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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Not Your Average Spring Breakers
40 young missionaries serve Cancun’s local people on humanitarian and evangelization missions.

bishop lays hands on missionary girl
During the commissioning Mass, Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo lays hands on a young missionary's head.

April 12, 2010. Quintana Roo, Mexico. With its pristine white beaches and turquoise waters, the Cancún area of the Quintana Roo peninsula is Mexico’s prime tourist attraction. Unfortunately, it is also a magnet for American students who descend in droves and party themselves into a stupor during the holy days of the Sacred Triduum and Easter Sunday.

This year, a group of American students came to Quintana Roo with a very different purpose. On Friday, March 26, a group of 22 young women and 18 young men from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, landed in the Cancún airport to participate in Holy Week missions among the local people, staying until Easter Monday on April 5.

Their mission began with a special
whole group of missionaries with bishop of Cancun
The entire group of missionaries poses with Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo of Cancun.
Mass with Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo, bishop of the Quintana Roo prelature. In his homily, he invited all of the missionaries (including many Mexicans who were also on missions in the local area), to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit and to be true apostles of Christ during the missions.

Afterwards, the missionaries split up into two groups: the young men went off to do their mission inland in the tiny town of Polyuc (with less than 1,000 inhabitants), while the girls headed to Puerto Morelos, a tourist town just south of Cancún.

A labor of love

In Polyuc, accompanied by Fr Jason Wallace, LC, the young men got to work fixing up the local parish church, which was approximately 500 years old and, as one missionary put it, “in great need of a fresh coat of paint.” Although the sun took its toll on the young men, they worked on until the interior was completed, with the artwork restored and whitewash applied to the walls—just in time for the Easter Vigil Mass, celebrated by Fr Jason Wallace, since the
boys working on grotto project
The boys worked on breathing new life into the 500-year-old parish church of Polyuc.
town did not have its own priest.

After the Mass, the townspeople and the missionaries processed out to the grotto, where they placed a new statue of Our Lady on a pedestal and then paused to sing some Marian hymns and pray.

“It was a great ending to our mission trip to Polyuc,” said one of the missionaries.

Meanwhile, the young women found Puerto Morelos to be a city of contrasts. The beachfront side of town is beautiful and developed, with all of the conveniences and services that international tourists expect. The other side of the town, facing the jungle, is rife with poverty.

Seeing this contrast, the young women decided to go to the wealthier side of town to give witness and collect alms from the tourists. Surprised to see such a different group of spring breakers, many tourists donated, and the girls collected over $200. They then returned to the poorer
girls on missions fixing classrooms
The girls in Puerto Morelos work to prepare the way for catechesis classrooms in Our Lady of Guadalupe parish.
side of town with their donation.

Together Fr Daniel Hennessy, LC, two missionary families and consecrated women Mary Schwarz and Ceci Canovas, the young women got to work clearing, painting and cementing the the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish to prepare the way to build two classrooms for catechesis, with the materials that their fundraising made possible. 

Both the young men and the young women lived the Sacred Triduum and Easter liturgies with the townspeople, and organized activities for the children and youth of the towns, including a living stations of the cross in which about 5 of the missionaries participated in as townspeople.   The missionaries also took charge of bringing the sacraments to the homebound or to those living in remote areas on the outskirts of town.

Change of perspective

For many of the missionaries, the trip was a completely different experience of Holy Week.

“It’s sometimes hard to live
missionaries with bishop Pedro Pablo
A group of boy missionaries pose with Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo of Cancun.
Holy Week at home because it can become like every Holy Week before it or like any other spring break,” said Kate Zirpoli, from Pittsburgh. “But being able to remove myself from what is so ordinary to me and to offer something to the One who sacrificed it all for me… that is what I did this Holy Week!”

Neither group spoke Spanish, which was a challenge when it came to some logistical matters. But when it came to the deeper purpose of the mission, language was no barrier at all.

As one of the missionaries said, “It didn’t matter, because the language of Christ is the same across the board. It’s love.”



Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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

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