Our Diocesan Relationships with Mexico

The Diocese of St. Cloud has some wonderful connections in Mission with Mexico. Our Diocesan relationships are deeply rooted in the mission experiences of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, as well as Maryknoll priest Fr. Eugene Theisen. Find out about these missioners and connections, and hear about experiences visiting Mexico.


Franciscan Sisters

franciscans_mexicoThe Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls have a community house in Nuevo León, in the Diocese of Linares, Mexico. They have been living and ministering there since June, 2003. Their ministry in Nuevo León includes a formation house and education for young women.  In June of 2010, two Mexican women who had been living, praying and ministering with the Franciscans in Mexico for a number of years, and who were at that time in the Franciscan Novitiate, took their final professions into the community. Please join us in praying for newly professed Sisters Aurora and Isabel!

“WHAT DID YOU GO TO SEE?”

The following is a write-up by Little Falls Franciscan Sisters Pat Forster, Rose Mae Rausch, Janice Wiechman and Collette Toenies written in 2004 about a visit by seminarians and priest from Minnesota to their community.

Five Seminarians from St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, MN and Fr. Jose Santiago, OP of Holy Rosary Parish in Minneapolis, spent two weeks with us here in the parish of San Rafael, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The immersion experience raised new questions for the seminarians:

“Why would Our Lady of Guadalupe be in the center of the altar backdrop instead of a cross of Christ?”

mexicoOur Lady of Guadalupe is pregnant; it is the 12th of December when she appeared to Juan Diego. Jesus is born the 25th of December. Jesus is there, in the center, in the uterus of Mary. There is of course a stronger attachment to Mary since Mary is with the people in the villages, in the rosary and in devotion, while the Eucharist is not, since there is no priest to visit the village except once a year at the time of multiple baptisms or weddings. “Why would Fr. Gerardo, the parish priest, have nine Masses on Saturday and eight or nine on Sunday?” With 54 villages, he gets to only a small portion of the villages for Mass and these are villages close to the parish center. On the bad roads it can take two hours to go 31 miles. The people in the mountain villages have been abandoned when it comes to sacraments. They are learning to celebrate the Word every Sunday in their community, since the Sisters are providing this training.

Since this is the year of the International Eucharistic Congress, there is a good deal of HOPE that the Eucharist can be offered in a Comm Service in the villages. Each village will have to prepare Eucharistic Ministers and then the presence of the Blessed Sacrament can be petitioned for the village. The Sisters will bring consecrated hosts to the villages so that the Comm Service can be celebrated.

“Why would the people live on beans and rice if there are fresh fruits and vegetables?”

The people work in these fields but the products are shipped off to the U.S.A. for sale.

“Why isn’t there more creativity, more affirmation of innovative work or efforts to make sure the children get an education?”

With President Fox, more positive things have happened, but his cabinet is not all of the same persuasion that he is and thus “some things don’t happen.” Children often receive only primary education. Some elements in the government do not want en educated, articulate citizenry who will demand justice.

“What are the s like? Are there s?”

In the former presidency s were a source of identifying the enemy; those who protested low wages or lack of human rights publicly would most probably lose their life. Now, President Fox is open to s, but his political support is limited on the Cabinet.

What did you go to see? A reed shaken in the desert? A prophet? Yes, indeed, but you saw much more than a prophet. For John is the one of whom the scripture says: “God said, I will send my messenger ahead of you to open the way for you.” (Matthew 11:7-12) The seminarians went to learn, to see, to know. They saw One greater than themselves calling them to see the strength of family life. They saw that we, the people of the United States, have a voice. People without an education often have no voice, thus we are called to a “preferential option for the poor.” The lack of opportunities and education for many in the parish of San Rafael means lack of energy, lack of organization, and lack of resources. We, the people of the United States, must be “careful” as ministers, very careful that we see “the reed blowing in the wind” as a sign, a sign of One coming who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven and is greater than John.

