Saturday, April 12, 2014

Please Pray for the Most Incredible Bishop I Know

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.
Bishop Alejo Zavala Castro on Friday, April 11, 2014
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.”
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.
This banner said it all when Don Alejo left Tlapa in 2006:
Bishop Alejo:
Your simple and generous heart, as well as your always being close to all of us,
strengthened our faith and our hope in the God who loves us.
Thank you for your gospel-like testimony;
that's the most sublime thing you're leaving us as the Shepherd of La Montaña...
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. 

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