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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Listening to Restlessness and Taking a Risk
Jon and Cindy Morris Found Catholic Family Mission

Jon and Cindy Morris with Juan and Lucia Arroyo.
Jon and Cindy Morris with Juan and Lucia Arroyo.

Great apostolates often begin with a vague but persistent sense of “I should be doing something more”. Listen to that initial feeling and follow the dream, because it might be the beginning of something great for God.

Jon and Cindy Morris, members of Regnum Christi, are a dynamic, youthful couple who started off with a threefold dream: they wanted to do something beautiful for God; they wanted to serve the poor on missions; and they wanted to help families have the transforming experience of missionary service among the poor.

A Regnum Christi apostolate with all three of these elements did not yet exist in the United States, so they rolled up their sleeves and created it… and Catholic Family Mission was born.

Their first Catholic Family Mission trip to the Mayan jungle was held in mid-April, just after Easter. Details about upcoming missions are posted on the Catholic Family Mission web site at

In the interview below, Jon and Cindy Morris share their experience of creating an apostolate and living out the dream for the first time.

Q: What moved you to create an apostolate like Catholic Family Mission?

Cindy: We had both experienced missionary life among the poor when we were young and single, and it stuck in our hearts all these years.

As we were raising our children, we wanted our family—and others— to share the powerful experience
One of the six thatched huts in Nuevo Durango.
One of the six thatched huts in Nuevo Durango.
of helping the poor.

Jon: We wanted to make sure our kids had the experience of understanding how the other world lives.

Q: So how did you start making the dream a reality?

Jon: Through the Regnum Christi Movement, we made contact with Juan and Lucia Arroyo, who are very hardworking, foundational members in the Movement in Mexico. (Juan Arroyo actually went to school with Fr. Alvaro Corcuera; they used to go on mission trips together, and his heart was always moved by the people they met there.) The Arroyos have been involved in laying the groundwork for Catholic World Mission’s humanitarian service programs in remote Mayan villages—and this was exactly the type of work we were looking for: to bring Christ by our actions. We were looking to build something.

Cindy: When we visited Cancun to look for a place to establish our mission base, the Arroyo family took us with them on their normal missionary routine, in the work that they do for Catholic World Mission in Familia Misionera. They drive down every Saturday and go through about 15 Mayan villages, catechizing the people and building relationships with them. When we went with them, I could see how they gave themselves totally as a family to the mission, working from morning to nightfall. They serve the Church and Regnum Christi in a profound way and they were immensely helpful to us.

Jon: Through the Arroyos, we found out that the local Bishop, Bishop Pedro Pablo has 2 priorities that fit with our vision. One was to get the churches in his diocese rebuilt after the two hurricanes that struck two years back. There were only a few buildings in those towns that were able to withstand the 62 hours of hurricane force winds, so the bishop wanted the churches to be rebuilt not only for preaching purposes, but also to provide a safe shelter for the poor during the storms. The second was to bring Christ’s message, to evangelize and catechize. The Mayan people are a simple people and because of their lack of education and knowledge of the Catholic faith, many Christian sects as well as Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses
The interior of the “Mayan Hilton”.
The interior of the “Mayan Hilton”.
are working in these small villages and “converting” our Catholic brothers and sisters. In response, the Bishop has begun training full-time catechists to support the local priests, who often have as many as 30 remote parishes to serve. So that became the central focus of our mission: to rebuild churches in the poor Mayan villages of his diocese and to raise funds to support a full-time catechist.

Cindy: It was also providential that Juan Arroyo is a civil engineer; he designed the roof for the church structure that we built in Nuevo Durango. Much of what we all did there was due to his efforts and time and incredible self-giving.

Q: How did you find the place that has now become your permanent mission base in Mexico?

Jon: We were looking for specific qualities in the place that would become Catholic Family Mission’s base of operations. We were looking for a village where the Blessed Sacrament was kept in the chapel. And since this was going to be a family mission and not a youth mission, we couldn’t have people sleeping on church floors. We wanted to ensure that there would be clean, comfortable, and safe sleeping quarters, and that the food wouldn’t make people sick. And we also wanted to make sure that there would be enough work to do for future missions in the surrounding area.

Cindy: God provided all of that in a little village called Nuevo Durango. This village was one of the few that had permission to have the Blessed Sacrament in their humble chapel because everyone there was Catholic except for one man who had fallen away, and you could see that this man’s story was a sorrowful, painful thing for them to talk about. Not all of the people are well catechized but there is that faithful remnant that is so devoted, very spiritual. They are a unique, happy people.