Were there disappointments among the seminary group? Yes, there were disappointments; it was a disappointment to find that it was not comfortable to live as the people live. It was not comfortable to travel on tough roads. It was not comfortable to speak in Spanish. It was uncomfortable to start so many celebrations forty minutes late. Were there joys? Yes, there were joys. It was a joy to learn more Spanish and feel motivated to study Spanish more in depth. It was a joy to be present for festival after festival of weddings, baptisms, farewells, and Quinceaneras. (a celebration of the teen turning fifteen). It was a joy to be with the Franciscan Sisters as they offered hospitality and ministerial service and love. It was a joy to see the beautiful family life. It was a joy to come back to Minnesota with a broadened concept of church – a universal church, a poor church. One seminarian summed it up: “Everything belongs to God, every culture, race, food, and prayer.”

franciscans_sanrafaelRead more about the Franciscan Sisters in Mexico in past newsletters (contact the Mission Office for these editions):

  1. Winter 2011
  2. Spring 2009
  3. Spring 2008

 


Fr. Eugiene Theisen, MM

Sierra Exif JPEGFr. Eugiene Theisen is a Maryknoll priest from our diocese. He was born in Wadena, MN and attended St. Ann’s grade school and St. John’s Prep School before attending seminary. After ordination at Maryknoll, Fr. Eugiene spent the majority of his ministry, 36 years, in Chile. Then in 1989 he moved to Mexico, where he has been living and ministering among the Mayan people ever since. The following is an article written in 2004 about his ministry at that time.

Having worked with the Mapuche Indians in southern Chile for some 37 years, learned their language and customs, I had to leave because the cold, humid winters of June, July, and August, finally got to me. I wanted to continue to work with indigenous peoples, so I volunteered to work in the Maryknoll mission in Yucatan, Mexico, with the Mayan people. They are the second largest indigenous group in Mexico, numbering some 500,000.

The Mexican government has educational programs by which children in grade school study the indigenous language and customs of the area. The Mayan people communicate among themselves in Maya and with others in Spanish. When I arrived some ten years ago I learned that the Bible had been translated in Maya with the joint effort of the Catholic Church along with several Protestant groups. However, that edition was no longer available.

Since people love to sing, my first effort was to contact some religious who are Maya and knew a number of religious songs in Maya. We went to a layman who produces many charismatic songs on tapes and had a tape made with songs in Maya for use at Mass. The tape was well received by the priests of the Archdiocese of Yucatan along with their parishioners. Now in our Masses we sing only in Maya.

Since no written catechetical material existed in Maya, I decided to tackle that problem. At Maryknoll, N.Y. I came across a Bible History printed in various languages and sponsored by the Catholic Church in Germany. I wrote to Germany asking whether they would sponsor the translation of the Bible History in Maya. The e-mail answer was affirmative.

Since I was new in Yucatan and did not master the Mayan language, I asked a nun belonging to the same group that sang in Maya for the tape to translate the Old Testament part. She is adept in writing Maya since she teaches the language to the postulants and novices of the congregation. The next step was to contact the priest who teaches Maya in the major seminary. I asked him to translate the New Testament part of the Bible History.

The Bible History in Maya has now been printed and distributed in the numerous parishes of the Archdiocese which have a large Maya population and also in the adjoining dioceses of Campeche and Quintana Roo. The Mayan people are happy to learn the history of God’s people in their own native language. This is an effort to put into effect the message of Pope John Paul II when he visited this area over twelve years ago, namely that the Mayan people should foster and appreciate their own culture, their language and customs and of course their Catholic heritage.
Read more about the Fr. Eugiene’s Ministry in past newsletters (contact the Mission Office for this edition):

  1. Winter 2010

bro_kinneyBrother Sylvester Kinney, OSB

Brother Sylvester Kinney, OSB is originally from the Glenwood-Villard, Minnesota area of our diocese.  He has been living with the Benedictine community in Cuautitlán Izcalli, Mexico since 1967.  There he serves his religious brothers and the Benedictine High School there in the area of mechanical maintenance.  The following is an early 2012 letter from Brother Sylvester:

2011 gone, but still time to look back and remember how it went.  It was mostly good things, some surprises and some disappointments.  Very few trips to the doctors for one thing; which meant less time wasted and trapped in traffic.  We were lucky to maintain practically the same number of students as we had in 2010.  Very few private schools could do this.  We are having meetings to smooth out a few details in our plans for building a large greenhouse for the use of the Biology department and to use about half of it to grow vegetables and maybe berries or flowers.

