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Brave women fought to defend their faith and religious freedom

Living in our times can at times be trying. We, who are faith-filled rely on our faith in God to get us through these times over and over. Recently, speaking to a women's group in a parish, I shared some stories of the women of "La Cristiada" movement in Mexico in the early 1900s. Remember, La Cristiada was the time in Mexico's history when the Mexican government wanted to do away with the Catholic Church. Bishops were exiled and priests and lay people were persecuted.

Women played an active role in the early stages of this movement, in 1925 and 1926. They began by becoming involved in the civic campaign led by Anacleto Gonzalez Flores. They supported boycotts and other civic positions even before the warfare began.

After 1926, when Calles Law began implementation and churches were to be closed, women began to play a different role. On July 31, 1926, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Guadalajara, more than 400 women and children barricaded themselves in the church to protest the closure. On August 3, 1926 the army arrived at the church but was fought off from entering. The next morning 390 men were brought in for questioning and the women and children were allowed to leave the church. Women not only supported their men but encouraged them when they were in doubt by telling them they were defending God's cause.

As the war progressed, women took on different roles. On June 21, 1927 the first Joan of Arc Women's Brigade began a larger role in the warfare. Regiments of 650 women as military groups were organized. They provided supplies, ammunition, intelligence reports and other funds for needed medical care and shelter for their soldiers.

Delivering ammunition was one of the most important duties of the Brigade. Women obtained ammunition from federal troops, who exchanged ammunition for food. Brigade women were mostly between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. They carried ammunition in special vests worn underneath their dresses. The vests had hollowed pockets and each woman could carry between 500 and 700 cartridges.

They willingly put themselves in danger of beatings, rape and even death. All of this was in the name of defending their faith and religious liberty. I thank them for their sacrifice and their faith is an inspiration to me and others. Viva Cristo Rey!

Adeline Torres is director of the Office of Hispanic Ministry. This column appeared in the Spanish in the print edition of the Northwest Indiana Catholic dated Feb. 23, 2014.

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