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San Marcos, Nigromante

A Special Relationship, Fourteen Years On:

In 2001, the Diocese of Chicago entered into a relationship with the Diocese of Renk in Sudan and the Diocese of Southeast Mexico, in order to provide mutual support and encouragement. Since 2006, St. Mark’s has made more than a dozen visits to Nigromante.

Over the years, while many have gone on the trip, all of us at St. Mark’s have shared in this companion relationship with San Marcos in Nigromante, participating in fundraisers, attending informational presentations, listening to stories, and meeting with Bishop Benito and Angelica from the Diocese of Southeast Mexico when they visit.  St. Mark’s is actively involved in the Diocesan Subcommittee for Southeast Mexico. Our relationship with San Marcos is part of a Diocesan companion relationship and is shared with others participating in this broader community.  

A Note From Our 2017 Trip:

Every June since 2006, St. Mark’s has sent a group of parishioners, high school & college youth and adults, to Mexico. Over the years, while many have gone on the trip, all of us at St. Mark’s have shared in this companion relationship with San Marcos in Nigromante, participating in fundraisers, attending informational presentations, listening to stories, and meeting with Bishop Benito and Angelica from the Diocese of Southeast Mexico when they visit.  St. Mark’s is actively involved in the Diocesan Subcommittee for Southeast Mexico. Our relationship with San Marcos is part of a Diocesan companion relationship and is shared with others participating in this broader community. 

 

In June 2017, St. Mark’s sent a group of eight to San Marcos. It’s almost 2 days of traveling, each way, which includes flying 2 legs, changing planes in Mexico City, and then driving from the city of Veracruz to Nigromante, near the border of the state of Oaxaca. As we get closer to Nigromante, the roads get hillier and rougher until we turn down the dirt road that takes us into Nigromante. This year when we arrived, there were fireworks, a band playing, dancers, and a meal waiting. It was the eve of the Feast of San Antonio de Padua, and we were welcomed to the celebration of one of the most important days in the life of San Marcos and the town of Nigromante. We had made plans for our visit, but every year, there’s the unexpected and the necessary adjustments that remind us that we aren’t always in control, that we need to be open to new experiences, new plans, put away our schedules, our watches, our phones, and just be present. Yet, as we do every year, we ran Vacation Bible School for the children of Nigromante, and then, with the help of the women and men of the church, we provided a community dinner, right in front of the church, in the heart of the pueblo.

At the end of each trip, usually while we are at the Mexico City Airport waiting for our flight to Chicago, we do “a Rose and a Thorn.” Each person goes around and talks about what she or he liked best about the visit and what the biggest challenge was. One rose this time was that everyone was engaged in all the activities, the fiesta, the misa/service, VBS, the community dinner, meeting new people, and playing and getting to know the children of the town as well as the host families. We stayed in homes for two of the nights, something we have done since our first visit, and something that everyone has agreed is one of the most important parts of the trip. A thorn, on almost every visit, is that there wasn’t enough time. We needed one more day. On our last morning in Nigromante, when we were getting ready to leave, we embraced the women we have known for so many years, Modesta, Catalina, Karla, and others, kissed the babies who had arrived since our last visit, hugged the kids who had skipped school to see us off, shook hands with the older men who no longer worked the nearby ranches. They now know we will return.

We are blessed by the relationship with our friends at San Marcos. We are also extremely grateful for the participation, support, and contributions from our parish, which have helped make this trip and companion parish relationship possible. In 2017, we raised over $6,700 from our Cake Auction and Bake Sale, Mother’s Day Rose Sale, the Cinco de Mayo Dinner and Silent Auction. Additionally, we also received some very generous donations individual St. Mark’s parishioners, one who was able to get a matching grant from his company. These funds not only helped send St. Markers to Nigromante, but allowed us to pay for half of Padre Senobio’s $6,000 salary (his 3 parishes will never be able to support him financially). These contributions provided $2,500 in scholarships to help keep kids in school, grades 3 and up. They helped us pay for the building project adjacent to the church – a place where Padre Senobio now works and the parish holds meetings and where small groups of visiting doctors can stay. Contributions also help support the church bakery/panaderia, which provides a skill and income for poor women and for the church. We ask for prayer for the people of San Marcos and the Diocese of Southeast Mexico. Gracias. 

