CHIAPAS MISSION: PALENQUE
Convinced that our call to be Sisters Minor is a call to solidarity with those who are powerless, we work with them to change situations in which the dignity of persons is violated. Recognizing that we too are in need, we open ourselves to be evangelized by them.
- General Constitutions #21
The Spirit has been stirring in the three United States Provinces of the Sisters of Penance and Christian Charity for a presence in Mexico since the late 1950's when sisters responded to various invitations to minister in Mexico. In the 1960's Sacred Heart Province established a presence in Orizabita and later (1970's) sisters from St. Francis Province joined them in carrying out ministries of pastoral and health care. A desire for a shared mission in Mexico amongst all three Provinces was expressed in the 1970's. It was not until 1991 that Sisters Marilyn Archer (Holy Name Province), Antonia Anthony (Sacred Heart Province), and Consuelo Arana (St. Francis Province) were sent by the leadership of the three Provinces to search for a location for a future mission. Bishop Don Samuel Ruiz, with his prophetic vision and voice, was an integral part of the decision to establish a presence in the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas. He spoke of a ministry of "acompañamiento," accompanying the Indigenous (native) peoples, Cho'l and Tzeltal, in their journey toward liberation.
Now, twenty two years later, the three United States provinces continue to nurture the seed that was planted in this fertile Mayan territory of Chiapas. There are two local communities in Palenque. The Casa Nantic Magdalena community includes two young Indigenous sisters in final vows: Srs. Letitcia Perez and Mikaela Mendez who are both part of the Parish Pastoral Team that ministers to 150 villages. Sr. Leticia completed studies in nursing and uses her skills to accompany Indigenous Women's Groups throughout the Diocese. Sr. Mikaela, also a nurse, accompanies Indigenous Deacons in the development of an Indigenous Theology and is part of a Diocesan Team that is translating the Bible into Cho'l. The Casa Franciscana community has two Sisters: Sr. Candida Gonzalez, in Temporary Vows, finished studies in nursing and administers a small clinic and pharmacy, Lak ña Clara, built on the property by our sisters from the Netherlands. Sr. Consuelo Arana is regarded lovingly by the sisters and the people of Palenque as one of the "founding mothers" of our presence in Palenque. She has been part of the Parish Pastoral Team since 1991 and accompanies the young women who come to live with the sisters for periods of time to discern a vocation to the Franciscan way of life.
Periodically, sisters from the three United States provinces go to Palenque to give ongoing formation classes and participate in the diverse ministries, while providing companionship and solidarity to the community and the people. Members of the three Provincial Councils visit Palenque annually. Sisters from our international community have also had the opportunity to know and provide support for the life and ministry of the sisters in Chiapas.