mexico-mapBy Dianne Towalski
The Visitor

Stephanie Jimenez and Esmeralda Mancilla will experience Easter in Mexico this year. The two Catholic high school seniors from central Minnesota will spend 10 days there, but it won’t be a vacation.

Jimenez and Mancilla are traveling to Mexico March 19 with Mayuli Bales, director of the Office of Multicultural Ministries for the Diocese of St. Cloud, to participate in a Lenten mission project coordinated by the Franciscan sisters in San Rafael in the Diocese of Linares.

In San Rafael, they will be joined by three others from Monterrey, Mexico, to form one of several teams that will go out to minister to people in remote areas. Franciscan Sister Aurora Tovar also will meet them and guide them for the week.

“We will be part of the local Linares diocesan teams that every year go to the mountains in the Sierra to share the Gospel of the Lord and be companions to each other in our walk to encounter Christ,” Bales said.

In San Ildefonso, a village of about 300, the team will work for a week with women, teenagers and children, and participate in the Easter triduum with the community. They will stay with host families.

Both born in the United States to immigrant parents, Jimenez and Mancilla will have the opportunity to experience life in Mexico and the triduum celebration like their parents did.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how they celebrate Easter there,” Mancilla said. “I’m really sad because I won’t get to be here with my family, but I am super excited to experience something different.”

“They can see the two worlds,” Bales said. “Esmeralda’s father is from Guatemala, her mother is from Mexico. Stephanie’s parents are from Guanajuato, Mexico, and it means their experiences are very different.”

Mayuli Bales

Mayuli Bales

During the week, they will experience daily life with their host families, Bales said.

“We will be eating what the families eat — tortillas and beans, and nothing more,” she said. “It’s going to be very enriching for us, and very interesting to bring the Latino girls that were born here in the United States.”

The group will meet with women to talk, share their faith and get to know them.

“More than anything, we want to listen,” Bales said. “We want to listen, we want to learn how they witness for the Lord, how they live their faith.”

Unlike some mission trips, the group won’t be working on building projects during their stay, Bales said. They will instead be building relationships and be a witness to each other’s faith.
Mancilla, a member of St. Leonard of Port Mauritius in Pelican Rapids, looks forward to spending time with the people.

“I am a people person, and my passion is helping people any way I get to do that,” she said. “I think mission trips are a great way for people to do that if they have a passion for helping people.”
Monday, March 21, will be devoted to visiting with the women. On Tuesday the group will organize activities for the children, something similar to a mini Bible camp, Bales said.

Jimenez is excited about working with the children and hopes to have an impact on them. She works with first Communion students and seventh-graders at her parish, St. Mary of Mount Carmel in Long Prairie.

Mid-week the group will have a silent retreat to reflect on what they’ve learned so far.

“It’s a priority for them to grow in faith, to see different styles of worship and witness how the Lord works in different ways,” Bales said.

Mancilla said she wants to share God’s Word with the people she meets, “… and I want to grow closer to God on this trip.”

The group’s trip is collaboration between the Office of Multicultural Ministries and the St. Cloud Mission Office.