.- Évila Quintana Molina is a single mother in a Mexican prison. She has never spoken in public, to protect her little daughter from being teased by other children. But when she was chosen to give her testimony to Pope Francis, her eight-year-old daughter encouraged her to go ahead.
“What’s more, I want to be there with you,” her daughter Camilla told her.
On Feb. 17, she will address Pope Francis on the last day of his visit to Mexico. Évila Quintana is imprisoned at Social Rehabilitation Center Number Three in Ciudad Juarez. About 800 prisoners are housed there, including some 100 women. Around 200 of the inmates’ relatives will also be in attendance.
Évila Quintana had been a university student who worked in a bank and took care of her daughter. In 2010, she was jailed on accusations of money laundering.
She said going to prison was her entrance into very hostile territory. She had never been in jail, not even to visit someone. It was a very difficult stage that she managed to overcome, especially for the sake of her child.
“My little daughter sees this... I ask her if she’s ashamed of me and she says no, that she never would be. On the contrary, (she says) that I’m a very brave woman,” Évila said.
The 34-year-old woman told the Mexican daily news outlet Presencia Digital that her case is still in legal proceedings and so she held back details of her case. However, she says that she now believes she has a God of justice who will determine how much time she will spend in prison.
She recounted the day she heard she had been chosen to speak to the Pope. She was working in the store at the women’s prison when she was called in for a hearing. She did not know what it was for.
“I thought: ‘what’s happened now?’”
She read a piece of paper they gave her. After a few hours they told her she had been chosen to give a testimony to the Pope.
Évila Quintana asked the hearing: “Do you think I really deserve this? Because I’m really a sinner. To stand up in a public place and offer him a few words, I think this is a huge responsibility, and I am a sinner for real.”
The person at the hearing answered: “I’m not the one who chose you, it was God.”
The woman acknowledged that she is not a practicing Catholic. But she said she knows that “God is always with me, this is part of my getting closer to his Church again, to come back.”
Writing her speech for the Pope was another matter.
“They told me you’ve got to tell him what was it like going to prison, your time there, your feelings as a mom, how you’re getting through it, how you feel, what a visit is like for you. They gave me three topics to talk on and I had to develop them, and I said, ‘how am I going to relate to a holy person?’” she told Presencia Digital.
The young mother could not find anything to write about. Then she remembered that when she was arrested in Mexico City, she read a Bible verse she paraphrased as saying, “you need to talk to the prisoners, as if you were in the jail with them.”
“I think this is what I’m going to base my speech on,” Évila Quintana thought.
More than material things, she emphasized, prisoners need “a phone call, and occasionally asking you how you’re doing. Those things are important.”
In Pope Francis’ travels as “a missionary of mercy” he is “emulating the footsteps of Christ,” she said. “He’s trying to be with everyone who has a spiritual need.”
“I’m part of his people, and so he serves as a pastor who starts to gather together his little sheep to get them back on the path... we’re part of the people of God, we’re part of society, we need a period of time to rejoin society, but we’re not outside of God’s people,” she reflected.
To prepare for her speech, Évila Quintana tried to think of what she had in common with the Pope. Help came in the form of a phone call from Camilla.
“My daughter told me, ‘you and the Pope have the same birthday.'”
Évila Quintana was still concerned that children will be cruel to her daughter if they learn her mother is in jail. She tried her best to keep the news quiet that she was going to speak in front of the Pope.
However, her daughter had a different view.
“Mommy, I’m not going to be ashamed at all. What’s more, I want to be with you,” were Camilla’s words. She will be next to her mother on Feb. 17, when she addresses the Pope.
Évila Quintana said that Pope Francis’ visit will help all of Mexico. Ciudad Juarez, as a border city, has been “very much harmed by violence.”
“I believe that he is bringing a message of peace,” she said.
Tags: Pope Francis in Mexico