A Christmas Celebration in Huehuetenango Guatemala

by Sr. Mary Kay Meagher, ND


This Christmas there is a good reason for Sr. Mary Kay Meagher, ND, to head south for a historical and unique celebration within the diocese of Huehuetenango Guatemala.  Twenty-five years ago, in 1998 two women, heeding a call to dedicate their lives as vowed religious women in the Catholic Church, laid the foundation for what would evolve into a Diocesan congregation known as the Disciples of the Good Shepherd (Discipulos del Buen Pastor). This initiative took shape under the guidance and encouragement of Bishop Bobadilla in Huehuetenango, Guatemala.   The mission of this congregation is to serve the poor in communities within their diocese, with a particular focus on the indigenous population living in extreme poverty who also have great physical and spiritual needs. Their symbol expresses Jesus’s care as the God the shepherd caring for the poor.

Simultaneously, a small group in the Omaha Diocese under the guidance of Father Damien Zuerlein, found inspiration from Pope John Paul II’s call for dioceses in developed nations to form relationships in solidarity with dioceses in the developing world. Fr. Damian connected with Sergio Sosa, a former seminarian for the Huehuetenango Guatemala diocese now living in Omaha, to explore the possibility of developing a relationship between the Omaha and Huehuetenango diocese. After many conversations between Fr. Damien, Sergio, and Bishop Rudolfo Bobadilla, an invitation was extended by Bishop Rudolfo Bobadilla for persons from Omaha to visit the Diocese of Huehuetenango.  The result of this was a very fruitful relationship and the formation of Ixim: Spirit of Solidarity, an archdiocesan ministry cultivating relationships of friendship, faith, and solidarity between the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Diocese of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. There is an annual journey for those wanting to enter into this solidarity relationship. Over 200 missionaries have traveled to Huehuetenango. Thousands more support projects in parishes and schools. Each supporter and missionary have built their own unique connection. Many are part of the committees that keep our relationship alive and our projects thriving.  The Omaha Leadership Team has years of missionary experience and applies their talents in medicine, education, business, and pastoral care to serve the Diocese of Huehuetenango and the Archdiocese of Omaha.

Spanish is the official language in Guatemala. There are many indigenous groups with their own language with over 22 languages spoken.  The only word that is the same in each language is Ixim (meaning corn).  The Omaha group proposed the name of the group Ixim as Nebraska (the corn state) to symbolize the special solidarity. Thus, the symbol.

A large part of the Diocese of Huehuetenango are the Disciples of the Good Shepherd, a group of Sisters who live together in community. They go through a long process of formation and education to prepare to consecrate their lives to building God’s kingdom among the people in the Diocese of Huehuetenango. They are working to become leaders in their local parishes.

The objective between the Omaha and Huehuetenango Dioceses is to share and receive mutual support in ministry, focusing on providing clean water for children, creating conducive learning environments in schools, enhancing access to quality healthcare, empowering women religious to spread the Word of God in schools and rural areas, and strengthening the bond between the two sister dioceses. Central to Ixim is the emphasis on building relationships and solidarity.

Through annual trips and much collaboration, relationships between the two dioceses grew. The Disciple Sisters identified a critical need for education to enhance their service and ministry. Thus, a monetary relationship emerged alongside personal spiritual connections, with financial support provided for the Disciple Sisters’ education. Others from Omaha were invited to contribute not only financially, but also to establish relationships through Zoom, email, and other means.

I first learned about Ixim in 2003 and instantly recognized it as a perfect fit for me. I have been and am deeply invested in Ixim since then. I have been on some 12 trips where in solidarity have been able to utilize my health care background in providing clinical services. I also actively serve on the Leadership Board, have a role in recruiting individuals interested in joining our annual journey, and facilitating monthly pre-trip orientation meetings for those to go on a trip.

This Christmas journey holds special significance for me, as I celebrate not only as a member of Ixim but also as a vowed religious in the archdiocese of Omaha. I am joined by a group of vowed religious women, and together, we embrace a sense of unity in our commitment to the Church, religious life, and ministry dedicated to serving the poorest in our community.