The Governor General of Canada has named Fr. Fred Monk, former pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Cochrane (1998-2007), as a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) for founding Mission Mexico (missionmexico.com).
For the past 20 years “Father Fred,” as he is popularly known, has distinguished himself as a visionary of hope and dignity for historically marginalized Indigenous communities in the mountains of southern Mexico, violated by poverty, inadequate education and denial of human rights.
In partnership with village leaders and other onsite NGOs, this outreach of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary has committed itself to assisting the too-long marginalized in realizing their own dreams for a better life. This has included assistance in healthcare, occupational and educational projects, such as providing bursaries, training programs, and construction of an orphanage and school.
Father Fred is quick to share credit for this medal with Mission Mexico’s three onsite coordinators over the years: educator Leslie Davies, from Cochrane; graphic artist Patricia Gasca, from Mexico; and educator Mike MacDonald, from Calgary (see Mike’s blog, mike-mmex.blogspot.com). Nor can the original inspiration of several key people in southern Mexico be overlooked, such as Bishop Alejo Castro, Fr. Lawrence Moran, and Abel Barrera, founder of the Center for Human Rights of the Mountain in Tlachinollan, in Guerrero.
I’d like to give the closing word to Abel Barrera. Upon learning of the honour paid to Father Fred, he wrote to him as follows:
FATHER FRED, THANK YOU for sharing your faith and your love among the very least in this land forgotten by governments. You continue being present among us here through this life-giving project that you so wisely baptized as Mission Mexico.
You have allowed so many boys and girls to be able to go on to higher education. You have helped women and men in so many families to receive training in different trades and professions.
Many people today, because of your assistance, enjoy decent health. They were able to have access to lab tests, to medicines, and on occasion, to be able to bury a loved one with dignity.
We simply want to say to you that you have been always with us in our labours during our years of accompanying these peoples. You have always been attentive to the neediest of the needy: to battered and abused women, to malnourished children, to families in mourning for the death of their father in the fields of large agribusinesses.
You have been a prophet as well in your own land. That is how we understand this recognition from the Governor General of Canada, the Meritorious Service Medal.
We are filled with pride for you and we congratulate you. Because we know that in your heart there resides an infinite love for the sons and daughters of this beloved plot of land: the Mountain of Guerrero.
Receive our affection and our admiration.
—Abel Barrera and the team
© 2020 Warren Harbeck