By: Sr. Felicitas Aranda
Mission for me in Oaxaca Mexico is a childhood dream. I had a deep desire to help the people of Mexico ever since I heard of their religious persecution and the martyrdom of Fr. Miguel Pro S.J. This was renewed in 1986 when I met Sr. Cyril Jacko. I was invited to join her in Mexico.
I came to Ozxaca on March 2, 1987. The smallness of the Airport, the colonial charm of the city, the simply dressed folks, the warm friendship of the people gave me the feeling of being at home from the day I arrived.
Eleven Spoken Languages
Language was a problem the first few months. No one would believe that I, Filipina, would have such meager knowledge of Spanish, but at least I knew it well enough to understand and be understood. Oaxaca has the most indigenous population and has eleven or more spoken languages. This presents a problem at work in the hospital where we encounter a lot of indigent patients who speak little or no Spanish.
Filipinos and Mexicans have many in common. I myself have often been mistaken for a Mexicans. We were colonized by the Spaniards in the same year, 1521. They brought us the Catholic faith, constructed massive and solidly built churches and cathedrals, introduced the same religious practices- dressed images, candles processions and religious celebration. Our physical build and features are some what alike too, short stature, brown skin, black hair. I would meet people who remind me of someone back home. Apparently, I even share the same ancestors of the Aranda family here. Many other family names here are familiar- Castro, Gonzales, Perez, Altamirano, to name a few. We grow the same foods, fruits, and vegetables but the names differ. We enjoy the same tropical fruits. They have one called “Manila Mango”
One of the various works I do is to visit sick people. I have shared their joy when I bring Eucharist, during birthdays, prayer services or just on plain visits; I have also shared their sorrow when they are ill or when there death in the family. A few times, when I was visiting, I would hurry back home to visit the Blessed Sacraments. One day it dawned on me that I was actually in the presence of Christ Alive in the person of the sick I was visiting. It was a new insight or perhaps, I knew it before but had never really lived the reality.
In my rounds at the hospital, I routinely introduce myself “Madrecita” (as nuns here are fondly called). Immediately I spot the Catholic patients. Their eyes light up in recognition. Many of then tell me their tales of woe. Oftentimes I come home heavy hearted carrying with me their misery. When I am able to help, heart is lightened. In prayer, I entrust them all to the mercy and goodness of Him who knows and is present with them in all their complex problems.
Hope for Transformation
The parish groups journey together in the deepening of their commitments and responsibilities. My role here is to help the pastor behind the scene: organizing, planning coordinating the group work with the parish council members.
I think we are getting results. In reality many people have been conscientized and have demanded their human rights as citizens of this country. There was been marked growth in open protest since I arrived through rallies, strikes, closures of food markets and bakeries. Sometimes they are heard, often times not. Injustices, oppressions, vice, and poverty are rampant in the city. However, if we continue to live out what we have learned I see hope for transformation.
I get annoyed when I have to wait for hours at government offices to ask for help for someone in need only to end up leaving empty-handed. But it is one way of entering the frustrating lives of the poor people. I doubt if I can learn to have the patience of these people.
I get disheartened with people who cheat and lie to get what they want. I have met some, tried to understand their behavior and tried to correct them by letting them know there are other ways better their lot than being dishonest.
All my frustration, however, are compensated for by the joy and beauty of Oaxaca the picturesque Sierra Mountain ranges encircling the city the blue sky close enough to touch the tall cooling trees, the opportunities for spiritual growth, the warm friendship of the peoples- all are so inspiring. Praise and thank the Lord.
To be a Loving Presence
Mission work is constant and daily challenge. There is continues discovery and learning. No predicting what the day will bring. I pray that I may be open to God’s messages through the people I meet and that I may never tire of being a listening and loving presence!