The mission of El Niño Rey is to save the children of Quechultenango,
Mexico from indigence, to break the cycle of poverty through education,
and to create a faith-filled group of young leaders who will in turn share
their gifts and educational blessings with their communities.
El Niño Rey (The Child King) had its origins in 1995, as one man’s pastoral commitment of mercy and justice to provide educational funding assistance and materials to needy children in the Mexican state of Guerrero.
Fr. Matthew Foley, Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, served for six years doing mission work to some seventy remote villages located in the Southern Sierra Madre Mountains of this state. It became clear to him in his travels that there was a serious need to foster and somehow offer financial help for education to these indigent children. Obtaining financial help to allow these children to attend school so they can learn to read and write, unlike many of their parents, became his goal since illiteracy would keep them down and out. This simple expectation could help break a cycle of poverty and lead to better lives for them, and ultimately, for these isolated villages and their communities. He sent appeal letters back home to family and friends who responded with money to help the cause. Thus, El Niño Rey had its beginnings. Today, some 800 plus children are now provided assistance.
In 1995, a woman came to the door asking for holy water for a little neighbor boy who had died. Monica, the neighbor who had come for the water, said that the family was poor and could not afford a service in the Church. Frustrated with the explanation, I asked to follow her to the house where the young boy lay waiting, while his father and older brother were preparing his grave. Upon arrival at the one room house built out of stick and adobe, I met Gloria, the mother. She greeted me with a nursing baby in her arms. She shared that her family had moved to Quecheltenango from an outlying village two years ago. They were hopeful that by moving, they could offer their five children a better life. Tomas, the three-year-old, and his brother had been playing on the rocks when Tomas had been stung by a scorpion.
His parents had immediately taken Tomas to the clinic where he received a serum shot to counter the poison of the scorpion. He was not doing well, so the doctor gave him another shot the following day. Despite everyone’s efforts to save Tomas, the poison proved too powerful for the little boy. Gloria invited me into her house to partake in the meal they had prepared for the family and friends who had gathered to pray. As I entered the crowded space, I observed Tomas laying in his blue casket elevated on a table just large enough to support it. Around the table wild flowers and various candles were placed. I walked the few steps from the door to where Tomas lay. I saw that his body was wrapped in a light blue, shiny cloak. I stood at the foot of his little casket gazing at this face. To my astonishment, I saw placed upon the head of Tomas, a gold paper crown that his sisters and brother had made for him. In awe, I stared at the little child king.
I stayed the day with the family and friends of Tomas, saying good-bye to the child king (El Niño Rey). I shared many tears that day with a family that had invited me to partake in their life. I know that the fall is a time to offer thanks and be hopeful. I also know that it is a time to remember, a time to recall the tears that have fallen from my eyes and the eyes of those I hold close to my heart. There are tears of great joy, tears of pain, tears of incredible laughter, tears of anxiety, tears of separation and tears of gathering. The tears I shed for Tomas are tears of promise.
I promise that I will always remember that every child is a king.
Fr. Matt Foley, Director of El Niño Rey
For any inquiries, questions or serving opportunites, please call: 847.272.7090 or fill out the following form.
El Niño Rey
c/o St. Norbert Parish
1809 Walters Avenue
Northbrook, IL 60062