Surprised by Joy – A Visit to Girlstown

by | Jun 22, 2022

Serve the Lord with Joy
I recently was given the great grace of attending a pilgrimage with Legatus to visit the Shrine of Our
Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and then a visit to our own Villa de las Niñas in Chalco, Mexico.

As has become customary, visiting the Sisters and the 3,400-plus girls they serve in Chalco leaves me,
so often, speechless. Perhaps the best way to describe my loss for words is being surprised by joy. At
the same time, though, it should be of no surprise, because the very motto of the Sisters of Mary is:
Serve the Lord with Joy.

Journey to Christianity
In the widely-read book of his conversion, Surprised by Joy, with a borrowed line from Wordsworth,
C.S. Lewis recounts his journey to Christianity. “I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be
sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure.” Happiness and pleasure are feelings
that can be attained, at least for a moment. We can actually manufacture in our lives happiness and
pleasure. “Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Instead, Lewis likens Joy to an “unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other
satisfaction…the inconsolable longing.”

This is the rapture  one encounters when he is welcomed into the peace  of the children at our villages.
A majority of the children residing for five years  at the Girlstown and Boystown communities have
experienced violence, malnutrition, sexual abuse, and/or phychological trauma. Though the shadows
of destitution, poverty, and violence loom outside the walls of campus, within, the children
experience new-found freedom.

There is a startling  beauty of bearing witness to children awakening from the nightmare of poverty.
The children, in their natural humility, don’t try to win you over or convince you of anything. They are
just living joy. Everyone on the pilgrimage, it seemed, left longing to attain what the children had

Lost in the Woods
Joy is not the goal of the Sisters of Mary – it is the work of the Sisters of Mary. Humble and joyful
service acts as a beacon, so that others may say, “Look and See!” First, for the children, and then also
for all of us. The Sisters of Mary point us toward something more. They wear a habit as a sign to all
that this world is not their – or our – home. Holiness must look different. And we are made for
something different. Something that looks an awful lot like the Sisters of Mary Serving the Lord with

This is how Lewis describes the signs of joy; “When we are lost in the woods the sight of a signpost is a
great matter. He who first sees it cries, ‘Look!’ The whole party gathers round and stares. But when we
have found the road and are passing signposts every few miles, we shall not stop and stare.”
Like the transfiguration of Jesus, we are not meant to set up tents to behold the glory. We can
appreciate what we are given in the moment, but the inspiration should motivate us to walk down the
mountain and engage the world with our joy of knowing the glory of Christ.

A priest who attended with us, Fr. Keegan said the trip will “indisputably make me a better priest.”
Like him, as I reluctantly left Villa de las Niñas, I departed with a motivation to be better. To practice
charity to the poor more faithfully. To live with a child-like freedom. To Serve the Lord with Joy.

Learn more about the children

The children at our schools come from the poorest of the poor. Each child has their own stories of what their life was before coming to our schools and how their lives are being transformed by the Sisters of Mary programs.  Read the moving stories of our children in their own words. 

Meet Our Graduates

There are 160,000+  graduates from the Sisters of Mary Schools. Many of our graduates went on to live prosperous lives, helping their families and local communities. Read the inspiring stories of our graduates in their own words. 

Life At Our Villages

Learn more about how we help children break free from a life of poverty.