 

A Few Statements from our 2017 Participants

It’s a trip built on traditions, going every year, gaining trust and learning from one another, not only us giving to them, but them giving so much in return. Over the course of 6 years I have learned to trust these people and sleep in their homes with no problem; I’ve learned that when you return your favorite child might not live there anymore, but that’s okay, because next year different little children will steal your heart, remember you and cling to you as you say goodbye. I’ve learned, somewhat, how to handle all the spicy food, and I’ve built lasting relationships with these people.” Olivia Vanderlei (2017)

“This trip has re-affirmed my hope to bring together the Mexican heritage I was born into with the American one I was raised in. Both of them are a fundamental part of who I am today. My Ask, my wish, my hope is that what has been started here at Saint Mark’s with the partnership of San Marcos in Nigromante, expands within our church by people renewing their efforts to embrace the different cultures within our church, starting with integrating our Spanish and English masses.” Patricia Spencer (2017)

“Estas dos últimas visitas he aprendido mucho de La gente en nigromante acerca de la generosidad y el amor. Fue una oportunidad que siempre recordare y es por eso los invito a que se den la oportunidad de vivir esta experiencia en el proximo viaje a Nigromante.” Ayleen Delara (2017)

A Timeline, 2006-2013

2006

St. Mark’s began its relationship with San Marcos in the Diocese of Southeast Mexico in the summer of 2006. During our first visit to Nigromante, we had the opportunity to see firsthand how some rural churches in the area used micro-businesses to help the needy in their communities. We realized that we at St. Mark’s could help the parish of San Marcos by helping them purchase a bread oven. In addition, this first trip showed us that we could enter into a mutually respectful, loving, and joyful friendship with this church and its members.

2007

The following summer, 2007, we returned to San Marcos with a group of 15 adults and teens. During this visit we saw the bread oven in action: we actually helped make the bread and went door to door selling it! Proceeds from the bakery help provide income for the workers.

After discussions with Bishop Benito and Padre Isaias, we decided our 2007 project would be to build a play set for the community. The church of San Marcos is located in the heart of Nigromante, at its village plaza. We purchased the kit at Costco in Veracruz, and completed it just before we scrambled for the van to catch our flight home.

2008

When we returned in 2008, the people were moved that we would return a third time and that we were truly interested in pursuing a continuous, mutual friendship. During this visit, we were delighted to see the progress of the bakery and to see the play set still enjoyed by los ninos in the community.

This time we tackled a new, physically demanding project:  sanding and painting the church roof (in the hot sun.) Another, less grueling, project was carried on inside the church: we worked with San Marcos parishioners to launch a Vacation Bible School for the children of the parish.

2009

June 2009 marked our fourth trip to San Marcos. With the help of the parish, we painted the inside of the church, installed fans, and held Vacation Bible School classes. We also helped cook and serve a breakfast for the children of Nigromante.

2010

Seventeen St. Marker’s traveled to Nigromante–our largest group yet. During our visit, we prepared a place in the church where the religious statues can be displayed – away from their position at the altar. We again helped with VBS (Vacation Bible School), providing music, musicians, and crafts.

We presented Padre Daniel with a stole, a guitar, and our most recent parish picture. We worked with the women in preparing food. We honored twelve scholarship recipients who received education funds donated by St. Mark’s.

And most importantly, we focused on being in a relationship — playing, talking, and just visiting with our old and new friends in Nigromante.

2012

We finally got the computer lab set up after 3+ years of work.  We took down 5 laptops (gave one last year, too), and got them all set up!

2013