The thing that could be called my biggest disappointment would have to be the flop I did on my gardening this year.  There is going to have to be some improvement to production to warrant some commitment to continue spending time in that kind of hobby.  That was a lot of water for so few peas, beans and tomatoes.  The weather didn’t cooperate at all being so dry and hot in the beginning of the year, then as soon as I got the tomatoes set out and started, the first two rains came with a dose of hail.  I have a shack with a 1250 gallon water tank and a 250 gallon one on the roof.  That one is about 20 feet above the garden level and I hope it will help me with a drip type irrigation method.

Thank you for continuing to share the St. Cloud Diocese mission news with me.  It is so comforting to know so many are involved in spreading the Gospel.

May God’s blessings grow in our world, more successfully than even the most fruitful garden!

 


BorderLinks

Many diocesan parishioners have traveled individually or as groups through the BorderLinks program – a program that gives a first hand immersion experience on the border of the US and Mexico. For more information on BorderLinks, visit their website at: www.borderlinks.org   Peggy Stockman, of St. Mary’s Parish in Melrose, wrote the following reflection after participating in a BorderLinks trip.

Some trips come and go but our mission trip to Mexico in early March with BorderLinks continues to convert my heart and expand my awareness of the complexity of immigration issues. BorderLinks, an ecumenical outreach in Tucson, Arizona, is dedicated to educating and helping groups, like ours from St. Mary’s Church in Melrose, to experience first hand various border issues. A question that surfaces as I continue to process all we saw and heard is, “How do I look at these issues from a faith perspective?”

The fractured economy of Mexico is complicated. Progress is stalemated because of internal corruption and the financial power of the oligarchy which controls much of the country. Another significant factor in the economy is the impact of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Whereas before NAFTA many individual farmers could sustain themselves with the price they received for their corn, coffee and beans, the prices have now plummeted because of free trade. Cheaper, and often inferior, crops from other countries have glutted the market. Simply to survive many are forced to look for work in border factories or in the United States.

The population of Nogales, a border town we visited, has swelled from 40,000 to 400,000 in the last 10 years. Cheap labor is attractive for the 85 foreign-owned factories built during the past 10 years. $.60 per hour is better than starvation. Yet, thousands are out of work now because 15 factories have pulled out and moved to China where the labor force is even cheaper.

I usually shop for price. I participate in corporate greed. Before this trip I had given little thought to where goods were made or the living conditions of the people who made them. I was ignorant of injustices, such as when poor Mexican people were forced to relocate their neighborhood because a US company wanted to build on the same property. Even after 2 years, many of their hastily built shacks lack electricity.

In Altar, Mexico, where many people gather before they cross the border, we met Father Rene. His leadership in evangelizing his parish, and as an advocate for justice, is amazing. Together they have built and staffed a center which offers counseling, food and floor space for immigrants. When I asked him if his seminary training or his family upbringing had given him his zeal, he said no. “I came and I saw.” When he went to the city square he saw no one reaching out to the migrants. His conversion followed. We came and saw. I pray for the same conversion of heart.

How do we take seriously Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 that what we do for the least we do for Him? I cannot forget the faces and stories of people I met who are forced to uproot and face perilous risks so their families can simply survive. Are our immigration laws just? There are practical, legal and economic issues regarding immigration, yet questions surface for me. Do I listen to my conscience over the law of the land? Can I live more simply so that others can simply live?

We were a community of 12 travelers and 2 guides traveling together for 5 days in a van. Although we were the travelers, our group was deeply grateful for the pray-ers and generous givers back home in Melrose who helped make the trip possible. The trip was filled with humor and joy. We laughed with those who had not had a chance to shower, or who had graciously eaten yet another bean meal served by our hosts. It seemed a paradox to us that the people we met who have so little could be so joyful. Their joy was infectious.


Megan-BehrensLay Missioner answers call

Megan Behrens, a young adult woman who was part of the worshiping community of the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa parish cluster, answered the call to be a lay missioner through the Family Missions Company, and is now living and serving in General Cepeda, Mexico.  You can read more about her call and the call we all share to mission through our baptism in the Winter 2014 (PDF) newsletter.