“Walking holding god’s hand”: the story of maria, a young mother and refugee, helped by the scalabrinian missionaries

“When I arrived in Guatemala, I was 25 years old, pregnant and with a small child.” Maria is a young woman from a Central American country, one of many refugees who are forced by violence every day to flee and seek asylum in another country. Many arrive in Guatemala and then continue their journey to Mexico and the United States. Maria has remained in Guatemala. “I left with the father of my children, but then he abandoned us,” she continues. “I had no papers, so it was very difficult for me to find a job. I started by cleaning for a lady, then I had to sell sweets and chewing gum on the street, as many people do here to survive. I always asked God not to abandon me to end up sleeping on the street. There was no one to help me. I was depressed and unable to take care of my child. The pregnancy was very difficult because I was not eating, I had no strength, I was getting dehydrated. I got to the point where I wanted to take my own life, and once I even tried.”

It was then that Maria met on her path the Scalabrinian Missionaries, who have been caring for migrants and refugees since 1992 in Guatemala, when they opened Migrant House in the town of Tecún Umán, on the border with Mexico. It’s one of the 27 Migrant Houses the Scalabrinians have opened around the world: a safe place where people who arrive find a hot meal and a bed to rest on. There, fathers and volunteers also offer legal, medical and psychological assistance. Those who decide to stay in the country are helped with job search and vocational training.  In the capital city, the Scalabrinians have also been entrusted with the Office of Pastoral Care of Human Mobility. It was here that Fr. Matteo Luison, a Scalabrinian missionary and the Director of that office, encountered Maria in 2019. He recalls that “She was sick, physically and psychologically. We referred her to a treatment center so she could recover. When she was better, we helped her look for a home where she could stay with her family. She received legal assistance in obtaining documents. We tried to support her on this journey by paying the apartment rent, furniture, food and medical care“… “Her life has been full of suffering, uncertainty, but also hope. She has been on the threshold of death, but she has been able to recognize the hand of God, who has always been there, sharing the most bitter days with her.”

Today Maria is working and has started a life: “Despite the difficulties and setbacks, I can say that I am a happy woman. I am a migrant and a refugee and I want to tell those who have been in the same situation as me that we have to keep fighting because God gives us the courage and strength to overcome these moments. I want to encourage them because I know what it means to feel lost and alone. When I had to separate from my children for treatment, it was a very painful time. But the depression and everything I went through to get out of it made me a stronger woman. The day the missionaries working for the Human Mobility Ministry came into my life is one of the best memories I have,” she says.  

My children are the engine of my life. They tell me they are doing well, they see me happy, and that encourages me. I dream of one day opening a restaurant with them and running it together. Sometimes I am afraid that their father will come back and want to take them away from me. Other times, I am afraid of disappointing my children, but I walk holding God’s hand confidently, with peace in my heart and looking at the light He puts on our paths.” 

Migrant House  in Guatemala.