LATIN AMERICAThe community of Christ, Savior and Lord
“Every community needs to have a memory and a vision that allow it to examine and determine from where it eventually emerged and where it wants to go.” Thus began the prologue of the book “Some men say…” one of the only historical resources documenting the history of the province of Mexico, written by Fr. William WATSON.
Quoting these lines
from the foreword, written by Bishop Michael PFEIFER, I would like to share the
story of a community to the east of Mexico City.
To beautify the main roads to the city center, many families had to leave their homes and were forced to live in a region known as “Ejidos de Santa Cruz Meyehualco”. Many of them arrived in garbage trucks.
The area was almost a desert, with much dust and yellow soil, without water and with plenty to do. It is said that around 10 May 1979, at one of the only trees that existed in the region, the people embraced as a sign of solidarity, which is why this place is called the “10 May” and the tree became known as “The Friendship Tree.” People say that this tree was watered more with tears than with water, and at that time, it provided shade and was a meeting point where they also made decisions.
Soon there arose the normal problems of a new settlement with some not accepting their new reality, and with the rivalry of people coming from different parts of the city; besides that, it was coupled with the frustration of the people of the town of Meyehualco who were reclaiming their land that was seized by the government for this new settlement.
This was the community that the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate encountered. Around 1986, the people say that Frs. Ricardo JUNIUS and Carlos KRZEWINSKI arrived. They were from the United States. Fr. Junius began inviting people to the Eucharist by walking through the streets of the settlement with a bell. They taught the community to work together. For this, they founded evangelization communities throughout the parish. The Oblates encouraged people to organize themselves so they could live with the dignity that they deserve, and in fact they sometimes protested to the authorities about the poor quality of the drainage pipe installed in the new colony.
Then came Fr. Yvan TREMBLAY, of Canadian origin, who concerned himself especially with the women struggling alone or, if they had a partner, could not count on him. He founded the Center for Poor Women “CEMPO” with the purpose of getting the women trained for the workplace with a trade so they could take care of more of their needs at home.
Many Oblates have passed through this community and with the enthusiasm of the parish priests, they have built the parish church called “Christ the Savior and Lord.” Today the faces of the poor have changed; now the streets are paved and the delegation offers many services. The small houses are now made of concrete, and condominiums have also appeared. But there are still many needs, and there is now a vast region of unplanned settlements where people live in very poor conditions. However there are many groups and communities in the parish that give life to the parish in its various sectors, chapels and communities. The Friendship Tree no longer exists, but in its place there is now a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe. But the parish community never forgets its missionaries and with gratitude they say: “How can we forget that the Oblates came to keep us company and stay with us when we were alone and abandoned.” (Roberto P. TOLENTINO)
On November 1, Fr. Roberto DURETTE, a longtime missionary in Bolivia, wrote to Brother Augustin COTÉ in the USA about the remembrance of the deceased in November.
Here in Bolivia on this 1st of November everything comes to a halt... the feast of Todos Santos. The accent is put more on the dead than on the saints. In fact according to customs, the dead return to earth at noon time to visit with family and friends and the next day, they return to their resting place. To receive the souls or almas, families, who have had a member die during the year, are busy putting up a very decorated table (tumba) on which is deposited a picture of the dead, his or her favorite food, flowers etc. A week before, family and friends are invited to come on this day to pray for the deceased and share the food and drink that the family has prepared. The invitation comes with a plate of small breads called tantawawas. Today the streets are full of people going from house to house, visiting the tumbas, to pray and eat. The belief is that the dead stay until tomorrow (2 November) at noontime. Then it´s time to visit the cemetery where a fiesta is prepared next to the tomb where the dead have been placed: time to put aside the mourning period and rejoice. It is common to hear bands playing the favorite music enjoyed by the dead during their lifetime. We could call it a celebration of life. It´s a far cry from the U.S. where people are not prone to visit cemeteries and the dead are hardly remembered. I have come to the conclusion that we could learn something from these ancient Andean cultures that are closer to the human realities of life and death.
As for my work in this mining district of Siglo XX, I continue being involved in communication. As I told you in my last letter, we are setting up small radio stations in some important villages of our region, promoting the participation of the indigenous people in the process of their awareness and development, thus creating a small network that we think will help diminish poverty, discrimination etc…
As we live in a mining region where there are several small mines, contamination of the air and rivers is a major problem affecting the health of our people. We have organized meetings, workshops to create awareness in the people so that government, local authorities and organizations get together to take measures to diminish the pollution and thus protect the lives of our people. This is not an easy task but one that is worthwhile. It’s very frustrating at times because the economy of the region is involved. Opposition is strong. But it is our commitment to Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation.
My best to all the Oblates, especially to those who are still spending energy and effort in spreading the Gospel of Jesus in different parts of the world! Take care. (Gus’ News Notes, November 2013)