April 6, 2017
Cindy Mizes, a former parishioner St. Philip the Apostle parish in Corpus Christi, has begun a two-year commitment as a missionary with the Franciscan Mission Service. She left for Kingston, Jamaica on April 5.
Mizes will serve in partnership with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, who have been present in Jamaica since 1857.
A native of Corpus Christi, Mizes, wrapped up a 30-year career with the Federal government in May 2016, but her lifetime of service began much earlier. As a six-year-old she operated a cash register in the grocery store operated by her grandparents, who often provided groceries to those in need.
Franciscan Mission Service is a nonprofit that prepares and supports lay Catholics desiring to serve in solidarity with economically poor communities. Their approach to mission is one focused on the ministry of presence, which involves accompanying people in the joys and struggles of their daily lives.
Mizes was well prepared for her ministry in Kingston from her past volunteer experiences serving as a religious studies teacher for second graders and middle school students, assisting at a local food pantry, serving on a prison ministry team and volunteering for two Colorado-based hospice organizations. But Mizes points to a pivotal moment that came on a previous service trip with her son. The two traveled with a group to Nepal just after the devastating earthquake hit in 2015.
“Most of the Westerners were being evacuated and our group was just coming in,” she said. Her group tended to the physical and spiritual needs in the disaster zone, and Mizes returned with a calling. “After returning from Nepal, God placed on my heart the desire to be an overseas missioner.”
Mizes moved from Texas to Kansas in 1986 to begin her career with the federal government, only to move back to Corpus Christi in 2008. She stayed until 2011, when she moved to Colorado to work with the Department of the Interior. She said that the Colorado environment took on a special significance for her.
“It was in the mountains and on trails where I felt closest to creation and God’s presence,” Mizes said.
In 2014, Mizes graduated from the Benedictine Spiritual Formation Program, which prepared her with spiritual direction skills to apply on mission. She describes the experience as learning “how to listen openly with my heart and how to serve others through the ministry of spiritual presence.”
For her two years in Kingston, she will be living in solidarity with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. She is receiving a stipend of $260 a month.
Mizes admits it is a radical change, but she has a simple explanation. “Why would I choose to retire from a very successful career, sell my home and most of my belongings, and leave a loving family and a beloved cat to travel to some far off country where I don’t know the culture, the people or the language? Because of love.”