The Tarahumara people know they came from above; their origin is our Father-Mother God. They pass through this world with the mission of helping God to preserve the harmony of creation: a harmony that consists in orderly relations with God, with men and women, as a community and as individuals, and with nature. This relationship in which men and women are united to God is lived by the Tarahumara people through help, cooperation and service. When the relationship with God is broken, it is through celebration and ritual that harmony is recovered.
Last month we experienced a turning point in the recent history of the Tarahumara Mission. Fr. Joaquin and Fr. Javier, two of our Jesuit companions, were murdered inside the Church of Cerocahui. The entire community was devastated with shock, fear and uncertainty. Violence has now surpassed all humanity amongst men. Peace and harmony have been broken and relationships must now be recovered. Even through the pain, we carry Christian hope in our hearts. Once again, the Tarahumara people teach us how to face and overcome this kind of situation through their ancestral celebrations and rites.
During the last month, I have had the opportunity to experience a couple of times the Tarahumara traditional celebrations. The first one was on June 26th, during the Vigil of our Jesuit martyrs, a real Passover with dances and music the whole night before the day of their funeral. The second one was on July 23rd, during the farewell/welcome celebration for Fr. Miguel and myself at Santa Teresita Complex where I truly felt the support of all the people. Both celebrations express the endurance, faith and commitment of the Tarahumara people for recovering the harmony of creation.
I still remember the first time I visited the Sierra Tarahumara and met its people. It was during winter when I traveled with my family all the way from Monterrey, my hometown, to Creel. I was eight years old, and I remember walking long distances and crossing a river by a narrow bridge to reach the Cusarare falls. We were guided by a Tarahumara boy. The weather was so cold, and we were hoping for snow, but it did not come until the last day of our trip when we were heading back on the train. As a souvenir, my brother bought a wooden ball used by the Tarahumara for a race. I was amazed by the endurance of this people.
Twenty years later, my Provincial sent me to do regency (stage of Jesuit formation between Philosophy and Theology) to the Mission of Samachiki here in Tarahumara. It was the fall of 2005. The main purpose during those two years was learning the language and culture. There are very few opportunities like this. Personally, I experienced it as a time of grace, and I reflected on the question: Who can get two years to be among the indigenous people to learn their language and culture? In a world like this, where important things are planning, efficiency and results, having two years to be, to listen and to learn with the Tarahumara people, is certainly a unique and unrepeatable opportunity.
After regency I did my Theological studies in Mexico City and I continued visiting the Sierra Tarahumara during the summer, winter and Holy Week. In July 2011, I was ordained as a priest here in the Mission following the Tarahumara traditional celebration. I have such beautiful memories of those days supported by the Tarahumara community, family, Jesuits and friends. I experienced myself in harmony with God and with the community. I became the parish priest of Samachiki until 2019.
I acquired a myriad of learnings from the Tarahumara people who shared between themselves on a daily basis. There were many challenges to overcome both at the global complex level of the mission as well as in the most daily survival including personal growth, gain in humanization and absolute trust in Jesus Christ who guides each of my steps. Whatever I have managed to do in the Mission is purely thanks to God and the community because I alone cannot do anything. Every step I take, every breath I breathe, every beat of my heart is thanks to the Spirit who encourages me to continue.
This is the context of how I assume my new mission as General Director of the Santa Teresita Complex at Creel. Through the intercession of our martyrs, Fr. Joaquin and Fr. Javier, through the inspiration of Fr. Verplancken (whom I met when I was a Jesuit novice), and supported by the Tarahumara people and the many other people of good will I embrace this challenge. I feel invited by Jesus Christ to collaborate with all of you from the Santa Teresita Complex rebuilding relationships and recovering harmony among God, humans and nature. We sow the seed with our daily work and the Holy Spirit will water this seed.
Many thanks to all of you, our dear friends who support this Mission and I would like to ask for your blessing in this new appointment. Be assured of my prayers for you and your families. May our loving Father-Mother God bless you.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Enrique Mireles, S.J.