Sister Maggie has a mission
Alejandra Candia Tapia (top right) used to get school help from the mission. Now a college student, she serves as a volunteer, on this day helping children write book reports.
SISTER MAGGIE SLOWICK, O.S.F. never meant to stay in Mexico, much less found a ministry for desperately poor children there. Yet nearly two decades after Slowick came for summer Spanish lessons in Cuernavaca, Mexico she remains, orchestrating a small outreach effort that aims to break the cycle of poverty by helping impoverished children succeed in school. The Cuernavaca Children’s Mission that she runs gives intensive help to roughly 80 children and their families each year, providing tutoring, medicine, school fees, a library, adult literacy classes, and other personalized aid. Thousands of children also receive hot meals through the mission.
Slowick’s efforts began with listening. On her second summer of Spanish studies in 2004, she began to feel a call to respond to the poverty she saw around her. “The mission had its early roots in my walking the streets of Cuernavaca and talking with the people, especially the poor, to ascertain their needs,” she says.
“Our tutoring program began when we realized many of the children came from families whose parents had very little education and were unable to help their children with schoolwork. We held the tutoring classes at an outdoor cafe across the street from the cathedral. We did it in the heart of downtown Cuernavaca so that the mothers of the children—street vendors selling crafts—could be nearby.”
With financial and moral support from her religious community, the Tiffin, Ohio Franciscans, and now a network of donors and volunteers, her small tutoring effort eventually grew into the Cuernavaca Children’s Mission. “When we realized that literacy was a problem, we established a children’s library with computers. When we saw that the children were sometimes too hungry to concentrate, we began our meal program,” she explains. During the coronavirus pandemic, the mission established safety protocols and started a food bank for families that lost their income.
Slowick keeps tackling problems one by one. She once learned of a family whose infant passed his days in a cardboard box. She helped the family purchase a stroller and kept them engaged with the mission. As for the baby: “He’s doing very well in school now,” she reports.
Tracking the educational progress of the children means a lot to Slowick and her volunteers, a dozen of whom have become Franciscan Associates. In fact, among the volunteer tutors are young people who once received help from the mission themselves, some of whom have even gone on to college.
“It is incredibly touching,” she says, “to see children who once struggled in school be successful in their studies and want to help the younger children.”
Related articles: VocationNetwork.org, “Sister T: A mom to moms behind bars” and “Ugandan sister mends lives.”
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