The Joy of the Gospel in the Year of Mercy

The Joy of the Gospel in the Year of Mercy
Father Vincent Guest is pictured with women from Bridgeton and women religious in Aguascalientes, Mexico

Father Vincent Guest is pictured with women from Bridgeton and women
religious in Aguascalientes, Mexico

For the past four years I have been traveling to Mexico to visit the Missionary Sisters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary at their Mother House in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Some of the sisters from the community are missioned here in our Diocese of Camden and serve at the Parish of the Holy Cross in Bridgeton (my former parish) and at Bishop Schad Regional School in Vineland.

In August I was blessed to travel with Sister Maria de Jesus, MDPVM who ministers in Bridgeton and with three young women from Holy Cross: Nora Coronel, Jazmin Silverio and Nayeli Ramirez. The girls stayed with the novices and postulants of the community. It was an opportunity for them to experience religious life, at least for one week. They lived, prayed and worked with the young sisters.

The girls were both excited and apprehensive as we left for Mexico. Excited to be in the home country of their parents and grandparents but apprehensive about spending a week in the convent.

“We thought we would be sitting in chapel in silence and mopping floors all day” Nora told me, “but we had so much fun.”

Nayeli said there was time for Mass and prayer every day, but also time for recreation and service. “We laughed so much with the sisters and I know I now have friends for life,” she said.

Jazmine agreed with her friends and said she especially enjoyed the overnight trip to the orphanage the sisters run, called Hogar de las Niñas Casimira Artiaga. The orphanage is for girls and currently there are 25 girls living there, from ages 3 to 19. Their parents are not able to care for them for a variety of reasons.

Thank God for the sisters because they have made a home for the girls. During our week the young women from Holy Cross helped the sisters who minister at the orphanage. They helped with meals, prepared the children for bed, and when they awoke helped them brush their teeth and comb their hair.

All of us were treated with a song and dance show performed by the children that we will never forget.

At the end of the week we all gathered for prayer and conversation and I was impressed by the faith and sensitivity of Nora, Jazmin and Nayeli. In this Year of Mercy, they realized that they were living mercy as they helped care for the children and for the older and infirm sisters in the convent. They also recognized that this experience of faith brought them so much inner joy and peace. At one point toward the end of our last evening in Mexico, I looked around at the young sisters and our young women from Bridgeton. They were eating chips and drinking soda, laughing and sharing stories from the week, and singing songs of faith. I thought that Pope Francis would love this. In this Year of Mercy, young religious sisters from Mexico and teenage girls from Bridgeton were living the Joy of the Gospel.

When we arrived home Nora, Jasmin and Nayeli thanked Sister Maria and me for the experience. They asked us: “Can we return next year, and can we bring some friends?” Sister and I looked at each and we knew it was a successful pilgrimage. The young women from Bridgeton want to share the Joy of the Gospel.

Father Vince Guest is pastor, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Shrine, Lindenwold.

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