It could have been at any time, but it was March of 1992. It could perhaps have been anyone, but it was a young Carmelite lay missionary from San Diego, CA. But the place … ah! … the place was Fatima, Portugal and it had to be there. She had to be there to receive the call that shattered her heart into a million pieces.
“Give it to God!”
When the Lord called Lillian Diaz to found a new order of nuns in the Church, He left much unclear. But one thing was certain in the message: the order would be to assist priests and the Eucharist would be at its center. Having no adequate words of her own, from the depths of her soul she cried out in words mysteriously become her own: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word…” and the Trinitarians of Mary were born.
Trusting in divine providence and guided by the Holy Spirit, Mother Lillie, with two sisters and a leaky old camper, begin to live their charism atop a desolate mountain in Tecate, Mexico. Even without food, water or electricity, young women, thirsty for the Gospel life, began to arrive at the holy mountain. A benefactor, seeing that there was no place to live and so many women; built a small house and chapel.
With a blessing from the Apostolic Nuncio of Mexico and that of Archbishop Berlie of Tijuana, the fledgling community was established as “Mt. Tabor” Monastery. With the help of Msgr. Puente Ochoa, Vicar of religious and Canonical Censor of the Diocese of Tijuana, the sisters embarked on a life of prayer, study and service.
Mother Lillie sought spiritual direction from the servant of God, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. On one occasion, she flew to New York to see her and asked advice about founding a new order in the church. With tears in her eyes, Mother Lillie pleaded with Mother Teresa, “What do I do with God’s work?!” Mother Teresa responded “If it is God’s work, it will happen.” Mother Lillie exclaimed, “I’m not asking you if it is God’s work, I’m asking what do I do with God’s work?!” Taken by surprise, the Servant of God looked penetratingly in to the eyes of Mother Lillie and slowly nodding her head said, “Yes, yes, this is the work of God. All I can tell you then is to get out of the way and let Him do it. Give it to God!”
Building a Society of Love
In the spring of 1994, Mother Lillie went to Rome to see the Holy Father. Arriving at the audience, the Holy Father, touching her cheek asked, are you from Mexico?” Mother nodded. The Holy Father said “Contemplatives from Mexico! I am happy to see the Church thriving there!” at which point he blessed Mother Lillie and the community of the Trinitarians of Mary. Since then, Mother has had the opportunity to meet with the Holy Father on three other occasions, in which he has encouraged and blessed the Community.
The imprint of the pope's work upon her is quite profound, “We firmly believe that a real change in society only begins when the dignity of the person is fully realized. This can only be fostered by intellectual, spiritual and physical means. Let us build a society of love! Surrender and serve the poorest of the poor: Jesus in your heart,” says Mother Lillie.
The sisters of the community come from a variety of backgrounds and countries. Most of the sisters are from Mexico, 10 are from the United States and one is from Korea. They speak both Spanish and English. Most of the sisters are high school and college graduates and several sisters have masters and doctoral degrees. A few of the younger sisters are finishing high school by correspondence. The average age is 26. For vocations, the sisters welcome women between the ages of 15 and 35 to call them and set up a vocational discernment retreat.
Mount Tabor Monastery has grown rapidly over the past 10 years. It has become a center for pilgrimage and prayer drawing people from all parts of Mexico and the United States who visit the Monastery desiring a conversion of heart, a profound encounter with God, or just a silent moment away from a busy and noisy world. The pilgrim is not the only one who climbs the “Mount of Transfiguration”. Mt. Tabor has become a haven for the poorest of the poor. Thousands of families of the greater Tecate-Tijuana areas have been helped by the distribution of food, clothing, blankets, building supplies and medicine. Scheduled to open within the next two years, subject to funding, is the conservatory for girls. The sisters plan to provide free education, room and board to the most underprivileged and orphaned girls in an environment of love and compassion.