Jon: They also happened to be kind of innovative. The people of Nuevo Durango were trying to attract paying tourists as a way to build up their local economy, so with some government aid, they built six authentic Mayan huts with thatch roofs and stick walls, concrete floors, beds, and a tiny bathroom with a functioning toilet and (cold) shower in each hut. The grounds around the huts were beautifully landscaped, and there was a path leading to a central kitchen/dining room area with picnic tables where 32 people could eat. It was the perfect space for families to gather for their meals.

Cindy: We wanted safe lodging and safe food for the families and children, and this village had it. A local Mexican group had been working with the people of Nuevo Durango to teach them hospitality and hygiene skills. The cooks wore hairnets, used purified water to prepare the food, cooked over a wood fire, used a fridge to store the perishable food, and washed the cooking utensils in chlorinated water. Every day they made our beds, swept the floors, and scrubbed them with chlorinated water. It was the Mayan Hilton!

Jon: And from this village,
The church in Nuevo Durango BEFORE reconstruction.
The church in Nuevo Durango BEFORE reconstruction.
our future mission will have plenty of work to do: within an hour’s radius, there are 25 churches that we can rebuild.

Q: How did your first mission go in April? What was “a day in the life” like?

Cindy: Well, since it was a first time experience, we didn’t know what to expect, but it ended up blessing us and blessing the people there. Even before we started, we were getting phone calls and e-mails from people who had heard about the mission by word of mouth. We met a Protestant couple who were also good friends of a Regnum Christi couple in Albany, NY, and they were so impressed by the apostolate that they gave us a $2,000 dollar donation. We’ve found families that have said, “We’ve been praying for this.” And we know that it’s the Holy Spirit, that it goes beyond us and it really is God putting this together; we’re just instruments along for the ride.

Jon: We took four of our six children with us on the mission, along with a Legionary priest, named Fr David Kluk, LC, and a total of 12 people. From the start, we had about 20 local men helping us to rebuild the church. They were so proud of their church coming together and they wanted to be part of it.

Cindy: The children would come after school to help, too. The kids that didn’t go to school would just stay there all day with us. The kids made friends and found ways to communicate with each other across the language barrier, especially my nine year old son who knows zero Spanish!

Jon: The construction of the new church roof and floor is now almost complete thanks to the continued work and supervision of Juan and Lucia Arroyo. For this mission, and for every mission, our goal is to raise $10-15,000 to fund the construction. For this first mission, we raised $10,000 dollars specifically for the church, plus another $5,000 so that we could hire a full-time evangelizer for a whole year. We hope to fundraise the same amount for every mission so that we can raise up the physical structure of the church and also help catechize the people in an ongoing way.

Cindy: Although the primary purpose of the mission was to build, we also did some spontaneous door-to-door evangelization and ran a little K4J activity one afternoon. Father Kluk heard the confession of a man who hadn’t
A shy but lovely Mayan girl.
A shy but lovely Mayan girl.
been to confession in 20 years.

Jon: Another part of the mission was the time we spent in recreation and play with the townspeople. Before we came, Juan told us not to think that we were coming there to “save their town”. The first priority was to develop a relationship with the villagers, and that’s why it was important to play baseball and relax with them. It couldn’t all be about work; the human relationships were most important.

Cindy: Equally important throughout the trip was the spiritual life that we lived. We lived all of our Regnum Christi commitments together: morning offering, meditation, rosary, the angelus, a formative talk around noon, the sacraments, spiritual direction, adoration and holy hour. The spirituality that was maintained was key.

Q: Looking back, what would you say were the fruits of the mission in your own family?

Cindy: It was like being on a retreat, because you leave so blessed. You go down to help the poor and you walk away a new person, a stronger person. The crowning gift for me, as a mother, happened on the last day. As we were leaving the village to come home, we had to drive through the Cancun hotel strip and we were seeing all these glorious, rich, beautiful hotels and cars. And all of the kids said, “I would leave this in a minute to go back and do what we did.” It was so important to me that they had acquired such an awareness of Christ and of his presence in us. When we strip away the things that fog our vision and prevent us from hearing him—all the noise, the glitz, the distraction, the television, all of that—and we go away as a family and have an experience like that… it’s transforming. That made it all worthwhile.

Jon: Going on mission as a family has been life changing for us. Through the graces we received we have sown seeds of love for the poor and service to others, and this has brought about many conversations and discussions within our family. The effects of the mission will be with us forever!

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Related links web site
Mission Network
Our Lady of Bethesda Retreat Center and the Center for Family Development
Changing Hearts
Cancun-Chetumal Prelature
Helping Hands Medical Missions

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