Like all children who have experienced boarding school, our middle school and high school students long to reunite with their families after months of studies.
And so, every year, our boys and girls look forward to their annual holidays, but also to the spring gathering during which families come to the school and spend an entire day with their son or daughter.
This day is fondly referred to as Visiting Day.
Families travel from across the entire country, spending up to 15 hours in buses and by foot to reach the school. The gates open early in the morning to welcome the parents, siblings, grandparents, and cousins... and within a few hours, the entire campus is filled with thousands of visitors.
Our students spend the day in conversation and games, but also cooking and sharing food. That is why their parents bring their favorite treat from home, and some firewood, as seen in these photos from our Boystown in Guatemala.
Families spend time with their children during Visiting Day.
I am grateful for the chance to share with you the latest happenings in the lives of our children.
It is only through the generosity of friends like you that we, the Sisters of Mary, continue to fulfill the vision of our beloved founder, Father Aloysius Schwartz. Thanks to you, more than 20,000 children are attending school, receiving three healthy meals each day, and have the loving care and guidance of the Sisters.
I trust the stories we are sharing with you will give you the confidence that your support is continuing to save many, many lives - for children just like Christen and Wilson.
From the Philippines to Honduras, know that all of our children are praying for you.
Sister Maria with a child at a garbage dump in Honduras.
Did you know that one of the most beneficial ways to contribute to our mission is through a gift of stock?
Typically, you are entitled to a charitable income tax deduction for the full market value of the stock at the time of your gift - not just its original cost. Additionally, you do not incur any capital gains tax when stock is given away rather than sold. The higher your regular and capital gains tax rates, the greater the total tax savings.
Remember! Making a gift of securities is simple and advantageous:
Hello, my name is Christen, and I am 12 years old.
I am the 4th of 6 children in our family.
My father, Arnol, is a painter, but he does not have a permanent job at this time; he just moved farther away in order to get a chance of working.
When he lived in our province in Bicol, he would grow some vegetables at the back of our small house.
My mother Asuncion is a housekeeper, and before I arrived in Girlstown, I used to help her work.
Some of my sisters are studying because they are getting the support of our friends and other relatives. But my two brothers are not currently studying.
I want to become a teacher someday and help other people who are in need, but first I want to work to help my family.
During my last visit to Guatemala, I met Wilson, a young man who works in the administration offices of our Girlstown, in Guatemala City.
Wilson graduated from our Boystown school in 2011, and started working for the Sisters right away. In his position, he prepares the academic projects of the school, setting up exams and adapting the curriculum of the Department of Education. He is responsible for the lesson plans of the entire school.
Wilson's life story resembles that of many children from our Boystowns and Girlstowns. Wilson is the 7th of 12 children. His family is from Baja Velapaz, about 4 hours away from bus. Sadly, his dad passed away when Wilson was very young, due to alcoholism.
He remembers the helplessness that first came over his mother when he decided to join our school. He managed to convince her that he should continue his studies. He remembers vividly the day he received his acceptance letter, a day filled with promise and great emotion.
What surprised him the most upon joining the Boystown was the natural calm and discipline within his new community in the Village - hard to imaging with over 1,000 boys and only a few nuns to watch over them!
Ever since Wilson graduated, his earnings have helped his family with the cost of health care for his mom and supporting his younger siblings.
Wilson is now in college pursuing a business administration degree, while he continues to work for the Sisters. His ultimate goal is to start a small business in electricity and welding.
He fully acknowledges that he would never have gotten this opportunity without the Sisters - and the benefactors who helped change the course of his life.
Students at our Girlstown in Chalco greet guests during their pilgrimage.
A group of approximately 50 pilgrims is once again heading to Mexico City this fall. The journey includes a guided tour of Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral - one of the oldest and largest Catholic cathedrals in the Americas - as well as a visit to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The Basilica is the most visited Catholic pilgrimage site in the world. It is where Juan Diego's tilma, the famous cloak which bears the miraculous image of Our Lady as she appeared to him in 1531, is displayed.
On the final day of the journey, pilgrims travel to Chalco, east of the capital, to visit our Girlstown. They join the school's 3,000 students for Sunday Mass before enjoying lunch with the Sisters of Mary. The rest of the day is then spent touring the campus and interacting with students.
"We're motivated by the fact that Fr. Schwartz is a saint," explained Glory Sullivan, who has been a supporter of World Villages for Children with her husband Tom for nearly 25 years, and initiated the annual pilgrimage. "We truly believe that the graduates of the Sisters of Mary - all 130,000 of them - are the fruits of the tilma. They are changing the world."
A first-time participant from last year was truly astounded by his experience:
"These girls are learning how to go back and help their families and their communities. The nuns here are making leaders. Without a doubt, we're coming back again. My wife and I are already thinking, 'Who do we bring back with us next time? This far exceeded our expectations."
To learn more about this annual pilgrimage to Mexico, or to plan your visit to another one of our schools, please contact Donor Relations at 1-800-622-6316 (toll free).
Monsignor Aloysius Schwartz lived his life as a modest priest, but the great deeds he performed in the name of Christ are still felt today and continue through the organizations he founded - the Sisters of Mary and World Villages for Children.
Father Al began his life's work in Busan, South Korea serving the poorest of the poor. Through his tireless efforts, hundreds of thousands in Asia, Central America, and South America have been given the chance to break free from the grinding poverty endemic in third world countries. In spite of suffering from ALS in the final years of his life, Father Al continued working for those he was called to help.
Not long after his passing in 1992, the long process of Father Al's canonization began. The Vatican declared him a "Servant of God" in 2004, then as "Venerable" in 2015. The next step of Beatification is now well underway.
In 2017, all of our Children's Villages will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of his passing with various masses and events.
Father Al with students in Busan, South Korea.