Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Although life is not easy in the Guatemala Highlands, ‘Daily we have our faith confirmed’

by Sister Marie Tolle SCNY, for the Inland Register

(From the June 21, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)

(The following is an interview with Isabel Morales, who will describe a day in the life of her mother, Nicolasa Ordonez, a Mayan Indian in the Highlands of Guatemala – part of the area served by the Spokane Diocese’s mission.)

Isabel told us that as a young child she remembered her mother getting up at 5 a.m. She left the house and walked to the Santa Rita Restaurant and picked up soiled napkins to be washed. These she took to the river and washed them against a rock. Then she needed to dry and iron them (on a table in her house, with an iron that was heated by putting carbon inside). Next she returned the napkins to the restaurant. Her pay was 20 cents, with which she went and bought four pounds of corn. She returned home and prepared the corn for making tortillas – the corn is first soaked, then ground on a stone.

Isabel Morales (left) and her mother, Nicolasa Ordonez. (IR photo courtesy of the Guatemala Commission)

Breakfast for her family of seven was about 9 a.m. Sometimes, if there was no work, there was no money, and therefore no breakfast. At breakfast they all received one tortilla with some chile on it.

Her father worked some distance from home. The Pan American Highway was being constructed and he was a guard in several areas. The little he earned helped feed the family for the rest of the day.

Their simple meals were of herbs, potatoes, and tortillas. Only a few times a year, on feast days, did they have meat and bread. After breakfast, it was back to the restaurant again to pick up more washing.

There was no school in their community, but Isabel’s two brothers, Antonio and Martin, walked the two kilometers to El Novillero. She and her sisters did not attend school.

Before the Spokane Mission came to Santa Lucia and El Novillero, people went as far as Sololá for Mass on Sunday. Isabel was baptized in Argueta, a nearby village.

Nor was there a clinic in El Novillero prior to the arrival of the mission. Her mother had no prenatal care, nor were the children vaccinated. All this came later. Isabel told us that her mother suffered a lot in her life. She had 12 pregnancies: there were two miscarriages, five children died in infancy, and five living children were now living). Isabel is the second child.

She recalled that while her mother was expecting her (in the 8th month of the pregnancy) both of her mother’s parents were killed in a landslide. Her mother was so traumatized by the death of her parents that she was too weak to deliver her baby and had to be helped by natural medicine.

In her charity, her mother had to assume responsibility for her two surviving sisters, who came to live with her after the disaster.

When the Spokane Mission came to El Novillero, Isabel was about 15 years old. There were church activities, when one was confirmed and somehow learned to read. Her father got a job with the Co-op founded by the Mission and lived at home. Later, both her mother, Nicolasa, and her father became Eucharistic Ministers in the Parish.

Isabel insisted that the strong faith of her mother in all trials and tribulations was a tremendous example to the rest of the family. She remembers especially the day her father was killed by a fall from one of the Co-op buildings. Her mother’s devotion to the Holy Eucharist was extraordinary and she continued in all her trials to be a Eucharistic minister.

Today, Nicolasa lives happily with her son, Martín; his wife, Alicia; and their two little girls, as well as her daughter, Josifa, and her son, José Alberto. One of her greatest Easter joys was at the Holy Saturday ceremonies to see her daughter-in-law, Alicia, received into the Church and receive the sacraments of Baptism, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, and Matrimony.

Sister Immaculata Burke and I are blessed to know people like Nicolasa Ordonez. How right was Christ when he said “the poor will have the Gospel preached to them”!

Daily we have our faith confirmed.

(For more information about the diocesan mission in Guatemala, go to: or call (509) 924-1346.)

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