim as we talked about the continuing support that the Diocese of Calgary hopes to offer to the people in this poorest region of Mexico. Father Fred is considered a hero and a saint here by the local people, and hopefully the future will allow him to visit here again. Sister Rita, thanks for your willingness to oversee these important life-changing projects.
It's impossible to express my gratitude adequately to Sister Rita and Father Fred...
The Mission Council supports projects both at home (especially the four First Nations’ Reserves located within the Diocese of Calgary) and abroad. A special subcommittee has been formed to assist the Mission Mexico projects. My gratitude goes out to the volunteers who offer their time and energy to help make MMEX possible. Hopefully you too will come to visit here in the mountains of Guerrero.
Jeff Hagel and Chandra Schubert, two members of  the Mission Mexico subcommitee...thanks
It was a quick visit—but most productive. There was not much free time. I did make a quick visit to St. Mary’s Senior High School, where I was a teacher in the late 70s and early 80s. I admit that just standing in the hallway was emotional for me, mostly for the sense of gratitude for having been allowed to know such incredible students and teachers. 
I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t moved to Mexico to accompany
 Father Lawrence Moran, OSB, in 1982.
And there were just a few times that I could meet up with old friends, most of whom I had not seen in some thirty years. These visits were extra “bonuses” in my four days in Calgary. Next time I hope to have a little more time (hee hee, that is a warning, Cathy and Rene Proulx, and Margot and Len Lang, and…).
Thanks, Erika and Jess Nieukerk (especially for the mole supper), Kathy Murphy, James Murphy,
Teri McKinnon (née MacDonald), Janet and Edwin Malate, and Father Greg Coupal
Thank you to everyone who made this trip such a blessed experience, and thank you to all of the good people in the Diocese of Calgary (and elsewhere) who support Mission Mexico and nourish the struggles and the hopes of the impoverished indigenous peoples here in the mountains of Mexico. God bless you for your generosity and solidarity.
Jeff Hagel, a special "Thank you" for your service and commitment to Mission Mexico

Friday, December 8, 2017

Overcoming Impunity—Mexico's Special Challenge

According to Mexican authorities, impunity in the country is as high as 98–99 percent…I am particularly worried by the situation of indigenous children and youth, in such a context of extreme poverty, violence and impunity…
-          Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, after her mission to Mexico last month

Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Impunity…a word that most Canadians have probably never used in their lifetime. And perhaps many of us aren’t even sure just what it means. Yet every Mexican not only understands the concept; he or she knows that impunity is an everyday part of the lived reality here.

The Cambridge Dictionary gives a definition that is as good as any: Impunity is freedom from punishment or from the unpleasant results of something that has been done. In other words, whether I am a government authority, a police officer, a corporate executive, or a member of a drug cartel or organized crime, I can be pretty sure that I will never be punished if I break the rule of law.
The Special Rapporteur with family members of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa
Last month Mexico received a visit from Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, an indigenous leader from the Philippines and the present United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She included the Mountain of Guerrero in her agenda; here she spoke with numerous indigenous persons and groups. In an interview afterwards, she said that she knows of no other country in the world where there is such a high level of impunity as in Mexico.

Out of all the Latin American countries, Mexico ranks first in the 2017 "Global Impunity Index". So few crimes in Mexico are punished that it is believed that upwards of 92% of crimes committed are not even reported. Why bother if nothing is going to happen? The situation is even worse for the indigenous peoples. In her initial report after her mission to Mexico, the UN Special Rapporteur mentioned that special difficulties of the indigenous peoples include “the physical distance from justice administration institutions, language barriers, lack of adequate legal assistance, lack of adequate economic resources to adequately pursue a case, fears of reprisals if a complaint is filed, and the lack of appropriate protection mechanisms.”
Abel Barrera Hernandez, Director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain,
and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
There are institutions that try to assist the indigenous people in protecting the human rights of the people. The Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Mountain is a great example. Nevertheless, as the Special Rapporteur notes in her report, these organizations “are subject to any kind of stigmatization, harassment or attacks for performing this role.”

All of this occurs in a generalized context of violence. Earlier this year Bloomberg’s Marc Champion published an article called Mexico Now World's Deadliest Conflict Zone After Syria: Survey. This level of violence may be a surprise to many because, to quote John Chipman, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, “Mexico is a conflict marked by the absence of artillery, tanks or combat aviation.” The impoverished indigenous peoples aren’t surprised. And besides this violence (and corruption), the indigenous peoples face the all-too-usual “serious pattern of exclusion and discrimination” (quoting the Special Rapporteur).

The Special Rapporteur being welcomed in the village of Tlatzala
There are antidotes to this situation of impunity. The 2017 "Global Impunity Index" offers three suggestions: “1) a democratic State that promotes economic development with a social approach; 2) ensuring that any citizen has access to justice regardless its social condition; 3) and a vibrant society that demands the respect of human rights and fully enforces its liberties.” The same Index adds: “A free and vibrant press, researchers committed to understand society’s big issues and organized groups that promote and defend human rights are fundamental to counter impunity.”

Mission Mexico’s partners in the Mountain of Guerrero are striving to transform this reality. Education plays a major role. The different projects supported by Mission Mexico respond to both the immediate needs of the impoverished peoples and the long-term efforts to “create new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:15; see Revelation 21:1). I thank all of the Mission Mexico donors for your solidarity with the impoverished indigenous peoples in Mexico. You are helping to “make everything new” (Rev 21:5).
The Special Rapporteur listening to testimonies of the indigenous peoples of the Mountain

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

If I Could...

