I know that my mother told me many times that I shouldn't lie to people, so she was probably rolling over in her grave when she heard me tell a lie to a bishop.
|Bishop Alejo Zavala Castro a few years ago|
But I didn't know what else to do. I had to get out of the Bishop’s house. I’m not sure which reason was more important: Was it that I wanted him to get some rest, or was it that I had to get out before he saw me crying?
|Father Fred Monk and Don Alejo during a trip to Calgary|
Maybe some of the readers of this blog remember Bishop Alejo Zavala Castro, the first bishop of the Diocese of Tlapa here in the mountains of Guerrero, and presently the bishop of the Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa. He visited the Diocese of Calgary several times. Everyone here just knows him as Don Alejo (in Mexico, calling someone “Don” indicates respect).
|My mom bought that sweater as a Christmas present for Don Alejo|
The plan yesterday was to have supper with Don Alejo in Chilpancingo, stay at his house overnight, and then return to Tlapa today (Saturday). I hadn't seen Don Alejo for a couple of months, and he had not been totally healthy the last time I saw him.
|If one collar of flowers indicates a welcome,|
what do you think this many collars indicate?
But my heart was almost torn out of my body when I saw him get out of his Jeep and start to make his way toward his house. He was returning from the village of Paintla, and he was so weak that he could hardly walk. I hate to say it, but the first thought that came to my mind was the name of a TV show that my daughter used to like: Dead Man Walking.
Of course, I
quickly took his arm and guided him to the house. He tried to ask me about my
wife and children, but it was evident that it was even difficult for him to
get the words out. I thought, “This man has to get to bed. He needs to rest.”
|Bishop Alejo Zavala Castro on Friday, April 11, 2014|
|Don Alejo in Metlatonoc|
So I told him that I couldn't stay for supper, because I had to get back to Tlapa that night. I knew that if I stayed, he would be a good host to me and offer me all of his attention. I’m no doctor, but I felt sure that he needed rest more than he needed conversation with me.
Don Alejo is one of the most incredible human beings I know. When he was first asked in 1992 to accept being the first bishop of Tlapa, he had to ask, “Where is Tlapa?” He found it, and he became the most beloved man in the mountains. Everyone can tell some anecdote about his simplicity, his compassion, his love for the poor, and his commitment to justice. I was his secretary in Tlapa for ten of his fourteen years there. In 2006 he was named bishop of the Diocese of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, where he still lives and works.
|Priests, authorities, and people accompany Don Alejo to his last Mass as Bishop of Tlapa|
So, my friends, as you prepare for Holy Week and its celebration of our “passover” from death to life, please remember Don Alejo in your prayers. The world is a better place because of incredible persons like him.