I share with you here my experience of the Meeting of Religious Life from Indigenous Communities in the town of Machetla II (Diocese of Huejutla, Hidalgo, Mexico).
I arrived on October 20th in the morning and all of the sisters were already there. The joy of everyone was very contagious. My congregational sister, Sr. Ana Luisa Prieto CCVI, introduced me to various sisters from the Conference of Major Superiors of Religious for Mexico (CIRM) as well as the sisters from the organizing committee, and the hosting Bishop – a very nice priest. I quickly felt at home.
We were also welcomed by people from the Machetla community while some sisters prepared the Altar of the Mayan culture with the 4 cardinal points. The people from the community had many yellow flowers, and invited us to stand in a line. This was their way of welcoming us, and it was a beautiful welcome. The flowers were woven into small wreaths, so that each sister received a wreath of flowers placed on their head. Then we were given a yellow string of flowers around our necks, and at the end they gave each person a staff to hold of varying sizes. The majority of the religious participants wore white embroidered blouses. They looked beautiful, like queens or rather: like Saint Teresa with her crown.
Then they invited us to go to the altar of the Mayan culture and they explained to us each point beginning with the East: from where the sun rises there the life of each person is born and the fertility has its origin in the sun. In the West: there is the water that encircles life and where the sun is hidden: it keeps energy. The equilibrium. Life is transformed. In the North: there is power and strength. The South: is the place of thorns, the place of self-sacrifice and place of flowers.
One of the nuns invited us to settle in the direction of the east. After reading the meaning, she invited us to dance around the altar with the ritual music of Huejutla. Soon the rhythm of the music stayed and the image of all the religious sisters reminded me how meaningful our life is. Afterwards, each Congregation presented itself in a very creative way; it was very experiential. After the welcome, we shared a meal together. Everything was very tasty. I was curious and went to taste the water; it was as sweet as the waters of the springs of my land (Puno, Peru), so I knew there was the secret!
After eating, we were presented with the objective of the gathering and the methodology: THE PATH OF INDIAN THEOLOGY: TOUCHING THE HEART OF GOD, a method of reflection from the perspective of native theology. A guide for theological reflection from the ancient narratives of our ancestors. The person in charge of the topic was Juan Manuel Garcia (a layperson with a lot of experience) who emphasized that this methodology consisted of living and feeling reality with the pains and joys in the life of our peoples. That is, to share the joys and pains of the LIFE of the people and in that reality contemplate the will of God and of the ancestors, explain the historical response of God to the problems, and build a new ideal reality of life from the project of God.
We shared in the group about our own ancestors. We had many experiences in common: the values of life, a great love of the earth, working together, the deep sense of community, trust in God, and our way of contemplating the nature and value of our native languages. While we have a lot of particularity and differences between cultures, something that unites us is our struggle to care for God’s creation: ecology.
We ended the day with a very beautiful Eucharist presided over by 5 priests and accompanied by a chorus of children and teenagers who played the violin. All the religious women were with our flower chains (on the head, around the neck and in the hand). After the Mass, we had dinner and left in a truck that took between 10 and 12 sisters according to how it was organized. The community welcome each of us into a family. I loved this gesture!
I stayed with a family that spoke a language I had never heard before. The woman who welcomed me has 2 sons and 6 daughters but they are all out of the house. Most of her daughters are in Mexico City; one of her children is in Monterrey and the other in Canada. She lives with her daughter-in-law, a granddaughter and a grandson. Her house is very well cared for thanks to the efforts of her and her children. They were a very nice family, and I happily stayed with them for two nights.
The second day we started with a delicious egg-based breakfast with black beans, very tasty. Then a reflective, contemplative prayer with dance. Then we had an open dialogue with some questions such as: What do we hear? What resonates in our heart? Then it was time for illumination from the wisdom of the grandmothers and grandfathers.
Sr. Herlinda, a Guatemalan religious, shared the clock of the Mayan culture, an instrument used since ancient times to measure the passage of hours, minutes and seconds. They had 13 calendars and 18 months and from that they knew the quality of people and how everything was connected and integrated. That is why the people of this culture ask you: how is your heart? There is also a deposit of wisdom of the ancestors who give us advice through stories. Some phrases that were constantly repeated included the importance of sharing food with the needy, with the deceased and the attitudes that help create inner peace; for all this strengthens the heart. Theology is the experience of God in the Indigenous communities and peoples, because they recognize God in everything.
The third day we started very similar as in the previous days: with a rich breakfast and a deep prayer. Sister Ana Luisa Prieto made a summary highlighting the blessings of each day shared together; it was very significant. We focused this day on creating the means to act.
What wonderful teachings I received and carry with me! Now my question is how do I offer this back in our religious family and in the town where I am? For all this helped me strengthen my heart, because when we touch the depths of our being, we can speak from the heart. Being there allows us to listen to our dreams. Inspiration springs forth from the source of all being. I will find the way; I know and feel it.
I end this time with much gratitude for all those women of faith I gathered with, for our Congregation, and for Sr. Ana Luisa Prieto. Thank you.
Written by Sr. Sofia Mamani, CCVI
Article originally published in our Congregational Office of Justice and Peace blog.