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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Malinalco Missions 2010
Combined group of Mexican and American families share a Holy Week of committed service.

procession in Malinalco
A moment during one of the processions in Malinalco.

April 16, 2010. Malinalco, Mexico. Every year, an international family mission takes place in the small town of Malinalco, just outside Mexico City, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. This year, a group of about 60 Americans, Canadians, New Zealanders, and South Africans joined forces with about 40 Mexicans to serve the town’s parish and people.

The result: a huge, noisy, yet productive family—with 5-year-old children running and skipping alongside an 80-year old grandmother— gathered in an atmosphere of infectious joy and enthusiasm.

Not a flash in the pan

Since the Malinalco family mission is ongoing from year to year, the
Malinalco girl missionary
A young missionary gets ready for the day.
missionaries’ work is long-term and committed, and they have had the chance to form relationships with the local people. Those who have been involved in the mission longest are keenly sensitive to their role as servants, not as tourists or spectators. They feel that Malinalco is their town too, and they care about how its local people are doing.

Last year, the main service project was a complete renovation of the garden and grounds of a small parish up in the hills just outside the main town. The grounds project also included the construction of a brand new Marian grotto in the front yard of the church—an essential element for an intensely Marian people.

This year, the parish project continued,
garden project
A view of the parish garden project in progress.
as the missionaries extended the grounds project to the land behind the chapel, now beautifully landscaped with stones, trees, and decorative bushes. They also gave the church a fresh coat of paint and fixed the roof of the local school.

Aside from the construction and repair projects, the missionaries also prepared a week’s worth of fun activities for the local children, including a soccer tournament on Thursday with 230 children divided into 14 teams. During the weekdays, they also visited the local people with door-to-door visits, sharing their faith with a deeply hospitable people who are always disposed to welcome guests.

This year, an unexpected gift was in store for the town’s sick and poor. The local religious congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan is planning to build a hospital in Malinalco, and the only thing slowing down the construction process is the need for funding.

Witnessing the sisters’
Good Samaritan religious
Some missionaries and Fr Peter Devereux, LC, pray with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, a local religious congregation.
joy, enthusiasm, and love, one of the missionaries decided to help them with a substantial donation. Another missionary, seeing his example, decided to contribute an equal amount. There was a need, a desire to help, and a generous gift that will make the sisters’ plans a reality in no time.

Hidden under the ordinary

In their door-to-door visits to the local people, the missionaries got to know some of the “ordinary saints” who are sprinkled through Mexico’s small towns. These are men and women who live in simplicity and poverty, who put on no airs of holiness, and who live the Gospel message to the full.

One man, Tomas, was accidentally shot in the head 25 years ago. He survived, but lives with partial paralysis down one half of his body, a permanent speech impediment, and great difficulty moving and getting about. After the accident, his brothers were eager to “take care” of the person who shot him, paying back an eye for an eye.

But Tomas insisted: “I want you to know that I don’t want any of you to do anything. Don’t even say anything. I will live with this.
missionary with man in Malinalco
One of the missionaries talks with a man from Malinalco.
I will not allow the vengeance to continue. It will stop right here.”

And he continued his life, caring for his nine children, loving his wife Carolina, and accepting the reality of God’s will in his body. As in many families, other sorrows and gifts touched their lives deeply. His last child, named Angel, was given a week to live. Today, Angel is four years old. He suffers from a very bad eye, but is otherwise a healthy boy. Through it all, Tomas simply accepts and keeps giving with an open heart.

Moved by his witness, Fr Peter Devereux, LC, invited him to come to the Vigil Mass on Saturday with his family. The missionaries stopped by his house and picked him up. On his way to the Mass, Tomas mentioned that he wanted to say some words of thanks to
setting up a tree in Malinalco garden
Young missionaries plant a new palm tree in the parish garden.
the community at some point, so Fr Peter invited him to come up and speak after the homily.

Tomas’ brief message, articulated slowly and painfully, was simple and sincere. “I want to thank the missionaries for coming all the way to my home. You have brought love, and I just want to thank you. I also want to thank the Sisters of the Good Samaritan because they have helped my family so much.”

Afterwards, Fr Peter reflected, “When you’re there in person and you see him and speak to him and you see how much he loves God, you realize you’re in the presence of someone who is very ordinary and very holy. He can hardly walk and talk. But there is something special inside.”

Our Lady’s people

On another occasion, there were signs of Our Lady’s quiet but effective work on her people’s hearts. With the living image of Our Lady of
soccer tourn in Malinalco
A moment during the soccer tournament with local children and missionaries.
Guadalupe enthroned in the country’s heart, it is no surprise that the Mexican people have a deep, heartfelt devotion to their Mother.

Yet, under the influence of several Protestant groups with aggressive proselytism tactics, some have fallen away from the Church with its sacraments and its Mother.

Last year, while Fr Peter was walking down the street near the small chapel with its renovated garden, he met a mother who told him that she had left the Church some years ago, had become Protestant, and was now attending the evangelical church down the road every Sunday. They had a long talk, shook hands, and parted ways.

This year, as Fr Peter went strolling by their house, he heard a voice calling him, “Father, come in! I need to speak to you!” It was the same woman from last year, but with a very different story. She told him that she has been working for a family in Malinalco with a big picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe hanging on a wall in the house. And for the past two weeks, that
Fr Paul Moreau hearing confessions
Fr Paul Moreau, LC, hears the confession of a local woman.
picture has been haunting her.

“For the past two weeks, I’ve felt the Blessed Mother calling me,” she said. “I don’t know what for, so I decided to go to Mass the other day… and I just wanted you to know because I want to come back to the Catholic faith.”

For Fr Peter, and for many of the missionaries, this year’s mission in Malinalco was a chance to catch glimpses of God at work. He is the protagonist of the mission; he and his Mother are the ones loving their people and reaching out to meet their spiritual and physical needs. But what a privilege for a missionary to realize that in spite of our personal limitations, God can use us too.

For more information about the Malinalco missions, visit the new blogspot at For a closer look at this year’s photos, visit the photo gallery here.



Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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