In a recent pastoral visit by Bishop Dagoberto Sosa Arriaga to the parish of St. James the Apostle in Acatepec, two young indigenous women shared the following words with the bishop. I suspect that their thoughts reflect what many supporters of Mission Mexico think. Here, in English translation, is part of what they said:

Father Francisco, Bishop Dagoberto, and Father Ruben are received by the villagers of Acaptepec
The Mountain is a beautiful place, beautiful for its views, its people, its cultures. And especially beautiful because we have learned how to live despite all of the adverse circumstances that surround us. We know how to laugh and how to share with others. We are like a log on the campfire, always ready to give heat and light to those who need such. We live with a great hope in a better future, but the uncertainty, the abandonment, the extreme poverty, and the violence force us to ask ourselves if this better future is possible.

The main question is: Why? It’s a simple word that requires big answers—and a big commitment of everyone in this country.
The two young women share their reflections with the bishop
Why do our children, young people, and adults of the indigenous peoples of Mexico (and of other places in the world) have no shoes, no clothing, no food, no decent house, no higher education? Why are we poor and marginalized; why do we die of hunger and thirst? Other people walk around with shoes and clothing and with a full stomach. And some even have cars, planes, helicopters, beautiful houses. And we are made more impoverished by having to pay high fees for taxes, electricity, propane, gasoline, and basic food items.

Why do some have to die before being born, or at a very tender age? Why are there no medicines in our health centers? Why are there no doctors? Why is it that others, who speak other languages and are of a different color, have good salaries, health care, pensions, food, telephone—everything, it seems?
The cemetery in Metlatonoc on the Day of the Dead, on November 2
Why is it that others can live to 70 or 80 or 90? Why do others get to decide our salary and our future? Why are some so incredibly rich and we so miserably poor? Is this what God wants, or is it a decision made by just a few or by those who govern us? Why is there such inequality? Why are there the exploited and the exploiters? Is this what it means to be civilized or to have a conscience? We have received enough fine words. We need concrete actions! We have had enough promises, reforms, and counter-reforms—it seems that these only make us poorer.

Mexico is a rich country, with hard-working people and many natural resources. But what good does this do if our institutions, our politicians, our court system, and even international organizations do not work to see that there is a fair distribution of these goods?
Looking elderly doesn't mean that one is elderly
Why are our decisions not respected among the different institutions of our country? Why are there false promises, electoral fraud, no real democracy? The mass media sells its soul to the highest bidder. The politicians get rich from programs that are supposed to help the poor. People speak about peace, justice, love, charity, respect. Yet we native peoples experience little of that.

Everyone says that we want peace—but there can be no peace without justice, without reconciliation, without a change of attitude and conduct, without meeting the needs of the poor, without an end to repression, without the guidance of the Spirit of God.
Children from Tototepec—hopefully their future is a beautiful one
If I could—if it were in my hands—I would create a different world, where we human beings would be truly human, where there would be no misery, no hunger, no injustices, no violence, no discrimination against the indigenous peoples. A world where we would all love one another and look after one another.

If I could, I would invest in science and technology so that no would have to be hungry, and no one would lack their daily bread (and maybe there could be a little extra for an ice cream or a chocolate bar); no one would have to complain about being a peasant farmer.
There are few "extras" in the lives of the indigenous in the Mountain
If I could, I would look for ways to bring joy to the children and youth and adults, so that they could enjoy every stage of life, so that they could grow as human beings, so that they could interact with creation with joy and dignity, so that there would be no sadness or tears or misery or violence.

If I could, I would break down the walls that separate us as rich and poor, as slaves and free, as natives and non-natives. All humans would be sisters and brothers living in our common home, and there would be no borders to divide us.
Children in Yuvi Nani (long river in na savi)
If I could, I would create educational institutions that provide high-quality education to all. Parents would not have to suffer so much to educate their children; teachers would receive a decent salary.

If I could, I would build better hospitals and see that they were well-equipped and with qualified nurses and doctors. No one would be left out in terms of access to health care, and the health personnel would not discriminate in the case of indigenous patients.
Even those who are elderly have to work if they wish to eat
If I could, I would establish universities that relate to the interests and culture of the peoples. They would be designed to respond to the economic and cultural needs of the people; the goal would not just be to provide a cheap labor force for big business.

If I could, I would demand that our Mother Earth be respected, that there be more concern for the environment. I would work to bring an end to contamination and to the use of poisonous chemicals.
Candles and flowers—essentials if one is going to approach God
If I could, I would see that all reforms are planned, not from a desk in an ivory tower, but in consultation with the peoples affected by such reforms. Everyone would work together for the well-being of all.

If I could, I would work for just laws and legal institutions, where the rich can not buy decisions, where there is no impunity, where there is no corruption. The rich would not be allowed to become richer at the cost of the poor becoming poorer.
When the bishop visits, the women prepare food for all
If I could, I would see that everyone, even the most impoverished, had a dignified home. One of the best ways for this to happen is to offer decent jobs and decent wages.

If I could, I would allow the indigenous people to follow their traditional customs of assemblies and consensus in electing their governing authorities. Political parties often divide and discriminate. Transparency, honesty, and service would be the hallmarks of those who get involved in politics.
Israel, Antonieta, and Baltazar in their school uniforms
If I could, I would work so that our Catholic Church be more committed in evangelizing and combating the structures of death in our villages. The pastoral agents should work to create missionary disciples who organize to bring and to be good news. Our priests should be spiritual guides who, by word and by example, accompany us in our daily struggles.

If I could, I would place these words in the minds and hearts of all present here today, so that we all be sensitive to the struggles of the poor and so that we all do what we can to change this situation. To do nothing is to journey toward a catastrophic and apocalyptic future. We trust in the God of Life and Divine Justice that we will all receive God’s blessing and assistance. Thank you.
Bishop Dagoberto receives a live turkey as a farewell present