Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 17, 2003
Parishes step up for Mexico
Cochrane leads the way in raising $575,000 for Mission Mexico
By LESLIE DAVIES
Special to the WCR
Mission Mexico began as a Jubilee 2000 project for St. Mary's Parish, Cochrane; its goal was to raise $100,000 to build a new dormitory for a girls' orphanage run by the Sisters of Immaculate Mary in Tlapa.
Catholic parishes in Banff and Airdrie also joined the campaign. Not only did they exceed their goal before the end of jubilee year, but their enthusiasm was such that they, along with the Calgary parishes of St. Gerard, St. Patrick, St. James, St. Anthony and St. Bonaventure, decided they wanted to continue to reach out to the poor in Mexico.
In the three succeeding years, Mission Mexico has gone on to raise more than $575,000 to support 38 micro-economic projects in the mountain communities of the Diocese of Tlapa.
The Diocese of Tlapa is in an isolated region in the southern mountains of Guerrero state, one of the poorest regions in Mexico. There is a shocking lack of basic health services, water, electricity and road infrastructure, as well as a high rate of illiteracy, with boys often not receiving more than a primary school education and girls even less than that. The indigenous people suffer marginalization and indifference, or open discrimination and violation of their human rights.
The community projects supported so far by Mission Mexico are an effort to provide a source of income for people in this region. The projects have included - banana, sugar cane and gladiola cultivation; potatoes, cactus and chilies; women's sewing, embroidery and weaving groups; goats and pigs and cattle; organic fertilizer, ecological latrines and natural medicine; catechism training, Bible study groups and diocesan commissions.
One area most in need of funding in the Diocese of Tlapa is education. Bishop Alejo said it is an area they have wanted to strengthen for some time, but have not had the funds to do so before. Thus Mission Mexico, while continuing to support some, though fewer, micro-projects, will turn more attention to education in the coming year.
One education project getting started in the diocese is a Catholic high school run by the Marist Brothers in the village of Potoichan, about two hours from Tlapa. The extreme poverty in which most people of the Monta¤a live has been noted by many studies as due to a lack of education. The brothers are convinced the cry for education is a call from God.
Therefore, they have been working for the last couple of years to begin an education project to respond to the needs expressed by the community.
At the moment, they hold classes in the rectory, but are negotiating for a suitable piece of land. The people of the village have committed to helping build the school. They will provide the labour; Mission Mexico will provide funds for the building materials. It is hoped that all will be in place by the spring of 2004.
The high school in Potoichan is meant for the poor and indigenous people not only of the local area, but of the entire diocese of Tlapa. The intention is that it will be a self-sustaining boarding school, complete with vegetable gardens, fruit trees and animals.
Although the main requirement for admission will be a desire to learn, the program will not be free: families will be expected to provide what they can within their means (a sack of corn or beans, a chicken or turkey or goat) and the students will be expected to work at the school, helping with the gardens and animals and doing maintenance.
The brothers' concern is not only with passing on academic knowledge, but also with the development of the whole person and a desire to serve.
Because the brothers are relying on the participation of the villagers for materials and labour, the classrooms and hostel will be developed as the means are provided. Assistance from Mission Mexico would be an answer to the prayers of the brothers and of the villagers of Potoichan.
There are so few education opportunities for the poor in the Monta.a region. With this school, the Marist Brothers are opening the doors to hope to the future. Mission Mexico can help them do that.