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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Solidarity in Service
A group of 11 young men from the Midwest gave their all on an extreme mission for the diocese of Orizaba, Mexico.

Young men working to lay a concrete foundation for the classrooms intended for catechetics training.
The missionaries work to lay a concrete foundation for the classrooms intended for catechetics training.

April 16, 2009. When missionaries with muscles and a can-do attitude set out on a mission, they leave a mark behind them – for the better. This past March 14-22, a group of 11 young men from high schools in Nebraska and from the Franciscan University of Steubenville set out for the small town of Mariano Escobedo in Veracruz, along with Legionary Fathers Juan Gabriel Guerra, Edward Hopkins, and two dads.

Their mission was to serve the diocese of Orizaba by building a two-story classroom that will be used to train catechists. In the afternoons, the young men set out for remote villages to put new roofs on the houses, many of which are lean-to shacks with dirt floors.

Mike Bender, 23, a recent Steubenville graduate, said that although the work was strenuous, the experience of solidarity in service was deeply gratifying.

“It was a great experience – not only
working to put roofs on houses
Working to put new roofs on houses in remote rural areas.
being thousands of miles away from home, but also because you could really see the people’s appreciation for what we were doing,” he said. “It was not easy work at all, but working with the other missionaries, sweating with them throughout the day, you get a closer bond than you would just as a friend.”

The mission was also a moment to witness how a simple initiative could change a family’s life. During one of those trips into the villages, Father Guerra’s own father accompanied them and noticed that all of the children in one of the houses were sick because the indoor cooking fire was filling the lean-to house with smoke. After seeing this problem, he came up with an easy-to-implement initiative for next year’s mission: mud-made stoves with an iron pan and a simple chimney to funnel the smoke out of the house. Installing these simple stoves in hundreds of
The young men with the Pico de Orizaba (Orizaba Peak) behind them.
Ready to conquer a challenge: the Pico de Orizaba.
homes in the nearby villages will be next year’s mission task.

Even their “rest” was strenuous. On one of their last days in Mexico, the students set out on a hiking expedition up the Pico de Orizaba (Orizaba Peak) with Father Guerra. After camping out on the mountain at 11,000 feet altitude, they started their hike at 7:30 the next morning, some reaching as far as 14,000 feet. Father Guerra continued on alone with the guide, reaching 15,000 feet altitude, thus earning the name “Father Iron Man.”

To listen to a podcast interview with Father Guerra, click here.

More extreme missions for young women and young men are already planned for this June. For more information, visit the Mission Youth web site at this link.


Interview with Fr Juan Gabriel Guerra, LC - Audio

Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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