|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
Malinalco family mission is ongoing from year to year, the
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.
|A young missionary gets ready for the day.|
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,
|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
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’
|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.
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.
|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
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
|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
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
|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
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, 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.”
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
For more information about the Malinalco missions, visit the
new blogspot at www.missionmalinalco.org. For a closer look at this
year’s photos, visit the photo gallery here.