My name is Frances Emily Smith. I was born in Norwalk, Ohio, on Feb.2, 1938. Ever since I was a child I felt a call to minister in Mexico. In my first community, Franciscans, I did outreach work with the many migrant farmworkers of the area. . . In 1987 I left the Tiffin, Ohio diocese and the Franciscans, and in 1987 I joined the Sisters for Christian Community. In 1997 I met Roberto Cruz from Villa Garcia, Zacatecas, who invited me to his village to help the weavers find outlets for their rugs.
This year I am celebrating 32 years as a Sister for Christian Community and 21 years ministering in Mexico. My present ministry is as the administrator of Casa Clemens, a retreat and conference center I am the field director for a student grant program, Weavers of Hope, that at present supports 72 students. I began a Circle of Women which meets once a month for meditation, reflection, and sharing. I teach English out of my home, located in a rural area, El Copetillo, Villa Garcia.
Since February of 2003 we have a grant program for students called Weavers of Hope. Some 125 have graduated with professions since that time. For most, it’s the first time any of the family have been able to continue their studies. This program is sponsored by an Austin, Texas, 501c3, and many of the sponsors are from Austin. Several Sisters for Christian Community are sponsors as are some of the graduates from Mexico. Villa Garcia, Zacatecas, was known in the past for its weavings, and Weavers of Hope continues to buy fine weavings from artisans in Villa Garcia. When the factories multiplied in the area and the weavers weren’t receiving a fair income, many families began working in the factories
As of October, 2019, there are 72 being sponsored, 29 boys and 43 girls. There are 42 studying at the university level, 9 in high school (10th to 12th grades here), 7 in junior high (7th to 9th grades), and 14 in the primary school (1st to 6th grades). As for those at the university level, twenty-two (22) are pursuing careers in the manufacturing industry. This reflects how most of the families have an income, factory work. The average factory income is around $4,000 pesos or $215 dollars a month. The other 20 students at the university level are pursuing these careers: There are two studying in each of these areas: biology/chemistry, psychology, veterinarian, human rights (law), and accounting. There is one studying in each of the following areas: nursing, mining, chef and administration, pedagogy, social studies, renewable energy, physical therapy, dentistry, philosophy, and mechanics. Eight of the latter are boys, so that means 14 boys are in industry and 8 girls.