A Tarahumara Wellness Story
Click Here for a detailed report of the work of the Mission! (PDF)
I arrived in Creel this past 28th of March. Since then Fr. Guillermo Estrada, S.J. took charge of going over all of the details I needed to be aware of so that I could assume my new mission in service of the Rarámuri Indians in the Sierra Tarahumara. I am becoming more and more familiar with the Santa Teresita Clinic and our school “Benesika Angupi” (learning one of each other), and I’ve had the opportunity to visit several communities where we have distributed corn, as well as visit our Museum in Cusárare and our Mission Store (where we sell handicrafts). I have encountered some very impressive people who know and love their work. They are the ones who will teach me about the mission I have received.
I arrived here knowing full well that I have been sent to do the work of Someone, with a capital letter, who is greater than I. And, I realize that “our cause is in the hands of the Lord”. My work will be a grain of sand, a service in collaboration with a great team of people, of which all of you are a part since the time when the memorable Fr. Luis Verplancken, S.J. was alive. I feel proud to be able to serve this mission that has progressed, thanks first of all to God, since it’s his work, as well as to the many people who have sincerely collaborated in solidarity with our most needed indigenous brothers and sisters.
Fr. David Ungerleider, S.J. has spoken to me about you, your human qualities and organized work to benefit this apostolate that belongs to us all. I begin my job as Director with a lot of enthusiasm and hope because I am joining an effort of many people. For me, this is a light in the midst of so much egoism and voracity that we witness in our daily lives. Thanks to your support and prayers, we Jesuits have been able to continue work with our sight focused on those who have less.
May the God of life continue to cure so many human lives through people like you and help you maintain a deep joy in your hearts knowing that you are collaborating with His work.
I await with joy the moment when we will meet each other this coming Fall, when I travel to see you with Fr. David.
In the meantime please receive my warmest regards,
Fr. Miguel Quintanilla, S.J.
The Santa Teresita Clinic and Mission Complex
Fr. David Ungerleider, S.J.
Fr. David Ungerleider, S.J. has a been a Jesuit since he entered the order in 1969. Although he was born in upstate New York, he has spent most of his adult life in Mexico and is a member of the Mexican Province of the Society of Jesus. Besides his undergraduate degrees in philosophy and theology, he completed a Master’s degree in social anthropology and has worked in Mexico City, Tabasco, Puerto Rico, Torreon and now in Tijuana, where he is Assistant to the President of the Jesuit University there. During this time there, he has built a church, public library, gymnasium and Casa Manresa, the first retreat house in the city of Tijuana.
Several years ago, Fr. Verplancken asked Fr. David to assist him with his work with the Tarahumara. For more than a decade now, he has been active with the Mission, helping to assist Fr. Verplancken up until his death in 2004. He then worked with Fr. Gilberto during the year of transition until the Jesuit Provincial appointed Fr. Pedro as the full time director of the Mission in Creel. Fr. Pedro was succeeded by Fr. Guillermo in 2012 and most recently by Fr. Miguel (March 2015). Fr. David has continued to act as liaison and advisor for more than 10 years now. He has been an important and constant support during the past decade of transition and became a close friend and counsel to Fr. Guillermo during his 3 years in this position. In the midst of another transition in the Director's position in Creel, Fr. David will most certainly play a key role as Fr. Miguel assumes responsibility for the many and varied duties of the Director. We are so very thankful for his ongoing spirit and devotion and always look forward to welcoming to the U.S. benefits at the end of each year.
John Brockamp, TCHF of Oregon President
The Tarahumara Childrens Hospital Fund (TCHF) consists of four separate groups working together to support the Jesuit Tarahumara Mission in the Copper Canyon of Mexico. These groups are located in Detroit MI, New Orleans, LA and Milwaukie (Portland), OR. The Mission headquarters is in Creel, Chihuahua, Mexico, with Fr. Miguel Quintanilla, S.J. serving as Director since March of 2015.
The TCHF was first established in Detroit in 1966 as an independent, non-profit, tax deductible organization. Since that time, chapters have been created in Louisiana in 1983 and Oregon in 1998. Our purpose is to raise money and awareness in the United States to support vital services provided to the Tarahumara Indians in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico. The 60,000 Tarahumara Indians who live in the Sierra Mountains maintain lifestyles much like their ancient ancestors. Many still live in caves, without electricity or running water. Their dire poverty results in malnutrition, parasites, and many intestinal diseases, which still claim 25-40% of their children before their fifth birthday. The Mission Tarahumara, headed by a compassionate Jesuit priest, provides a range of services to the Tarahumara people. First, a medical clinic was created. Today, it has 75 beds, 2/3 for children. The mission is also responsible for digging water wells which provide safe drinking water for many people. A boarding school has been developed which teaches Indian children about their own culture, the Spanish language, and teaches them skills to make a living as farmers, craftsmen, and teachers of their people. In recent years, outdated and obsolescent oxygen and X-Ray equipment has been replaced as well as heavily used ambulances and rehabilitative playground equipment. All of these projects are funded through the generous help of patrons from around the country and the world.
The Tarahumara people do not have the means to pay for these services themselves. The Mission must rely on the support of foundations and individuals who recognize the importance of both preserving a cultural heritage and ensuring the healthy future of a tribal community. Fr. Miguel Quintanilla, S.J., the new Mission Director, continues the belief in "helping people help themselves". The Mission does not just provide charity today. It trains and uplifts the Indian people so that they can provide for themselves tomorrow.
Please visit the rest of our site for more information about the Mission Tarahumara. Thank you for visiting us and we invite you to stop in at our "Donation" center located at the tab at the top of this page.
John Brockamp, President, Tarahumara Children's Hospital Fund of Oregon
John and Peggy Brockamp of Milwaukie, OR first visited the Tarahumara region of Mexico during an excursion to the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico in the late 1990's. During a brief stop in the small town of Creel they came upon the local church and its priest Fr. Luis Verplancken. After a short conversation, they learned that this priest had been stationed in Creel for more than 30 years during which time he had helped to build a dam, dig water wells, build schools and most importantly erect a hospital to provide medical care for the indigenous Tarahumara Indians. The mission was totally dependent on the financial assistance of patrons and donors in Mexico and from abroad. Fr. Verplancken went on to explain that non-profit organizations had been set up in New Orleans and Detroit many years ago and were integral to the ongoing operation. John, a retired general contractor, and Peggy, a retired RN, were looking for a project to keep them active and involved during retirement. A light went off in John's head and he asked, and then convinced Peggy that they should start a chapter in Milwaukie. 15 years later, the Oregon chapter of the TCHF is proud to follow in the fine tradition set in place by New Orleans and Detroit.