A SERIES ON STUDENTS FROM CHALCO AND GUADALJARA
CHALCO, Mexico – Graduation this past Sunday staggered some. Understandably, tears flowed. Three hundred and seventy-seven young ladies stepped from the saving lands of Villa de los Ninos to set foot into a world they left behind five years ago. Rip Van Winkle comes to mind.
It is an entirely different world today; but they will encounter it with an entirely new set of eyes. When they passed through the exit gate for the last time earlier this week, they left as Lazarus did from the tomb; restored and set free to take on the world aware of the healing power of God’s hands.
Each is set for this newly-masked world. For five years at Girlstown in Chalco, Mexico, the Sisters of Mary combined with a team of instructors to raise 377 girls into scholars, well-trained employees, college students – and maybe even future Sisters or saints.
Here are the departing thoughts from three gifted students and graduates on their five years with the Sisters of Mary and on their intensified relationship with Christ and their Catholic faith.
Andrea was a standout handball player for the varsity team, one of the best teams in Mexico
“This last year was a very hard blow. The consequences of COVID-19 halted the handball season and my heart was devastated,” Andrea said. “And now, like my classmates, I share a very sad feeling because I have to leave my home (Girlstown) that took me in for five years.
“I’ll now never see the people now who were always by my side. Without a doubt, it will hurt. Now that I’m leaving, my purpose is to never forget Villa de los Niños and to put into practice all the beautiful things I learned at this beautiful place.”
Has your relationship with God gained intimacy over the past five years?
“God is now my center. I’m now aware He’s my Father and that He’ll never leave me because of my shortcomings,” Andrea said. “Thanks to the Sisters of Mary – I learned to value God and realize His love for me. God gave me the opportunity to meet the most beautiful people, and during these five years of my life, He never let me down. On the contrary, He urged me to continue and not give up.
Was God or your faith life important prior to becoming a student at Girlstown?
“It’s hard to say this, but six years ago, I didn’t even know who God was. I knew I was Catholic, but I never had an inclination to love Him and it was reflected in my behavior,” Andrea said. “I didn’t value my mom, or my family.
“After entering Villa de los Niños, I learned to value everything. I was able to change my life, open my eyes and I tried during my five years here to love all the people around me. I gave them smiles, hugs, affection and showed the love I felt God gave me. Now, I want to offer it outside to the people who need it the most.”
What are your plans for the future?
“I want to continue studying at the university and witness all the values that were instilled in me in Villa de los Niños. In the same way, I want all people to lean more towards the Catholic faith,” Andrea said. “I want to teach [future college classmates] the beauty of living in union with God. If God allows me, I also want to graduate and visit Villa de los Niños to strengthen my faith and thank all the people who’ve made my dreams come true.”
VIVIANA , Oaxaca
How has your relationship with God been fortified over your five years here.
“Five years ago, I did not know God. I was very far from Him. I did not understand what He wanted to tell me because I did not have Him in my heart,” Viviana said. “But now, I can say that He always accompanies me and welcomes me in His arms, guiding me along fruitful paths.
“Now, God is in me, and I see Him in my brothers, family, and companions, because He never abandons us. Since I came to this home, I have known His wonders.”
Thoughts on the Sisters: “The greatest feeling in my five years with the Sisters is seeing the dedication and love with which they perform their service. They never denied me a favor or a need. They are like real mothers.
“As payment for everything I received from them, I gave everything I could. I tried to persevere and not forget about my goals. Now that I am leaving, my plans include looking for a university, finishing an engineering degree and paying back everything that Villa de los Niños gave me. I would not want to stay stuck in one place. I will never forget that God is with me now.”
How does it feel to be a graduate?
“Now that I am leaving, I am sad to leave,” Elizabeth said. “This place has welcomed me for so long and I’m afraid to know that the world has difficult circumstances – so the first thing I hope is to find my family in good health.”
What are your plans once you return to your family?
“God has given me the grace to be intelligent. It is His gift to me and I have to try to take advantage of it,” Elizabeth said. “I want to graduate with a degree in public accounting. With the support of my family, I will be enrolling at the Autonomous University of Querétaro. If in case I won’t be accepted, my second option is the IBERO University in (where Elizabeth has received a scholarship and admittance to study biomedical engineering).
What are your emotions now, on the verge of stepping away from Girlstown?
“At this moment, God is in my heart, in my soul and in my mind. And I consider Him as my everything, because he is the one who gives me my life,” Elizabeth said. “Without Him, I am nothing. I understand that my reason for being depends on Jesus, not on the world.
“The God that I knew six years ago is not the same God that in this moment lives in me. I knew He existed but I didn’t have a strong love for Him. My faith was weak. Anything could break it. My life had no meaning. I didn’t have moments to smile back then.
“I can say that the plan of God, when I entered this sacred place, totally changed my life.”