Ensuring a future
In 1964, a young, ambitious and compassionate Jesuit Catholic priest, Fr. Luis G. Verplancken, S.J., started putting into action a wellness ministry in the Tarahumara Copper Canyon region of the Sierra Madre Mountains in the State of Chihuahua in Mexico.
His vision of compassionate care grew into what you will read about in the following pages which describe the 50 years of work with the Tarahumara people.
The Tarahumara Children's Hospital Fund supports the St. Teresita Clinica in Creel, offering free health care to Tarahumara children.
When Fr. Verplancken, assigned to a parish in Creel in the state of Chihuahua, started ministering to the Tarahumara, he found a community with an infant mortality rate of more than 75 percent and suffering from malnutrition, tuberculosis, and gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.
School and education
Realizing that education is so important for the future generations of the Tarahumara, Father Verplancken built two boarding schools. The first school was built in the late 1960's in a village not too distant from Creel, the Mission's headquarters. The second school, also a boarding one, was built in 1974 in a remote mountainous area. The children, age 5 to 14, attend school from Monday and return to their homes on Friday. The logistics of such an undertaking were enormous.
One of the most important projects for the welfare of the Tarahumara is providing water both for drinking and for cooking and washing dishes. In response to the serious problem of providing drinking water for the Tarahumara, Father Verplancken began a well-drilling project in 1994. Finding a location to drill is the first step and Father Verplancken did this with divining rods. Often it took him hours to find the spot but in 25 attempts 20 were successful. These were shallow (15-45 feet) wells and were installed with hand pumps since there is no access to electricity.
Community food programs
Improving Nutrition, With Emergency Supplies and Long-Term Land Improvement.
Drought has afflicted the Sierra Tarahumara for the past several years, most notably in the past two years. The Tarahumara people rely almost exclusively on their crops for food. The lack of timely rain and snow has destroyed the corn, beans, squash, and potato crops and caused great hunger. In our hospital, malnutrition is the main reason both kids and adults seek treatment. Thanks to our supporters who provide the resources, we have been able to provide a large amount of food to Tarahumara communities. These last 5 years, we have provided on average over 100 tons of corn, 45 tons of beans, and 220 tons of potatoes.
Church and museum
The name Cusarare means "Place of the Eagles" in the Tarahumara language. In this lovely little church that was built about 1733, twelve large paintings of the life of Mary were discovered. They were removed by Father Luis Verplancken, S.J. when the church was undergoing major repairs in 1967 due to the collapsed bell tower that nearly destroyed the church. The paintings had deteriorated beyond recognition, and it was Father's idea to clean them up and return them when construction was complete. Little did he know at that time how "priceless" the collection was. Now, over 30 years later, they were completely restored by professional European restorers and have been returned to their owners, the Tarahumara Indians of northwestern Mexico. A new museum has been constructed to house the paintings, and is located next to the church.