Ines Gizzarelli, RSHM, moved to Amacuzac, Mexico in November 2011 and has recorded an account of her early experiences there:
Before I left to come here, I was asked what my RSHM sisters do in Mexico and what I will be doing. We do our best to be a 'presence' in this town of 7,000 people with one church and about 22,000 people in the ten tiny pueblos attached to Amacuzac. Most have little 'chapels' to celebrate liturgies once a week or every other week, and those pueblos that don't have 'chapels', celebrate liturgies outside of other people's homes as did the early Christian communities during Mark, the Evangelist's time. The church of St. Francis of Assisi is the hub of this community, where their faith is nourished and, hopefully, some of their needs met.
Our home, as you can see below, is situated just a few blocks from the center of town, surrounded by small stores that provide for the needs of the people living here. These are shops with simple homes attached. We live amidst a cross-section of our church community members: the poor, merchants, city workers, artisans; less than 1% are teachers, doctors and lawyers.
This is Sr. Vicky Garza, RSHM at the front entrance to our home.
We have a lovely garden, with fruit and flower trees surrounding it. A tiny round chapel that fits four people comfortably is on the left. Inside the house is a large kitchen with a dining area just beyond the front door. Each of us has our own room, plus two guest rooms. We have hot water and screens on all our windows and doors leading outside. We have a living room and a TV as well as an office. On the roof we wash our clothes and hang them out to dry (which takes less time than a dryer!) The sun shines every day.
One of my cousins asked how hard the transition has been for me. I have not found it hard to adjust because of the welcome of the two sisters I live with, as well as the warm hospitality of our other sisters in Cuernavaca and Mexico, D.F. who have made my transition very easy. I enjoy the company of the sisters I live with. We laugh a lot, listen to each other and, of course, pray together. It is the faith life of my RSHM sisters and the people I have come to know in these past two months that is nourishing me. Life is good and simple.
Because I really wish to speak Spanish well, so I can be of some use here, I have been studying the language with not one, but two teachers. My Spanish is still a mixture of my Italian, Portuguese, French and English. When I can't remember the word in Spanish, I'll say it in another language and more often than not, I'm understood! But it's the verbs and their tenses that really get to me!
So, now, getting back to what I mean by 'presence' here in Amacuzac. The "Welcome" page of our website states that we "have taken to heart the words of Jesus, 'I have come so that all may have life.' [We] seek to direct our prayer, ourselves, and our resources to those areas where life is vulnerable, opportunities are scarce, and human dignity is threatened."
Here in Amacuzac, there are many ways we try to do this. These are just a few examples:
Sr. Vicky has a few Bible study groups during the week from Monday to Friday. They break open the Word to make it relevant to their lives.
Sr. Vicky also has a 'cooperative farm' in a pueblo within driving distance where she goes about once a week. She has a group of women from around the area who work the land, plant seeds, pick vegetables for their families, and also sell them.
Once every six weeks on a Saturday, we take turns with other priests of the Diocese giving reflections on the Sunday readings over the Radio Station 103.7 in Jojutla.
I have just begun to use my music in various ways during liturgies and meetings that Srs. Vicky and Arce have with others. Sr. Arce has asked me to help her in forming a choir or two in some of the nearby Pueblos.
We have meetings with priests in the area once or twice a month and once a month a retreat with religious in the diocese. We also have meetings with a small youth group. I am using my music with them as well as the Circle Dancing I learned on my Sabbatical in Ireland last March. We're also planning to have a prayer day for vocations with interested young women.
We attend meetings with the liturgical ministers in the parish, visit the sick, bring communion to them, and celebrate the Liturgy of the Word with a communion service in different chapels of the pueblos or outside someone's home like the one in the picture.
Sr. Vicky leads them in prayer and gives the reflection on the scriptures and I have begun to lead them in song!
And finally, one more example of what we do involves bringing bags of groceries - 'las dispensas' to needy families. These are prepared by a group of women in the parish.
These pictures are of one of these families who receive 'dispensas'/groceries. They have left a profound impression on me. The young woman on the left, Veronica, is the 18 year old daughter of Victoria, who has been paralyzed for ten years now. She cannot speak or move and her daughter cares for her every need, feeding and cleaning her.
Many of the families we visit live in very poor areas and in poor conditions. If they have chickens, turkeys, pigs, etc., they live among them. So, conditions are not sanitary. This is a big problem.
I can go on and on...as many of you know I can!!! But I will stop here for now. I hope this has given you some idea of what it is we are about here in Amacuzac.
I want to close with the last part of a final prayer we used this evening at a meeting with our small youth group: "Para que cuantos conviven conmigo o se acerquen a mi encuentren en mi vida, un poquito de TI." (Translation: "For those who live with me or encounter me in my life, [may they find] a little bit of You.")
Let us pray for hearts filled with compassion and peace.
From my heart....to yours,
Sr. Vicky, RSHM, Sr. Arce, RSHM, and Sr. Ines, RSHM.