Magazine article Momentum

A Mutual Witness in Faith

Magazine article Momentum

A Mutual Witness in Faith

Article excerpt

Mission to Mexico i~ji~ites a spark and a spirit within students, giving them opportunities to deepen their faith and their appreciation for the more meaningful things of life

Awesome," "enlightening," "exciting," "filled with joy every step of the way/' "remarkable," "incredible," "life-changing," "rewarding," "one that will stay with me long after I wash the dust from my hands and my clothes." This is how Incarnate Word *Academy (IWA) high school sophomores, juniors and seniors described their experiences as missionaries in Mexico during Holy Week and Easter. The IWA Mission program, now in its sixth year, has been a faith-filled, community building experience, touching deeply the lives of student missionaries, faculty, staff, parents and supporters.

Incarnate Word Academy was founded in Corpus Christi Texas, in 1871 by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament. Since that time it has educated thousands of students who have made a different in the community around them through strong leadership and committed service.

The IWA mission program was launched as yet another way of carrying out the academy's mission and of giving students the opportunity to witness to their sharing a connection, both spiritual and human, with people in other parts of the world. It was inspired by the effectiveness of the mission program of St. Joseph's Academy in Brownville, Texas, whose students had participated as missionaries to the villagers in Mexico for a number of years. Sister Anna Marie Espinosa, academy president, initially recommended participation as a joint venture with St. Joseph Academy.

Under the leadership of Dan Shea, chair of the mission effectiveness committee of the school board, the commitment of faculty member Sister Martha O'Gara and with a mandate from the school board, the mission program was initiated in the 2002-2003 school year.

The first group of missionaries consisted of 12 IWA student volunteers in a joint venture with St. Joseph's Academy. The high school juniors traveled with St. Joseph's Academy students to northeast Mexico as missionaries for 10 days during Holy Week and Easter. Their charge was to learn how to spread the Gospel message to the inhabitants of 12 remote villages, scattered in the mountains, near Tula of Tamaulipas.

From the beginning the experience was positive and transforming. It ignited a spark and a spirit within and among the students, giving them opportunities to deepen their faith and their appreciation for the more meaningful things of life.

While grateful for the support and instruction of staff and students at St. Joe's for the first four years of the program, IWA began evangelizing on its own in 2007, while keeping a close working relationship with St. Joseph's.

This move toward independence came as a result of an increase in the number of student missionaries at Incarnate Word Academy and the school's employment of a fulltime campus minister, Marc Ortiz. As a result, the number of missionaries steadily increased each year. During Holy Week 2008, the sixth year of IWA's participation in the program, 47 students accompanied by 14 adult sponsors, including a priest and the IWA director of campus ministry, traveled to three remote villages near Tula for 10 days.

Preparing for the Venture

To prepare for their missionary work, students gather weekly throughout the school year to participate in faith sharing, to learn basic Spanish, to gain knowledge of liturgical music, to learn how to conduct classes in catechism and to study the essentials and requirements for Holy Week services. The mission team also attends a transformational three-day retreat in the hill country. Through this intensive preparation, students deepen their own prayer life and their relationships with one another.

The student missionaries also work together to raise funds during the school year for teaching materials and living expenses for the trip to Mexico. …

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