Step 2: Make Personal Connections


Faith Perspective

The 101 Bus rattles and jerks as it speeds down the road in Guatemala. There on the left in the second row sits Maryknoll Bro. Marty Shea. The path to mission, he says, happens on his trips on the 101 bus. He said, “It is there that I meet Christ in my life. I met him today in a woman with two children who insisted on giving up her seat for me. She did not have to do that but the people on the bus and everywhere in Guatemala are kind and care for one another.” Bro. Marty knows the hardship of the people. He has accompanied the indigenous poor of Guatemala for over 50 years.

In the 1980s his missionary journey took him to Mexico with the Guatemalan people who were escaping terrible violence and poverty. He lived and ministered with refugees in the refugee camp until they were able to return to their homes. He says, “Life is very hard in Guatemala. The violence, gangs, and drought make it difficult for the people. They are just trying to make a life for themselves and their children.” Bro. Marty has assisted the refugees with food, health, and educational programs but he says the most important thing he does is just being with the people. He says that by simply paying attention and offering words of support he is doing what Jesus asks us to do. Bro. Marty explains, “Jesus calls us to respond with a heart of love. If I have done that and helped someone along the way it has all been worth it.” So as he travels the roads on the 101 bus Bro. Marty continues his mission of accompaniment among the people of Guatemala.

Neighbor Focus

Late into the night Rosa’s fingers weave one friendship bracelet after the other. She knows each one will earn her twenty five cents. She is grateful to have the opportunity to pay for her own gym uniform. Right now her parents cannot afford to pay for it. Rosa, a teen who lives in Zaragoza, El Salvador, was invited by Melissa Altman, a Maryknoll Lay Missioner to be part of a bracelet program that Melissa started as a way to help families. This young woman was able to buy her uniform because she earned seventy-five dollars making bracelets.

Melissa’s work is to accompany and participate in the work at ACOMUJERZA, a Cooperative that provides an economic opportunity for people to earn a living by producing and selling clothing and other handmade goods. It is a place where the workers have the opportunity to participate in making the decisions that will determine their destiny. The Cooperative was started by parish members who were trying to help single moms after a terrible twelve-year civil war. One of the women who works there is Esmeralda. Melissa tells us the story of her friend, “At the beginning of the war Esmeralda and her eleven siblings were forced to leave their countryside farm. They left their crops, their animals, and their home, because they were told the soldiers were coming and they were going to burn everything in the town. The family became displaced people in their own country.

After the war Esmeralda took a job at a sewing factory. While working at the factory she experienced very poor working conditions. Her sister told her about ACOMUJERZA and now Esmeralda has worked there fifteen years.” She says, “The fact that I get to work with my friends and be part of the decision making is amazing. Even when times are difficult we always find a way to make it through the challenges we face.“ Melissa accompanies the group by helping to open up new places where their products can be sold. She said, “The Members are not looking for a donation or charity, they are just looking for a way to sell their product. We hope we can connect more people who would like to purchase these products to help the families in El Salvador earn enough money to stay in their communities and provide basic necessities for their families.” Walking together this group faces the challenges of each day with gratitude and hope working hard to make a better tomorrow.

If you would like to learn more about the products made at ACOMUJERZA visit their Facebook page or contact Melissa Altman at

DISCUSS THE FOLLOWING: Bro. Marty and Melissa accompany their friends and neighbors in Guatemala and El Salvador. They tell stories of their friends who have suffered from violence, war, and poverty. As missioners they use their skills and experiences to walk with the people in the hopes of finding a path to equality, justice, and peace.

1. Where does Br. Marty see Christ on the 101 Bus?

2. What does Br. Marty say is the most important thing we can do for those we serve? How and where can you do this in your life?

3. How do you think Rosa felt when she was able to earn the money for her gym uniform?

4. How can buying products from a Cooperative like the one we just read about empower consumers to think about where their products come from?

5. Why is it important to be an informed consumer and take an interest in where products come from and who makes them and how?

How does Bro. Marty and Melissa's mission of accompaniment impact the lives of others?