On Friday, October 26th, Ezio and I were greeted as warmly as ever by Socorro, Adriana, Fely and all the other staff and volunteers at Crecemos in Oaxaca, Mexico, under the bright blue sky dotted with amazing pink bugambillia flowers and the mountain landscape framing the scene. That evening we met together at the Parish of St. Carmen for a Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated by Fr. Lorenzo Fanelli, an Italian priest who nudged some university students to go out into the community and propose the life that they were living to others. The origin of Crecemos lay in that first, small initiative: certain of the goodness and source of hope which they had met, those young people went out of their comfort zone to meet their neighbor with an invitation to share in their happiness.
A prayerful celebration of thanks was a moving way to begin our Fiesta to mark the first 25 years of Crecemos. Children from the Crecemos communities proclaimed the readings, sang and played the guitar and mandolin. Towards the end of the Mass, the congregation was moved to tears and deep smiles as a group of families with children of all ages presented an offering of flowers to Mary at the front of the altar, while the budding group of young violinists from Monte Alban played Ave Maria in the choir loft above. It was glorious!
After Mass, all were greeted by mariachis in the plaza of the church, as we enjoyed hot chocolate and sweet bread and had the chance to mingle. What was most striking about the Mass and simple outdoor reception in the plaza was how joyful everyone was to belong to something beautiful. Crecemos is much, much more than an organization; it is a friendship, generous and open. Since my last visit to Oaxaca was just a few months ago, it was beautiful to experience a warmth and familiarity with so many of the kids, mothers and staff. I too was at home.
While most of the families went on their way after the reception, the Crecemos staff and invited guests from Mexico and around the world met together at a hotel to continue the celebration. We were treated to a reflection called “Faces of our history” in which we enjoyed stories about the origin of Crecemos and of its growth and evolution over the years.
The short documentary, “The Awakened Heart”, produced here in the US by our very good friends Simonetta Wiener and Giovanni Morricone, once again moved the audience in a deep way. The staff of Crecemos chose the film to give us a glimpse of the present, of what Crecemos has become over these past 25 years thanks to the relationship with so many people who had the courage and passion to respond to needs and opportunities with simplicity.In a final moment, I was invited to participate in a dialogue, together with a few other friends, to share our thoughts on why we are interested in collaborating with Crecemos in the future, and to offer some tips from our experience. We spoke about practical things like communicating experiences of real people and the changes in their lives and the constant preoccupation with professionalism and transparency.
I hope that I was able to express something that I’ve learned from many of our regular donors, and which helps me to stay focused as I do the various tasks which constitute my work: it is a good for us to know that a place like Crecemos exists in this world, a place where people are dedicated to the common good with a view of the human person that is holistic and values the inherent dignity of each one, that honors and defends the family, a place that educates to beauty, order and truth. Further, it is a good for me to be linked to this place so that I don’t forget my own desires for these good things for myself and my family and friends, so that I don’t give up hope.
Maybe none of us alone has the capacity to make a noticeable difference in the world, or even in one community. Maybe the problems of the day are so large that they overshadow anything we can do to lessen them. Maybe our effort would be more efficient if we focus closer to home. All of these objections have some validity, but more convincing to me was experiencing again how together, each bringing to bear the resources and talents that he/she has, this beautiful place and people has grown over the years and will continue to thrive and to touch the lives of many, many more in the years to come.
My dear friends and supporters of Crecemos here in the United States, we are part this friendship. Please receive from Ezio and I the warmest greetings from Oaxaca and remember that you, too, are welcome to go visit and see for yourself!