This is Needy’s story in her own words:
“My first memories began at the age of four when I saw how my father hit my mother. She did not defend herself. At the age of six I was in kindergarten; one day they brought me home from school because my father had been murdered. His body was found in a ravine, badly beaten. They cut off his ears, his head, and his stomach. My mother went to leave us with my uncles, telling us that she was going to return. Since that day, we haven’t heard from her.
At first, I thought that my uncles would love us, but it was the opposite. My cousins beat me. I went to complain to my uncles, but they never believed me. They told me that I was a liar. My aunt has a stomach disease, but thank God she helped me. One day we heard on the radio an advertisement for a school called “Villa de las Niñas” that helped girls who wanted to continue studying. I took the exam and I won it. I was very happy because I could continue studying because my aunt’s plan was to work with her at home.
I thank God for the opportunity and also the Sisters of Mary. I sincerely feel very happy to be here. My greatest desire is to finish my five years and my dream is to become a doctor to help the poor.”
The tragedy of Needy’s story is only overcome through love, healing, and an education that inspires hope. In Guatemala, one in every two children suffers from chronic malnutrition. Overcoming obstacles like malnutrition, abuse, and neglect, while giving students an education that will propel them to overcome their poverty is a monumental task.
Catholic Schools Week and the Poor
The Sisters in Guatemala shared with me recently that one of the most critical curriculum changes they have made is to incorporate ‘human formation’ into their classes. For the Sisters, they have found that even more important than teaching reading, writing, math, and vocational training, is giving the girls self-confidence and self-esteem, so they will learn to speak up, look people in the eye, and take initiative on projects.
Catholic schools, like those run by the Sisters of Mary, are uniquely positioned to offer this more fully encompassing education. This week is Catholic Schools Week, a week to celebrate the treasure and tradition of the truly comprehensive instruction received in Catholic schools. The Sisters of Mary operate eighteen Catholic schools in six countries serving the poorest of the poor who need help the most, like Needy.
Belonging to the Poor
Our founder, Fr. Al, did not choose to serve the poor as a way of ‘giving back’ or ‘making a difference.’ For him, it was as clear as doing what the master had already done. Jesus Christ was poor. He went to the poor. He served the poor. Additionally, Jesus said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).
Fr. Al and the Sisters of Mary serve poor children because they are the chosen ones of God. This is not an exaggeration or romantic idea. It is the scriptural basis of our Christian faith.
“God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong,
God chose the lowly and despised of the world,
those who count for nothing,
to reduce to nothing those who are something,
so that no human being might boast before God” (I Cor 1:27-29).
If we are to be chosen by God, we must ‘turn and become like children,’ especially poor children like Needy. In giving, supporting, and serving children like Needy, we demonstrate our kinship with her as fellow children of God. When you consider who you give most of your money and most of your quality time to, it’s those you have a relationship with, your family, and friends. Similarly, any of our heart, our gifts, and our time we can give to children in need like Needy, demonstrates our solidarity with the chosen children of God.