Mass on November 13, 2022 with all the girls and Sisters of Mary

These words have remained etched in my mind and heart since I returned from our ladies’ pilgrimage to visit Girlstown and Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine in Mexico. Girlstown, run by the Sisters of Mary, is a live-in school that has over 3,000 girls from all areas of Mexico. The Sisters educate and care for these children living in extreme poverty at no cost to the children’s families. I was part of a small group that had an opportunity to spend time with the girls and the Sisters; it has been life changing.

A high percentage of the children have experienced a very serious trauma which is one of the reasons they are selected by the Sisters. Each day at Girlstown, the girls attend Mass, pray the Rosary and have adoration in addition to structured school, homework and time for sports/arts/music. Additionally, confessions are heard for hours each day. I have never witnessed so many teenagers choose to kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament for over an hour each day. We also participated in two healing services with the girls while there. These girls are affectionate, warm and engaging and along with the Sisters radiate joy. All of this is such a sharp counter cultural experience that in some ways I have found difficult to describe what I experienced since returning home.

Mass on November 13, 2022 with all the girls and Sisters of Mary

No one would argue with the fact that these girls lack financial resources; it is clear that they would have no opportunity for formal education if not for the Sisters. However, it is also quite clear what they receive is far greater than what can be measured financially. It is healing and it is conversion; it is truly a gift of faith. What they receive is the gift of freedom and life.

Father Dan Leary, chaplain, began our first day there with a talk on poverty. We all have poverty, and it looks differently on each of us. As Father shared, “Real freedom is looking at your poverty. Poverty is not just a lack, but a place Christ wants to be born.” He challenged us to find our poverty and to ask God to fill what is broken. We should be grateful for the poverty because it is the only way we can come out of ourselves. Father reminded us that Christ chose to be born poor, lived poor and died poor. Our poverty and our wounds do not intimidate Christ. He wants to go exactly to our wounds and fill them with grace. And with grace we will convert the poverty and break our sadness.

As we departed, Father Dan challenged us to simplify our lives. Always wise and especially timely as we begin Advent. If we are able to reflect on and listen to God’s desires for us, we will move towards simplicity and freedom. The experience is humbling, and it was a true blessing to engage with these girls. Father Dan sent us a Thanksgiving message recently and he said, “now the poor has a face in your life.” In truth, their joy showed me my poverty, my lack. It caused me to reflect on my own poverty, my wounds and how desperately I need God’s grace. I am so grateful we also visited the Shrine; however, I would never have fully understood the gifts of Our Blessed Mother until I witnessed her come alive in the selfless work that is being done each day at Girlstown. The girls are receiving life and being taught true, purposeful living. They are the next generation of Church leaders and will go out and evangelize their communities and their families. The children lack everything the world says is important, but in stark contrast have the abundance of Christ.

Through the presence of Christ, the Sisters, Father Leary and with the generous support of our Foundation members, these girls and their lives are transforming. Your work as a Steward converts what is suffering and broken into an encounter, a resurrection with Jesus Christ. My advent prayer is that we all make room for adoration, increase our trust and truly cultivate our relationship with our Lord.