An evangelizing mission; a task of love

The Missionary Catechists of the Poor have served the Diocese of Wichita for 25 years. (Courtesy photo)

By Sr. Rosa Linda Lopez Rocha, Local Superior

In 1997, the Missionary Catechists of the Poor (MCP) arrived in the Diocese of Wichita to serve the parishes in the towns of South Hutchinson, Lyons, Newton, and Turon, KS. The sisters in the missionary team were Sister Juana Margarita Sanchez, Sister Isabel Rebeca Rodriguez, Sister Martha Alicia Aldrete, and Sister Silvia Dominguez. They carried out a mission during February and March. This mission consisted of visiting families and workplaces, participation in the Eucharist, praying the Rosary, Kerygma, penitential celebration, and Sunday gatherings.

At the end of the mission, Bishop Eugene Gerber wrote to the General Superior of the MCP Sister Guadalupe Angélica Becerra, expressing gratitude for the mission and acknowledgment of the great work of the sisters. Because of the needs of the Diocese, Bishop asked the MCP sisters to make possible and provisional plans for the future of the Diocese. These plans were sent to the Superior General for her and her council to decide. Bishop Gerber’s letter read verbatim: “It is my hope and prayer that in the near future you will be able to send a permanent MCP Mission Team. In this plan the sisters would work as a team along with some Hispanic priests and lay people. Again, thank you for your invaluable assistance in serving the People of God in this Diocese. I prayerfully await your considerable response.”

The late Fr. Colin Boor, who was the pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe in South Hutchinson, wrote a letter to Bishop Gerber dated April 2, 1997: “The presence and work of the MCPs had a great and remarkable impact on the first generation of Mexicans, as well as on the rest of the community, Catholic and non-Catholic. We judge that your decision to bring them at this time has been very effective and useful; and we hope that you will make every effort to bring this community back to work in the Diocese as soon as possible to maintain continuity and momentum in the work that began with large groups. If you see fit to invite this community, it seems that we should do so before the end of this month of April. Once again, thank you! for your personal support and your decision to bring these sisters to the Diocese.”

The MCP General Government approved the request made by Bishop Gerber in March. On August 15, 1997, S. Domitila Gonzalez and S. Ma. Natividad Vazquez arrived as the first permanent mission team based at Our Lady of Guadalupe Community in South Hutchinson. The following year, two more sisters followed, S. Ana Gabriela Ruiz and S. Maria Guadalupe Flores, to complete the community of sisters.
Our evangelizing mission in South Hutchinson, Lyons, Newton, and Turon lasted from 1997 to 2007. During this decade, we dedicated ourselves to visiting families and getting to know the reality and the needs of the Hispanic community. We trained leaders in each of the ministries and formed people in the sacraments in the different stages of life. In addition, we started for the first time the dance to the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Starting in September 2000, we coordinated the Diocesan School of Pastoral Ministers, known today as the Institute of Pastoral Formation. For seven years, the MCPs oversaw the organization and direction of the school.
The sisters in this mission were: Sister Isabel Rebeca Rodriguez, Sister Martha Alicia Aldrete, the late Sister Guadalupe Angelica Becerra, Sister Ana Felisa Jasso, the late Sister Teresa de Jesus Aldrete, Sister Ma. Cristina Cano, Sister Ma. de Los Angeles Guerra, Sister Guillermina Torres, the late S. Ma. Luisa Acosta, Sister Veronica Figueroa, Sister Silvia Dominguez, and Sister Rita Delia Rodriguez.

In June 2007, Bishop Michael O. Jackels gave a new assignment to the MCP sisters to attend the area of Southeast KS. The sisters resided in Pittsburg, Kansas, to serve the parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes, Pittsburg, St. Patrick in Chanute, St. Andrews in Independence, and Holy Name in Coffeyville. This mission lasted from 2007 to 2018.

The mission in Southeast Kansas was an experience of searching for Hispanic families since most of them did not participate in the parish and did not attend Mass. At the time, these communities did not have Sunday Masses in Spanish, but only once a month. There was no faith formation in Spanish, so Bishop Jackels sent us to that area.

During these years, the MCPs encouraged families to integrate into their parish and participate in the Eucharist and parish activities.
We promoted Bible studies, novenas to the Virgin of Guadalupe and posadas, the Stations of the Cross during Lent, preparation for the sacraments, and encouraged lay leadership.

The sisters sent to this mission were: Sister Martha Alicia Aldrete, Sister Domitila González, Sister María Isabel Rangel, Sister Rosa Linda López, Sister María Elena Alva, Sister Ma. Natividad Vázquez, Sister Ma. de los Ángeles Guerra, the late Sister Marina Flores, Sister Ma. de Lourdes Moreno, Sister Silvia Domínguez, and Sister Marta Acosta.

In June 2018, being Bishop Carl Kemme, the MCPs were sent to the city of Wichita, serving four parishes with the largest Hispanic population: Cathedral, St. Patrick, St. Ann, and St. Margaret Mary.

From 2018 to date 2022, the sisters who have served in this mission are: Sister Silvia Dominguez, S. Ma. de Lourdes Moreno, Sister Ma. de Los Angeles Guerra, Sister Domitila Gonzalez, Sister Rosa Linda Lopez, Sister Maria Isabel Guevara, Sister Irma Virginia Orozco, Sister Gloria Salazar, and Sister Ana Luisa Diaz.

Throughout these 25 years, the MCPs have carried out our mission, presenting God’s merciful love through home visits and preparing people to receive the Sacraments. We also built lay leaders and motivated them to exercise such leadership to continue their formation so that, in turn, they can be coordinators in the different ministries in their parish, promoting the integration of cultures and making Stewardship known as a way of life.

We have also shared moments of celebration, joy, suffering, and sadness with the families. We try to live in joy, simplicity, and humility in closeness to those whom God has entrusted to us.

Bishop Gerber’s wish that we could work as a team with some priests has also been fulfilled; during this quarter of a century, we collaborated with approximately 26 priests. They, too, have been a strong testimony of love and dedication to Hispanic ministry, as they have also made an effort to learn the language and the culture. They are pastors who are close, humble, and dedicated to their people, willing to serve them and bring them closer to a personal encounter with the Lord. Undoubtedly, we are fortunate to have priests who testify to a strong spiritual life and inspire trust. Let us pray for them so they may be faithful in their love for God.

We are also grateful to the American Community of laypeople who have welcomed us into their Diocese. Several of them have encouraged our mission, valued our presence, and, through their fraternal and close gesture, offered us their help and friendship. They have supported us in learning English and opened their home doors, making us feel welcome and appreciated.

Why wouldn’t we feel grateful to God for his loving and constant presence in our Institute of Missionary Catechists of the Poor in this Diocese? For this reason, last October 23, we expressed our gratitude through a Eucharistic celebration presided by Bishop Carl Kemme and concelebrated by some priests who appreciated us and have worked with us. Georgina Machado, our General Superior, our sisters of the Little Rock community, and some lay people from each of the parishes we have served during these twenty-five years.

In an intimate, simple, and joyful atmosphere, we shared gratitude, fraternity, affection, music, and the delicious food each parish generously shared. Without your support, this celebration would not have been possible.

Thank you for being part of our history and vocation, thank you for your prayers that continue to drive our mission, and may the Lord reward all your generosity and kindness. All for the glory of God.