Friday, July 11, 2014

A Sower Went Out to Sow

Jesus said: “Imagine a sower going out to sow…”
          Matthew 13:3
Next Sunday’s gospel (for July 13) refers to Jesus’ parable about the sower. That’s what the people here in the mountains are doing right now. I only hope that the psalm refrain for that same liturgy comes true: Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop.
Don Felipe heading out to sow (near el Cerro de la Garza)
This week I was on the road a lot. One trip took me to Arroyo Prieto. Four Mexican Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul live there and accompany the people in this poorest region of La Montaña. I still remember when they arrived in the Diocese of Tlapa about fifteen years ago. They requested that the bishop allow them to go (in their words) “to the poorest area of the mountains where there is the least presence of Church.” They definitely found that area! 
Early-morning departure for Arroyo Prieto
The sower went out to sow...
I remember too the first time that Father Fred Monk, founding director of Mission Mexico, visited these Sisters. The Sisters insisted that Father Fred sleep in one of the small bedrooms of the second floor of their house. After Father Fred accepted, I went to a neighboring house and left him alone with four nuns who spoke not a word of English—and Father Fred didn't speak Spanish.
The Sisters' two-storey house (in red box) in Arroyo Prieto
When the Sisters led Father Fred to see his bedroom for the night, he realized that it was the bedroom of one of the Sisters, and that one Sister was going to be sleeping on a petate (straw mat) on the kitchen floor downstairs. He tried to make it known through signs that he didn’t want to take the Sister’s room, that he could sleep on the dirt floor. But the Sisters would have none of that. A decent bed was the least they could offer to this visiting priest.
Part of the road (a smooth part) to Arroyo Prieto
When Father Fred finally decided that “arguing” (if you can call people speaking two different languages to each other “arguing”) would do no good, he accepted that he was going to be sleeping in the upstairs bedroom. But he wanted to go to the bathroom before hitting the sack for the night. The Sisters had only an outdoor “bathroom,” and every time Father Fred tried to approach the stairs to go downstairs to get outside, the Sisters grabbed  him and insisted (in Spanish), “No, Father, the bedroom is for you!” They thought that Father Fred’s effort to go downstairs was to sleep downstairs.
Sharing a couple of blankets on road to Arroyo Prieto
Father Fred went into the bedroom and pretended to be going to sleep. After he figured that the Sisters were asleep, he tried to creep down the stairs to get outside. No way! The Sister downstairs heard him and pushed him back upstairs. “No, Father, you get the bedroom.” This occurred several times during the night. 
Part of the road to Arroyo Prieto
 I showed up at about 7 AM the next day and found a very tired Father Fred. He hadn’t been able to sleep all night. He was finally allowed to go downstairs—and out the door. I won’t say that he ran outside—but his pace did seem to be a little rapid. And he definitely had a relieved smile on his face when he returned to the house a little later.
Where I slept on Monday night (near Yosondacua) on my way back from Arroyo Prieto.
I shared the mat on the floor of this one-room home/store with Ramiro and his son Salvador (in photo).
Fortunately, that initial experience didn’t ruin a beautiful relationship over the years between the Sisters and Mission Mexico. Different education and health projects occurred over the years—projects that still impact life in the region. 
The mist is moving in during the late afternoon on road back from Arroyo Prieto
The sower went out to sow…
I had gone to Arroyo Prieto a couple of weeks ago, and the Sisters mentioned that their small fridge had “burned out.” When I mentioned that to Father Fred, he said, “Surprise them with a new one.” So I bought a refrigerator in Tlapa and drove eight hours to deliver it to them. The trip is usually only about five hours, but I went slower and tried to not allow the fridge to bounce around too much on the very bumpy road. I made it, and the Sisters were super-happy with their surprise gift.
The refrigerator and a bundle of blankets for the Sisters in Arroyo Prieto

In the name of the Sisters, I thank the supporters of Mission Mexico for this gift. The Sisters don’t have a vehicle of their own, and a refrigerator allows them to take advantage of their rare visit to Tlapa to buy food for several weeks. Anything Mission Mexico can do to make their life easier makes a difference in how they, in turn, can work to make life “easier” for the impoverished people in their part of La Montaña. The sower went out to sow...
PS: Father Fred, the Sisters now have three “novelties” in their house: an indoor bathroom, a cement floor, and a first-floor bedroom. So please come to visit soon. That would be a wonderful blessing for the Sisters and thousands of others here in the mountains.
Two of the four Sisters who live in Arroyo Prieto, with their new refrigerator: 
(Sor Silvia and Sor Juana)

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