Part 1, The Forgotten Legion of Christ Missionary
(Still on the Legion’s official books as a member of the Cancun Community)
By John Lloyd Stevens, special envoy
He was a boyhood friend, a fellow Dubliner and a member of the Legion of Mary -though he was more fervent than I. He joined the Legion of Christ shortly after me and partially because of me; November 1961, as he reminded me when we met. My memory is not what it used to be so I had questions for RC (not the famous one in Chile). He is an ordained priest, still on the Legion’s books and still proudly signs LC after his name.
I was traveling back to Quintana Roo, Mexico, the Legion of Christ’s only Mission Territory-though they may tell you otherwise. The Legion does claim otherwise, with its Catholic World Missions organization, thus demonstrating its penchant for “playing loose with the truth” in order to deceive well-intentioned, generous and hopeful Catholics into donating (manipulative fundraising). See long footnote at end of article
When I visited the Yucatan Peninsula recently I wanted to see my old friend, RC. I was “touring” with my wife but the bonds of my teenage friendship with RC and our years in the Legion and on the missions spurred me to look for him. He was not easy to find.
RC, now in his 72nd year, was not living in a Legion of Christ religious community. I would have expected him to be in one of the two large communities in the Prelature, Chetumal’s Sacred Heart or Cancun’s expensive residence on Bonampak Avenue, but he was not there. I learned through the grapevine –official Legion sources would not mention this you can rest assured- that he was living in a private home in Merida, Yucatan. And that he was being taken care of by a female friend. Lest your suspicions be aroused, knowing RC I can set your mind to rest: he is the straightest arrow I have ever known. But I did not like the fact that he was not being taken care of by Legionaries in a Legion house or nursing home (It seems the Legion does not have money for that). If we calculate that RC began his assignment in 1973 and “retired” a few years ago because of illness we can conclude that he worked for the Legion of Christ and served the poor people of Quintana Roo for about forty years non-stop. I believe his trips to his native Ireland have been very very rare. Raymond’s mind seemed to be foggy and he was unable to describe contact with his family of origin. (The author has learned after first writing his report that Fr. Ray’s siblings did in fact keep in touch with him in Mexico and had made a large bank transfer to help defray his medical expenses.)
RC developed diabetes and had the big toe of one foot and two small toes of the other removed. On January 28, 2015, arriving in Merida from Chichen-Itzá I began my quest for the elusive RC. My lady friend told me he was living in “the back of beyond” on the outskirts of Merida. But I was undeterred. And I blessed my wife for her solidarity. Sorting through old and new numbers I finally reached him. Hearing his voice on the phone after decades of silence and isolation was a real pleasure and well worth the effort. Unfortunately neither his voice nor his thinking were sharp and it was hard to get his exact address. That did not stop me. From our comfortable Wyndham hotel we jumped in a taxi and made for his home with the data we had. The driver knew Avenue 2000 but insisted in knowing the neighborhood name. “?Qué colonia?”, he insisted and I would call RC. My good friend could not tell me what neighborhood he was living in. (He hardly goes out and when he does so he is chauffeured by his friend, Ma del Socorro.) I continued to prod him. He told me he was in his wheelchair and would have to go outside to the street corner to see the name of his neighborhood on the sign. I was relentless. With that information the driver did an about turn and got near RC’s place. I stepped out and found his humble abode around the corner from where the taxi had stopped. The driver kindly gave us his number so we could call him at the end of our visit.
I pried open the iron gate that led to a front patio. I could finally glimpse him at the open front door with a smile on his face. We were shocked and saddened to see RC in a wheelchair. We asked him to show us how he got around and went into his room and the kitchen directly behind the small sitting room. And I could feel anger well up inside. “Why weren’t they taking proper care of my friend?” Being me I inquired about financial support from the Legion. He told us that the LC was sending him a sizable weekly(?) stipend which he used for groceries and medical expenses. He seemed to imply it was not enough but the amount he mentioned (correctly?) was sizeable by my rapid calculations. I tried to pry more exact information from him but his answers were not clear. During our conversation RC had several serious short term memory lapses, including him blurting out in the middle of our meeting, “Who are you?”; this, instead of making me angry, made me more sad as I realized that his mental health was not the best. (More anger wells up in me but I carry on as if nothing had happened).
-Oh, yes, you are my friend, John!
-Indeed, Ray, I am. Remember when you played the piano at our house?
-Yes, and we took part in a talent contest singing “Down by the riverside.”
He tried to remember the other song we performed at Phibsboro Parish Hall. I remembered the song but I kept the name to myself –for some strange reason.
(To be continued)
See long footnote below
[Open Quote, Legion of Christ statement on their Missions:
Thursday, 19 february 2015 9:53 PM
What We do
Catholic World Mission
Catholic World Mission exists to bring education and the message of Christ to neighbors throughout the world. We bring faith, education and opportunity to people in the mission areas.
Together with some enterprising lay Catholics, Fr. Thomas Moylan, LC, a priest of the Legion of Christ, helped found Catholic World Mission in 1998 for the sake of supporting Catholic education and missionary activities around the world.
Our lay missionaries and teachers catechize, educate and serve the people in their native communities. Catholic World Mission enables poor families to experience the life-changing power of the Catholic Faith, helping them break out of poverty and ignorance and bringing them hope and spiritual renewal.
Fr. Thomas Moylan provides us with sound spiritual advice as well as his insights from 10 years as a missionary in the jungles of Latin America. The day to day operation of Catholic World Mission is handled by qualified lay people who share his vision and spirituality. We cooperate and receive counsel from many other Catholic lay men and women who are active in similar charitable work.
Catholic World Mission is a 501 c 3 religious non-profit listed in the 2001 Official Catholic Directory on page 847.
For more information about Catholic World Mission and our important and urgent mission please contact us at (203) 287-6314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The writer bolded a phrase to illustrate the Legion’s “playing loosely with the truth” and also because such an inexact statement is a slap in the face for those Legionaries of Christ who really have been missionaries in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
• Fr. Thomas Moylan, another boyhood friend of mine, fellow student at St. Vincent’s CBS, Glasnevin, Dublin, has been “on the Missions” as the fundraising plug states. The writer has been a missionary too, with RC and with TM, but their service to the poor Maya people could not be more different. In other words, Fr. Moylan was in Quintana Roo for a few years.
• Parts of Quintana Roo could be described as “tropical rainforest” but it also contains the cities of Chetumal, Playa del Carmen, Cancun, the Riviera Maya and many other tourist destinations.
• When Frs. RC, Coady R.I.P., Quinn, Corrigan and Mexicans Valencia, Orozco, De la Torre, Penilla, et al. began their mission work Cancun was just being discovered. Fr. RC has been there since the beginning, 1973, and worked tirelessly until his “retirement” a few years ago forced by diabetes and its consequences.
• Among other assignments Fr. Moylan was the first principal of the Legion’s Instituto Cumbres in Chetumal in the mid-1970s. As far as I can recall he never drove a jeep to the remote villages to spread the Gospel and administer the sacraments to the Maya, “getting his hands dirty,” like the other Legionaries I mentioned.
• A knowledgeable reader has added the further information (loosely translated by the author): Fr. Moylan was principal of the Instituto Cumbres in Cozumel for four years (1981-85). He also spent one year as assistant pastor in Chetumal and about three years as pastor in Carrillo Puerto. So, if we exclude his years working in the Legion’s schools (for the middle and upper classes) we can count about four years of pastoral service in the Chetumal-Cancun Prelature (a prelature is a church jurisdiction which is not sufficiently mature to be considered a fully-fledged diocese)