Site Visits to Mexico, November 2015
Faby Gomez and Sr. Marcia went to Mexico City later in November to attend the leadership conference (CRIM) there and to visit 2 projects we have funded. CRIM is a member of the larger Latin American conference, CLAR, which includes leadership conferences from 22 countries. Some CLAR members who were from other Latin American countries were present, and we were able to reach the major superiors of several other countries. We stayed at the Daughters of Charity provincial house and retirement center. They provided transportation for us to the conference and the ministry sites.
As the leadership conference had no simultaneous translation, Faby made the longer presentation in Spanish to the sisters (and some brothers and priests) about our Hilton Fund for Sisters. I had managed to practice my pronunciation with Faby and Miriam during the prior weeks, and so was able to deliver some paragraphs in Spanish. The group seemed to appreciate my attempt although I’m sure the accent was far from perfect. They were very receptive to our message, and we believe we have made some good contacts. The sisters indicated that the greatest ministerial need in Mexico and Central and South America is to address widespread human trafficking and migration. In most cases these two ministries are interrelated. We are hoping to receive requests for collaborative ministries to provide help for migrants and trafficking victims and for education as a preventive means to attack these problems.
Faby and I visited the Daughters of Charity nursing school, Fundación Marillac A.C., that we have funded. The students have benefited from the equipment we provided, including the lifelike models that respond to treatment with realistic coughs and breathing, and surgical equipment. The school seems to be managed very well by the sisters who also teach there.
We also visited a site within the city where the sisters minister to women mostly from the street who have been “discarded” because they are now too old for prostitution: in their late 20s or 30s. While we were there, a number of women had come in for a hot lunch provided by the sisters. We also saw a sister working with a small group on skills that can broaden the women’s prospects for employment.
Faby stayed in Mexico and traveled to Guadalajara where she visited the “Child Development Institute of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” a project that we had funded last year. After the conference in Mexico, it became clear that this project was a perfect example of the sisters’ needs in their efforts to minister to the people in the area of human trafficking and migration. Families are fleeing generalized violence in drug trafficking from the states of Sinaloa and Michacan to Guadalajara. They leave their jobs, properties and families. This has caused a dramatic increase of population in the poorest district of Guadalajara and an increase of social phenomena such as child labor, trafficking, drug dealings, theft, and domestic violence. The migrants are also targeted by the traffickers. The sisters in this particular project help the displaced families by providing educational support to the teenagers for later integration to public schools. They also train the women in cooking skills so that they can find work at the nearby sweet bread factories, an important business in Guadalajara, or for personal small businesses and in prevention against trafficking. The migrants, particularly the children, have to be protected and cannot be left alone in the streets. The sisters are currently serving 120 children and several groups of women. The funds were used according to the grant agreement to purchase cooking equipment that is now used in the trainings.
Faby also visited several convents in Tepatitlan, a safer city east of Guadalajara. Speaking with the sisters there helped her to better understand the situation of violence in Mexico and how it is reflected in the sisters’ ministries. At one of the convents, the sisters recounted the case of trafficking of one of their own members. The sister, fully professed, was allured by a trafficker while going to the market and has been missing since then.
Stories like these involving religious were brought up frequently during the trip. There is a general sense of hopelessness throughout Mexico. But the sisters seem more resilient in their service to disadvantaged populations and have found ways to bring hope and love.
Finally, concluding her trip to Mexico, Faby visited the town of El Salto, south of Guadalajara. While there, with the help of a priest friend, a mini-conference for sisters of Guadalajara had been organized. The participating sisters were mostly from the poorest areas of the city. Faby presented information on the FFS services, and was invited to attend the Holy Mass and given lunch. We are hoping to receive requests for collaborative work in this region, too, as migrants and trafficking victims have become a common concern there as well.