It was in Chiapas in 1963 that we established our first mission, taking on the responsibility of the world’s largest parish: Ocosingo-Altamirano, home to the Tzeltal Indians, the poorest and most oppressed people of Mexico, living in the southern jungles and mountains. Our efforts toward evangelization have resulted in the formation of 1,000 Mayan catechists, ensuring accessibility of Sunday Mass and the sacraments. Our project of translating the Bible into Tzeltal is helping to create an authentically Mayan Catholic community, close to the heart of the people.
We especially support Hospital San Carlos in Altamirano, which was opened in 1967 under the direction of our physician/psychologist/priest, Fr. John Flannery, O.P., along with the Presentation Sisters. After decades of contributions and support, a larger, more modern hospital building was constructed and the ministry continues to flourish, now under the direction of the Mexican Province’s Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Today the hospital serves 15,000 patients per year, with special attention to those suffering from tuberculosis; babies with cleft lips and palates; teenagers with decayed teeth; mothers with high-risk pregnancies; and the elderly whose bodies are fragile and worn from years of relentless labor. The Tzeltal Indians still travel for days through thick jungles to reach the hospital, coming by foot or by mule, carried on the backs of others, or loaded into the beds of rickety pickups. The staff’s wish list includes repairing, updating, and adding to their inventory of medical equipment; broadening the education and training of indigenous personnel; spreading awareness of preventative health measures; and making known the hospital’s presence and capabilities to those remote villages most vulnerable to disease.