In my experience, I have observed that those who practice religion without an active relationship with God practice charity, while those who have a relationship with God live a life of compassion. To give you a sense of what I mean by these words, I would describe myself as being engaged in charity when I am in control of the situation: I can decide who I am going to help, how long I am going to be of service, and the price I am willing to pay. Ultimately, I decide. When I am compassionate, I do not decide. I have no control—I am sucked into the situation. I am not concerned with who the person is, or what the person needs from me, or how long I am going to be with the person, or the price I will have to pay. The consequences are secondary to the call for compassionate action in the present moment.
Paul Coutinho SJ. How Big Is Your God?: The Freedom to Experience the Divine
|Adriana, Ana, and Javier in front of the cathedral in Puebla, where they hope to study university this year|
No, I am not the compassionate one. But it seems like the month of January was a month of not being in control, of getting “sucked into situations,” as Paul Coutinho expressed it. Why? Because January is the month that most universities in Mexico begin accepting registrations for new students graduating from high school in June of 2016.
|Liz and her mom; Liz studied at the Champagnat High School of the Mountain, which is supported by Mission Mexico|
There aren’t enough public universities in Mexico, and thousands of students who have the dream of getting a university degree just won’t be accepted into the area of study that they wish to pursue. There is little opportunity for university study here in the mountains of Guerrero, so most students have to move to urban centers in this state or in other states in the country.
|For those who don't go on to study after high school, survival farming is the most common alternative|
This is a huge challenge for poor students from impoverished families. Many students have never even visited the city where their university of choice is located. For that reason, many families approached me to help to get their son or daughter at least registered for the entrance exam that Mexican universities require for admission. So I was on the road a lot this month with groups of students from many different high schools. Some days I hit the road at 4 in the morning; some nights I got home at 4 in the morning.
|This is the daily life of many of the mothers and fathers in the mountain villages; most|
hope that life will be different for their children
Mission Mexico assists dozens of students with their university studies. These students come from very impoverished settings, and they are young people who have demonstrated, even at their young age, a commitment to improving life in their communities. Change is always slow, but their presence brings light and hope to this marginalized region.
|Roberto and his father, Don Lencho, share lunch with me in Cochoapa el Grande|
And not only marginalized: referring to the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Mexico (February 12–18), the official weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico mentioned that Francis will visit “places in the country that are violent, poor, and miserable”—and it states that “Guerrero is the place that suffers the worst.” It refers to the fact that drug cartels control much of the state and that there is little respect for human rights. This is part of the “horror” and “dark panorama” that the newspaper refers to as the background to life and death here.
|Now that it is the dry season and water is scarce in many places, it is more common to see|
rashes and skin infections among the children, as can be seen here on Benigno's face
“The call for compassionate action in the present moment”—these words that end the quote from Paul Coutinho at the beginning of this note express part of what Mission Mexico is all about. I thank everyone who supports this effort. I am aware that times are challenging in Canada at the present time, so I am doubly grateful for those compassionate persons who help to make a difference in this “dark panorama.” A small donation in Canada makes a huge difference in the lives of the people here.
|It can sometimes be tiring to see that road on the other side of the mountain, knowing that|
it will take me at least two hours of driving to get there—and that's not my final destination