At around the age of 14, my mom was living in Dexter, New Mexico, having just immigrated from Mexico with her parents, Papi Cruz and Mami Dominga. It was also the first time she experienced life as a migrant worker, spending long days in the cotton fields along the Pecos Valley. One story my mom shared while she visited me last week, was about a particular night after work, when she went to bed early to only have Mami Dominga attempt to wake her up. As she shook mom, she said, “Nena, levantate! Te estan cantando serenata!” My mom, too tired to even open her eyes said, “dejame dormir!”
Mom was so tired during those long days that the idea of love wasn’t enough to wake her up.
Thank God! Imagine if she had woken up? You may not have a blog post to read today.
I went home to Lake Arthur this past weekend to spend time with the family and also to take my mom home. After two weeks of spending time with me in Las Cruces, it was time that she return to my dad and to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
For over fifty years, my parents have lived in or around Lake Arthur, but it is Our Lady of Guadalupe where they have found real purpose and a sense of community and fellowship. Although my family has been a part of this congregation since my parents moved to this small community, it was not until after the appearance of the Jesus tortilla that my mom became more active in religious Catholic teachings and remembers my dad frequenting mass more often shortly after when he became sober.
While I pride myself in having a father that is the sole choir at Our Lady of Guadalupe (that’s actually not true now, but it used to be) mom and dad have both joined dozens of families in taking care and maintaining this small place of worship for many, many years.
But things are changing. As new families move into the community and become very active in Our Lady of Guadalupe, families that have been a part of this congregation for decades, are today feeling a sense of exclusion. This includes my mother.
I had no intention of writing about this at all. However, after spending time with my mom the last two weeks and watching her prepare for Sunday mass over the weekend, I feel compelled to write what I have observed closely and I am troubled. Our Lady of Guadalupe, a sanctuary where my mom goes to find peace and solace, is now a constant reminder of the rigid hierarchy that exists within the Catholic church. The tiny town of Lake Arthur, with its small, brown and white colored church on Broadway Street, is now facing a crossroads that it never had to face before and perhaps may never overcome.
While I am saddened by all that is taking place in this small congregation and I ache for my mom who feels utter disappointment and sadness, I cannot help but admire her and her faith.
As I shared these challenges today with clergy, my mom was easily described as this “rare creature,” who despite the archaic laws of the church, still manages, somehow, to hold on tightly to the foundations and teachings of Catholicism. Praying the rosary daily, loudly, whispering constant prayers to whomever is listening, and reading the same verses of the gospel over and over again, from a bible she has held in her possession for almost three decades, pages bounded by something as simple as silver masking tape. Perhaps she is that rare creature this clergy was talking about.
For someone like myself, who does not know exactly what to believe in, it is becoming very clear to me that I am believing more and more in my mom.