Day 3 of our pilgrimage in Mexico City started just as beautiful as yesterday and a chilly 45ish degrees. Considering we left Minnesota and it was 23 or so…we felt fine. Also, we need to build more houses with flat topped roofs in the midwest.
Today we spent the day with the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, an order of priests founded in the 1980s after the model of Mother Theresa’s order. Father Sergio gave us a brief tour of their house with meditations on the charism of the order with each stop. We broke up into two groups and went to their soup kitchens to make sandwiches, or, “tortitas”.
Arriving at the soup kitchen for women.
Above: the inner courtyard of the house where we worked. Below: Rodrigo Mayorga (in the hat on the left from Des Moines), Tanner Thooft (on the front right from New Ulm) and Conner McGinnis (behind Tanner from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis) assemble sandwiches.
We made 150 sandwiches until 12:30 when we helped serve the women who came for a meal. These women came off the streets and Father Sergio explained later that for some of these women, this might be their only meal and it is much more difficult to be a woman on the streets. These women ranged in age from 20s to 70s or older, but the joy in the room as we served them was noticeable. These women were in real need and crisis, but they were still happy to be together and to be served by us seminarians who looked like “angels” the abuelitas said.
Father Sergio told us that these women can get a meal other places since restaurants give away extra food. Nor do the come for Mass since parishes have up to 8 Masses a day on Sundays! (Most priests I know are exhausted after 3.) No, these women they come for community and catechesis. Being homeless forms a community despite the fact that no one wants to be in that situation. One blind man who came with his wife shared a tune on a piano he uses by blowing into it to play the keys. He shared his story and asked us to pray he and his wife get their house back.
Once the women left, we had time for our community as a group and ate the same meal as the women: black beans, rice, and tomatoes, potatoes, and chicerones (pork rinds) with mango flavored water (Mango Tang) to drink. A simple, but satisfying meal.
After lunch, we went out with the sandwiches we made to give to people on the streets of Mexico City. We really didn’t have to go far: just down the main avenue from the hill the Shrine of Guadalupe.
See this nice statue of Simon Bolivar in the middle of 8 lanes of traffic around it? The area around, trees, bushes, steps etc is “home” to about 15 to 20 people. Tents, blankets, and piles of belongings can be found almost anywhere if you look hard enough.
Above: A nice monument. Below: someone’s home near the monument
However, we found a group of people and some guys started a game of hacky-sack. Immediately, we found new friends to play and laugh with us.
Above: Tanner Thooft carrying Mango Tang and Nathan Hansen (New Ulm) look for more people in need. Below: the Old Basilica just up the road from where we gave out most of the sandwiches to the poor.
We walked the streets up to the basilica and everywhere we went, the story was the same. People who were homeless who became new friends as we gave sandwiches and Mango Tang. Yet even in poverty, we saw people give their sandwiches and drinks to others before receiving themselves. When we were done, the street did not seem foreign anymore because of all the encounters we had. Smiles and calls of “gracias” or “dios te bendiga” (God bless you) were there.
BUT… as the Fathers and Sisters of Charity remind us, we were not doing these things for these people, we were doing it for the salvation of souls and bringing Jesus to people.