I’m getting close to the end of my sabbatical time! I’ve begun the last leg of this journey, and it’s visiting some of the towns in Mexico. You may remember that when I left, I asked people to write down where they came from and planned to visit as many of those places as I could. Well, I have started the journey. A couple of days ago I arrived in Durango. I spent some time talking to the head of pastoral ministry in the archdiocese, and also had a chance to speak to the head of their major seminary. I plan on talking to the padres in all the places I visit. Right now, I’m in Zacatecas, and I’ll be heading to San Luis Potosi in a few days. Then it’s off to Guanajuato and Michoacán.
One of the things that has struck me so far is the physical beauty of the places! I spoke to Monica, our parish secretary, the other day and asked her why she hadn’t told me how beautiful Zacatecas is! It’s a World Heritage City, according to UNESCO, patrimony of humanity. Who could have guessed! Last night I asked myself why I hadn’t come to visit these places years ago. Maybe we’ll organize a tour when I get back, to see some of the colonial cities in Mexico. Apart from Mexico, the nearest place you’ll find anything like these places is in Spain. And you can’t drive to Spain!
I’ve also been impressed with the health of the church in Mexico. In Durango, for example, there are around 900,000 Catholics. They have 90 seminarians in Philosophy (college) and 80 in Theology (graduate school). In Chicago we have 2,180,000 Catholics. We just closed our Philosophy school (they only had 20 students), and we only have 50 in Theology. If the proportions were the same, we ought to have something like 200 students in Philosophy and 160 in Theology. Clearly something is wrong! I hope to find some pastoral strategies and ideas to help strengthen our parish when I get back to work!
Please pray for me! I’ve been driving a rental car from place to place, alone. Lucky for me, the GPS works very well. I just put in the name of the place, and off I go. I hope to avoid running into trouble… I don’t drive at night, I don’t go to little towns or down back roads. At least not on purpose! There was one time when the GPS told me “veer right in 100 meters,” and I turned too soon. I ended up going down some gravel road, then turned onto a dirt road. I was a little worried… and hoping not to hit a cow or a horse… or a person! Luckily the GPS got me back onto the expressway in a couple of miles. I promise you my daily prayers for you and look forward to seeing you all very soon.