Much Done and Much to Do
This however, is only the beginning of a much larger vision. Mother Lillie and the Trinitarians of Mary pray for the day in which Mt. Tabor becomes a “Holy City”. A place where the Most Holy Trinity would be worshipped in spirit and truth. Among the elements of their vision are:
• A basilica/shrine: Masses around the clock, confessions, processions with the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady, similar to Lourdes and Fatima.
• Hospital: A full time facility that would attend to the needs of the poor and staffed by volunteers.
• A seminary and school for boys. The school for girls is already underway.
• A Catholic University: One that is faithful to the magisterium of the Church.
• Assistance for Priests: Housing for priests to make regular retreats. A home for dying priests.
• Retreat Facility: Housing for the various groups so that overnight and week long retreats could be possible.
• Housing: A place where consecrated lay people and volunteers could live who would help staff the various programs and activities.
Already a number of community outreach projects are under way to care for the material and especially medical needs of the poor of the area. A dispensary for the poor serves approximately 1,000 people per month. Daily handing out food and clothing to the poor who live in the cardboard homes in the area. Most of them survive by going to the nearby dump and living off whatever is available. There is an additional dispensary serving a drug rehabilitation center, that feeds over 1,000 men every two weeks. Such centers in Mexico are not funded by the state, but only by donations from the community. They rely on benefactors for food, clothing, and medication. The monastery is the principle supporter of this particular center. These men are the poorest outcasts of society, without jobs or hope or family to care for them.
In 1996, Mother Lillie sought medical assistance at various religiously affiliated hospitals of Tijuana. She was unable to find a properly equipped center to assist her with her medical needs. And she was turned away due to her inability to pay. She understands firsthand what the very poor suffer when unable to finance their health care. She conceived of a clinic with traveling doctors to come on a regular basis and tend to this crucial need of the poor. The Walnut Humanitarian and Medical Mission doctors have been assisting the Trinitarians on a monthly basis for the past three years, providing medicine and treatments. The Trinitarians of Mary plan to construct a fully equipped medical clinic. Duran Development is drawing up the blueprints for this building and the Walnut Humanitarian and Medical Mission is soliciting financial support. The Clinic would include labs, radiology, minor surgery rooms, dental rooms, exam rooms, pre-natal/obstetrics and an office.
Day long retreats are available, but overnight and extended stays are not yet possible due to the fact that there is no housing. In spite of this restriction one or two retreats every week serve from 20-100 people from both Mexico and the United States. This number includes Church groups, parish prayer groups, organizations, teachers and individuals. For children and youths there are 3-4 retreats per week during the school year. From 100-200 children, primarily from schools in Tijuana, are served in these retreats. And true to the initial call of Mother Lillie, 3-5 priests a week come to Mt. Tabor to find rest in an atmosphere of silence and prayer. Many of the them receive counseling and spiritual direction from one of the qualified sisters.
Once a week the sisters provide religious education for about 60 children whose parents are the brick makers and whose homes are next to the local dump.
The sisters pray daily to the Lord for their needs and those people they care for. The Lord answers their prayers and sends food, clothing and donations. Their total dependence on Him has enabled them to help thousands of poor families from the greater Tecate-Tijuana area through the distribution of food, clothing, building supplies, medicine and religious education. Unfortunately, despite this material assistance, these families have little chance of changing their condition and escaping the vicious cycle of poverty. It will remain an insurmountable obstacle, Mother Lillie believes, due to their ignorance. To feed and clothe the poor, assist the sick and console the afflicted, is only a temporary solution. What is needed is the kind of change in the system that can only be brought about by education. Thus, the sisters' most urgent plea is to be equipped to finish the Blessed Jacinta Conservatory for girls, and keep it funded on a monthly basis.
Donations of supplies should be sent to:
Trinitarians of Mary
c/o 8650 Avenida Costa Blanca
San Diego, Ca. 92154
To make a monetary donation: email Sister Gloria at Trinitasmariae@catholic.org, call 011 52664 9711 092 or write to:
Trinitarians of Mary,
P.O. Box 1833
Tecate, Ca. 91980.
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