|Hard at work on the elementary school in El Puentecito.|
April 26, 2011. Malinalco, Mexico. What is it like to
go on a mission in a small town in Mexico?
A YouTube video captures the sights and sounds of the
first half of the week-long mission, which ran from Palm
Sunday to Easter Sunday.
The annual Malinalco Mission is just
one of many Holy Week missions that take place throughout
Mexico. Each year, missionaries gather in the Basilica of Our
Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City for a kick-off Mass,
receiving their missionary crosses before setting out for their mission
sites. After the missions, they all return to Mexico City
for the concluding Mass at the Anáhuac University campus in
northern Mexico City on Easter Sunday. This year, over 15,000
missionaries went on missions in various Mexican towns.
View the video here.
Missions in Malinalco
have been running for the last 18 years guided by
a group of Mexican, and more recently, American and Chilean
families who have committed to the people of the town.
Over the years, the missionaries have carried out numerous service
projects for the local people: they helped an organization that
improves education in the public schools, restored a neighborhood chapel
in Tlecuilco and landscaped its garden, invited a group of
religious sisters from Chile, the Sisters of the Good
Samaritan, to work in the town (they are currently building
a House for the Sick), and worked with an institution
that provides better nutrition to malnourished children, among other projects.
|Everyone pitches in to build new bathrooms in the school.|
This year, the group of 96 missionaries, 66 of
whom were Americans, joined forces with another group of about
60 missionaries from Mexico to tackle three service projects: first,
in order to help create jobs for the very poor
in the town, the missionaries have been partnering with a
local organization that trains the people to do arts and
crafts. The first project is to produce museum-quality rosaries with
a local design. The resources from selling the rosaries will
then go to create more jobs for the poor, thus
helping to break the cycle of poverty. During the mission,
the bishop of Tenancingo, Raúl Gómez González, came to the
rosary-making workshop, “El Rincon de Malinalco” to bless the premises
and the project.
|Two examples of the handmade rosaries that will help some of Malinalco's poor find gainful employment.|
A second, more hands-on service
project was focused on fixing up a local elementary public
school in a town called El Puentecito. Since the school
had no running water, the missionaries built bathrooms and installed
all of the plumbing and new toilets and sinks. They
also painted the school, built a sidewalk leading to the
front door, changed the windows (many were broken), and put
tar on the roof.
Third, the missionaries continued
an ongoing project in the nearby town of Tlecuilco, where
for the past two years they have been restoring a
small hillside chapel and landscaping its garden. This year, the
missionaries weeded and cleaned the garden, painted the chapel inside
and out, and put tar on the roof.
|Oriental kings join the missionaries outside the newly restored school.|
In addition to the service projects, the missionaries, including two
consecrated women, Lucy Honner and Fernanda Paez, went door to
door to invite people to the Holy Week liturgies and
to confession with the local parish priest, Fr Sergio Ramos,
and three Legionary priests: Fr Paul Moreau, Fr Andreas Schöggl,
and Fr Peter Devereux. Sometimes the house calls were just
opportunities to talk, pray and share with the local townspeople.
Since some missionary families have been coming for years, they
have had the chance to form relationships with some of
the people. Along the way, there were spontaneous acts of
consideration, such as the wooden ramp that some missionaries built
for a handicapped man in a wheelchair to be able
to get in and out of his house more easily.
|The winning team from the Malinalco soccer tournament.|
Evangelization through sports
Led by Alexander Caraballo and Tim Palmer,
both from the Atlanta area, the missionaries also put on
a soccer tournament for 250 kids from different communities and
small villages. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week,
the missionaries set up training and coaching workshops with the
kids, which included talks on virtue and teamwork. On Thursday,
the tournament took place in the town stadium. The missionaries
from the States had been collecting sports uniforms from parishes
and schools that no longer needed them for the past
year, so each of the 16 teams in the tournament
had its own distinct uniform. During the tournament, there were
talks and food and refreshments for the participants, and priests
|A friendship forged through shared work and prayer.|
attended to the line of people wanting to talk or
receive the sacrament of reconciliation. Friendship
The theme of this
year’s mission was friendship. Roberto and Maria Ines, two of
the participants, commented that “the friendships created between the Mexican
and American families were close, and there was a lot
of support, understanding, and appreciation of the different cultures. There
were no obstacles with the language,” they said. “It was
an experience of brotherhood.”
The theme of friendships also
carried over to the local townspeople; the missionaries came with
an attitude of being open to learn from the people
of Malinalco, especially from the way they pray and live
their faith with joy and hope.
This year’s pilgrimage group
also had a special intention of thanksgiving in their pilgrimage
to the nearby Sanctuary of Chalma, the second most important
pilgrimage site in Mexico after the Basilica of Our Lady
of Guadalupe. Last year, three of the missionaries’ family members
had experienced total recoveries from various ailments, including a boy
from one of the Chilean missionary families, Samuel, who suffered
an accident and emerged from a three-week coma on the
very day that the missionaries prayed for him at Chalma.
This year, on Wednesday of Holy Week, the group woke
up at 4:30 a.m. and set out on foot for
the church. Men, women, and children (those that could) made
the 3-hour trek in a spirit of thanksgiving and also
of sacrifice, uniting their walk to Jesus’ walk under the
weight of the cross.
Footage from the Chalma pilgrimage,
and the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil celebrations
will be available for viewing with the second YouTube video,
which is coming soon.
To learn more about
the annual international missions trip to Malinalco, visit this