|Maria Agustina with her herbs and firewood|
For almost forty years now I have been moving back and forth between Canada and Mexico—with most of my time spent in Mexico. The contrast between life in urban Canada and life in mountainous Mexico is striking. And for some reason, the “culture shock” always hits me harder when I return to Mexico from a vacation in Canada.
|Maria Agustina—one of my most beautiful friends|
So it was a real blessing last week to return to the mountains from a visit to Canada and to come across Maria Agustina on my first day as I was driving to Tlapa. She was walking barefoot and carrying her firewood and wild herbs. She dropped everything to give me a hug. Her Spanish is almost nil and my Me phaa (her language) is almost nil, but our mutual smiles made everything seem comfortable. And just spending a few minutes with her reminded me of why I was here and why the Diocese of Calgary supports an outreach program through Mission Mexico.
|Modesta and Braulio—Mission Mexico helps all ages|
Stopping to speak with Modesta and Braulio made me feel even more “at home.” Modesta’s leg is now completely healed. Braulio has had no more problems with stomach worms nor eye infections. Without support from Mission Mexico, I’m not even sure that either one of them would be alive today.
|I do have to admit that the sunset seen from my brother's house in|
Nova Scotia is as beautiful as the sunset in the mountain
So now life is back to “normal” for me. It was great to spend time with family and friends in Canada, but if “home is where the heart is,” then the mountains of Mexico are home for me. If I were to win a lotto tomorrow, this is where I would be. And indeed, I often think—not morbidly; rather, happily—that I would prefer to die rather than to have to leave this sacred space. When I do go, it is going to be with a heart full of gratitude.
|Now that I'm officially "old," I need to rest more often.|
A good friend of mine who lives in Mexico City but who works in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of the Mountain just wrote an article in a national magazine published by IMDOSOC—the Mexican Institute of Christian Social Doctrine. The article is called “Poder Elegir”: “To Be Able to Choose.” The article, by Beatriz Alessio Robles Landa, suggests that many of the poor in the mountains have next to no choices in terms of escaping their poverty, especially because of the challenges in being educated. Mission Mexico is mentioned as a project that allows many young people to continue their education in institutions beyond the borders of their own village.
|This is the well-written article by Beatriz that refers to the great work|
being done by Mission Mexico
So the struggle will continue here. I am saddened that two of my very good friends (both Mexicans belonging to the congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit) in the parish of San Marcos Xochitepec have been changed to new locations. Father Vicente Montiel has moved on to a parish in Panama (yes, the country), and Father Juan Molina has moved on to a retreat center in Mexico City. Both of them have given so much to the impoverished peoples of the Mountain; I wish them well in their new endeavors.
|Mike and Father Vicente Montiel, MSpS|
|Father Juan Molina, MSpS, during his final Sunday Mass in Xochitepec|
(thanks to Beatriz Alessio Robles Landa for the photo)
Thank you to the Diocese of Calgary for supporting Mission Mexico. Know that this support is changing lives here. I have been reading a book by Marc Schauss called Post Secular: Science, Humanism and the Future of Faith, and he makes the argument that “Christian practices have become more liberal, more abstract and more secular over time in the West.” This may be true in many ways, but there is definitely nothing “abstract” about the practice of loving one’s brothers and sisters that is being lived out by those who support Mission Mexico. As David Brooks expresses it in his book The Road to Character, "In this scheme of things we don't create our lives; we are summoned by life." Thank you for responding to this summons.
|Traveling to Bowen Island on the Pacific Coast to visit my sister is|
a little different from traveling the dirt/mud roads of the Mountain