By Ricardo Izquierdo, director of Hispanic Ministry
LINCOLN (SNR) – The local prayer group La Guadalupana organized a retreat at a small village in Mexico this spring, accompanied by Father Ramón Decaen, pastor of Cristo Rey Parish in Lincoln.
The initiative grew out of a concern by two of the members of the group, originally from the town of La Haciendita, located in the mountains four hours northwest of Mexico City. Even though most of the residents of La Haciendita are Catholic, the members said not many people there live their faith.
Blanca Fowler, the leader of La Guadalupana, said the members reported witnessing the “spiritual poverty” of the town when visiting there.
“Most people didn’t attend Mass,” she explained, “and they didn’t have Eucharistic adoration.”
“The proposal was made to lead a retreat in La Haciendita,” Fowler added, “and even after considering the substantial cost in money and time, 15 of us raised our hands. Every Catholic needs to sacrifice in order to spread the Good News. Otherwise, there are no fruits.”
After nearly a year of planning, a group of 22 lay people and Father Decaen arrived in Mexico March 14 and got to work preparing the retreat.
“This town is so small that there was not a space sufficiently big to hold everyone,” Fowler said, “so we set up a big tent on the concrete basketball court of the local school, decorated it like a wedding, and welcomed the people.”
More than 250 people from the small village attended.
Because the town had never had a retreat in its 500-year history, the retreat team had to start with the basics of the faith.
“The theme of the retreat was the Kerygma (Greek for “preach” or “proclaim”), what the Apostles preached,” Fowler said. “Then we moved to the Bible, conferences on our need for Christ to raise us out of darkness, healing through the Holy Spirit, Ignatian spirituality, and Eucharistic adoration.”
“While the retreat was going on,” she added, “Father Decaen heard confessions for 15 hours at a time, in a real outpouring of grace.” Another priest assisted in hearing confessions, as well.
Before leaving, the retreat team spent a third day training local leaders, so that they would be able to continue the work begun on the retreat.
After the retreat, the group visited Bishop Juan Manuel Mancilla Sánchez of the Diocese of Texcoco, a friend of the group. They also visited the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The group La Guadalupana started five years ago by Fowler and Father Decaen. Initially it began as part of the well-known “Light of the World,” but later began to focus on the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola and spiritual healing. The group has been meeting weekly at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, under guidance of Father Rhone Lillard, F.S.S.P., a faculty member there.