The former Vice Provinces of Mexico and Texas, both entrusted to the Province of Navarre (Spain), were combined into a single vice province on 3 March 2009. Since the Vice Province of Texas was a part of the NAPCC, I was invited to the ceremony in Mexico City establishing the new Vice Province of Mexico-Texas (can I call it the "Tex-Mex Vice Province", please, please, please, pretty please?! Can I, can I, can I?!). You can read about the ceremony and the visit of the General Minister to the Vice Province on Br Carlos Novoa's blog. If you can't read Spanish, you can look at the pretty pictures!
Taking advantage of some otherwise free time before and after the ceremony, I visited the mission of the Western America Province in the northern part of Mexico. I was accompanied most of the time by Br Matt Elshoff, Provincial Minister of the Western America Province. We met at the Dallas airport on Ash Wednesday and boarded a flight to Chihuahua, where we were met by Br Michael Ronayne. Our first stop was the monastery of the Capuchin Poor Clares in Chihuahua. I am not sure of the exact number of Capuchin Poor Clares in Mexico, but it is in the thousands. The sisters there were kind enough to give us something to eat and drink (even though we were not hungry or thirsty), and to show us around the monastery.
Leaving the monastery, we started our five-hour drive to Tres Ojitos, a small village nestled in a broad valley of the Sierra Madre mountains. Just before reaching Tres Ojitos, we stopped to visit the Capuchin Poor Clares in Ciudad Madera. This is one of the newer monasteries in Mexico; in fact, it is still under construction. The sisters gave us a warm welcome and enjoined a bit of food and drink on us. Afterward, we continued down the highway for a few hundred meters before turning down a dirt road for the 10 km drive to Tres Ojitos.
The friary in Tres Ojitos was built as a vocational training center by the Augustinian friars who once ministered there. Since receiving it from the bishop, the Capuchins have added a chapel and a couple of other buildings. It now serves as the novitiate for the northern Mexico mission, and until a few years ago, the Vice Province of Mexico also sent its novices here. At present, there are four novices. It's isolation makes it a wonderful spot for a contemplative lifestyle, yet there are plenty of ministerial opportunities in nearby Madera and the surrounding villages.
Next on our itinerary was Yecora, about an eight-hour drive from Tres Ojitos. This was the first friary of California's mission in Mexico. Besides David Beaumont, two friars of the Goa, India, Vice Province—Vincent and John Thomas—conduct a wide-ranging ministry from here. Not only do they conduct pastoral ministry in Yecora itself and several missions within a two-hour radius, but they provide many social services to the local population. They have an especially important ministry to the Pima and Yaqui Indians, for which the friars have received national recognition. For the two days we spent in Yecora, Matt and I were taken in the luxurious "Beaumont-mobile" to visit several of the outlying missions.
From Yecora, Matt and I traveled another five hours to Hermosillo, where we caught a morning flight to Mexico City and the unification celebration. After the ceremony, Matt and I were able to visit the Saint Veronica Giuliani Formation House, a large structure dedicated to the education and formation of the Capuchin Poor Clares of Mexico. Currently, almost 100 sisters are living there—30 in the two-year theology program and the rest in ongoing formation courses.
The day after the ceremony, we flew to Monterrey to conclude our visit of the mission. Padre Pio Friary in Monterrey is the newest of the mission's houses (although one is now under construction in Durango). The friary houses the postnovitiate program and the philosophate/theologate program. As in each of the other houses, Matt and I conducted a house chapter at the end of our visit. Before saying my farewells to the friars in Monterrey and to Mexico, I took a personal day to visit the city of Monterrey (a worthwhile destination!) and to smell the flowers.