Legacy of a Bishop
jTatic Samuel, as he was lovingly known to all in this region of Mexico, was the visionary Bishop of the Catholic Church in San Cristobal de las Casas from 1959 to 1999. jTatic was the title the Mayan descendants, the Original Peoples of Chiapas, gave him and means “our dear father”, a sign of respect and appreciation for his tireless work on behalf of the marginalized and the poor. There are many ways to describe the life and ministry of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, but there is a particular legacy that touches my life and the work of Global Ministries here in this southern state of Mexico on the border with Guatemala. jTatic Samuel knew he would not be around forever, but he saw his call to “see that justice is done, let mercy be (his) first concern, and humbly obey (his) God” (Micah 6:8) as growing and expanding in the organizations he helped to create during his time serving the church and the broader community.
In the Institute for Intercultural Studies and Research (INESIN in Spanish), organized by members of the Catholic Church and the United Church of Christ, jTatic Samuel deposited his vision for ecumenical and intercultural dialogue where people from across religious divides and representing a broad range of countries, races, and languages could come together, learn from each other and work towards healing the wounds of political and social oppression, environmental degradation, forced immigration, and gender inequality. Mayan, Catholic and Protestant spiritualties come together, pooling their strengths to build God’s kingdom of Shalom. This is the organization where I am serving in Chiapas on behalf of Global Ministries.
Last week, Cara McKinney a Global Missions Intern who grew up in the Ohio Region of the Christian Church, (Disciples of Christ), arrived to San Cristobal de las Casas to work with another organization started under the auspices of jTatic Samuel: Melel Xojobal, which in the Tsotsil language means “True Light”. This organization works with indigenous boys, girls and teenagers encouraging them to promote, defend, and exercise of their rights through participative processes while discovering ways to improve their quality of life. Cara will be working with teenagers in both school and out of school programs.
As both Cara and I enjoy and learn from the legacy of jTatic Samuel, you will be hearing more about how the seeds of justice, truth, hope and faith planted by one man have multiplied into a great harvest in the lives of individuals and communities throughout the state of Chiapas in Southern Mexico. May we be faithful stewards of this legacy!
Elena Huegel serves with the Intercultural Research and Studies Institute (INESIN) in Chiapas, Mexico. She serves as a consultant for peace (conflict transformation) and environmental education. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.