Search      Language 

Turn to Jesus (Article)

Everest Peak Ė Easter in the Missions
I am impressed by the formation of the young men. They have all the elements of the integral formation that we espouse at Everest. They are intellectually prepared and they have the personal relationship with Christ that animates their work.

Niño orando.
They have the personal relationship with Christ that animates their work. And above all this, they have apostolic zeal Ė a desire to share Christ with others.
I wake to the crowing of a distant rooster. Surprisingly, I am well rested and comfortable. We have slept on concrete floors now for five nights. The dust from the concrete fills my nose and throat and gives me a headache. Weíre high in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, somewhere between Vera Cruz and Puebla, near a town called Zacapoaxtla, working with hundreds of young missionaries from several countries. Itís 5:30 and I have time to say my rosary before Fr. Juan Guerra LC of Everest Academy starts to stir.

As we get up, I check my boots for unwanted spiders or scorpions. I havenít seen any scorpions yet, but Iím not inclined to take chances. Father and I walk down the lane to the restroom. Itís a shack patched onto the back of a house that looks more like a sheep stable than a home. The water is gravity fed and the ancient man who lives there breaks up twigs to stoke the fire that heats the water for our showers. I wait outside while Father goes first. I can see clouds below us as I gaze down the mountain slopes. Iíve never looked down on clouds before, except from an airplane. I grasp a nearby tree.

Before long we are on the road to visit a group of ten missionaries at a town thirty minutes to the north. We have breakfast here, and Father gives spiritual direction to a couple of the missionaries from Michigan, and then strategizes with the group leader. They schedule masses, Stations of the Cross, confessions, and catechism classes.

Fr. Juan has arranged to take more than twenty young men from the Great Lakes region to the annual Mega-mission run by the Legionaries of Christ. Here we work with people of profound poverty and infectious joy. Most are Spanish-speaking indigenous Mexicans. In one town over the mountains to the north of us, where there has been less Spanish influence and intermarrying, most of the Indians speak only Nahuatl, a language common to the region. The missionaries in this town have been here before Ė seven years ago. They have devised a one-page, three-language dictionary consisting of key evangelizing and practical terms in Nahuatl, Spanish, and English. They can see the effects of the Protestant groups that have been very active in the region.

Several of the missionaries in our group are graduates of Everest Academy in Clarkston, MI. These young men, aged 15 to about 22, have given up ten days of their Easter break, are enduring challenging physical and cultural difficulties, and have paid several hundred dollars each to work as missionaries in Mexico. We are scattered in villages as far as six hours away from one another, grouped with Mexican missionaries to facilitate communication with the townsfolk.

During the course of this day we will visit five more groups like these. Father will hear confessions for hours on end, have a quick drink and bite to eat, then move on to the next town. Iím his driver, but only when he gets too tired and has to rely on me. As a Canadian, I am a fast driver, but Iím no match for a Mexican Ė too passive by half.

We come to a town where there are no missionaries, but the people have faith; they are building a new church. Father teaches me to say ďEl padre ya llego. Va a confessar.Ē Itís something about the priest being here and youíd better get yourself to confession. I have to write it down because I canít remember it. Itís an effort for Father to be patient with me. He points out that I am of limited use without fluency in Spanish. Iím already well aware of it. He tells me to go around the village, knock on doors, and send as many people to confession as I can.

The first place I come to has walls of corn stalks lashed together and a roof of corrugated tin and sections of plastic tarp. I walk all around it but I canít find a door to knock on. I look around for a house with a door. Later I come back to this one, when I have more experience.

The women of the town are happy to see me and do more than their part to facilitate communication. The men mostly laugh. It might be the crisp new red bandana they have given me to wear as a sort of missionary uniform. I am keenly aware that I have not seen a single Mexican wearing a bandana since I came to this country five days ago. If Mexicans themselves donít wear bandanas, then I have a lot of re-thinking to do. I take the bandana off and try to wrinkle it up some to give it a more weathered look. I use it to wipe the sweat off my neck and forehead. Now it looks like a wrinkled, wet, new bandana. The men still laugh, but I decide that I can accept the laughter Ė just donít put me in a big black cauldron of hot water and start dicing in carrots and onions. This is where Iíll draw the line.

In the end, Father hears confessions for about an hour and a half, and I recognize some of the people as those whom I met at their homes. Some of the men who laughed ended up at confession after all, smiling, pleasant. I feel like Iíve helped.

A woman from this town comes with us in the car when we leave. She wants Father to see her mother-in-law who has been confined to her house for a long time. We go as far as the car can go on the rocky trail, then get out and walk the remaining two hundred yards to the shack. Itís very primitive: dirt floor, cornstalk walls patched together with bits of cardboard, rocks and logs on top of the roof holding the corrugated tin in place. I stand outside with the husband, wife, and their son while Father hears the motherís confession. The boy plays with a discarded syringe as an American boy would play with a squirt gun. He squirts his dad on the backside as he bends down to pull a weed, and his mom takes the syringe away from him. The old woman is finished with her confession and Father calls me in to hold his kit of holy oil while he administers the sacrament of the sick. We carry the Blessed Sacrament with us, so he is also able to give her communion. Because of her illness, this may be the first time in several years that she has received communion. She is shaking and obviously in poor health. It is likely that this is the last time this woman will see a priest. You can see in her eyes how much this visit has meant to her.

I am overwhelmed at the difference between myself as a sincere layman and this missionary priest. What he can give to this woman by virtue of his priesthood is a world apart form what I could ever do for her. His priestly ministry, exercised in the stark simplicity of this peasant home, with nothing to distract or enhance, dissolves in my mind all concerns of scandals and news reports back home. Here I know for sure the nature of priesthood. Here I see with my own eyes how only a man who gives himself fully to God alone could exercise this wonderful vocation to its full potential. Here I see most poignantly that Christ gives us himself in the sacraments of the Church. What Father Juan brings to these people is nothing less than Christ himself Ė and they know it with all their hearts.

Father and I talk about these things as he drives to the next town. He confides that he loves these moments. It clearly invigorates him and drives him forward. The car moves faster as he talks about it. Itís Holy Thursday, and he is eager to get to the town of San Francisco where he will celebrate the Mass of the Last Supper. The missionaries, including three from Michigan, have the townsfolk gathered in the church waiting for us. Father celebrates mass after hearing a couple of hours of confessions. All goes off without a hitch.

I am impressed by the formation of the young men. They have all the elements of the integral formation that we espouse at Everest. They are intellectually prepared to teach the catechism, and they can communicate with the local people with varying competence. They have learned to be organized and work as part of a team, to apply themselves to the task at hand despite their working conditions. They have the personal relationship with Christ that animates their work. And above all this, they have apostolic zeal Ė a desire to share Christ with others.

And so on this Holy Thursday night, the night that Christ instituted the priesthood, with stops in other towns and more groups of missionaries and more confessions and another mass, we work our way from group to group. We stop just after 11 p.m. at a villa that has been donated to our group for the week. There are about twenty missionaries staying here. Father and I are both exhausted. He speaks to the leader of this group. In a few minutes heís back in the car and we head back to the same place where we woke up this morning. We get there close to midnight, and Father chats with the missionaries, encouraging them, as I unload the car and get our sleeping bags rolled out on the concrete. Iíll sleep well again tonight.

By Paul Flynn



Related articles
- On Mission with the Legion of Christ

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

Follow us on:   
Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

¿Deseas agregarEverest Peak Ė Easter in the Missions a tus favoritos?
  -    No