When Pope Francis arrives at Abraham Gonzalez International Airport for his historic visit to Juárez on Feb. 17, a little bit of EPISD will be there to greet him.
Rosa Guerrero Elementary School kindergartner Iván Andrés Ávila will be among the 100 special-needs children and young adults who have been selected to welcome the pontiff during his visit to the Borderland.
“The date is really meaningful because it is one day after Iván’s birthday,” said his mother Astrid Ávila. “I know my son is a miracle, so for me this represents that I am doing a good job as a mother. Iván is my life.”
Iván, 5, has brittle bone disease and his bones can break easily. He also has some brain damage from a lack of oxygen during birth, his mother said.
Iván’s physical limitations do not dampen his spirit. His small brown eyes light up with all the attention he’s receiving as news of his visit with the pope grows.
“When he came home from the hospital he didn’t laugh or have facial expressions, but now he cracks up laughing,” Ávila said. “Those are beautiful things that he has learned here with his classmates.”
Iván and his mom will arrive at the Universidad Tecnológica de Juárez early Feb. 17 to be escorted to the airport for Pope Francis’ arrival and his welcoming reception. Initially, Iván was offered a ticket to the mass but had to decline because of his delicate condition.
He then was invited to meet the pope in a more private and controlled area.
“My greatest wish is for Iván to receive a blessing from Pope Francis,” Avila said. “Getting the blessing from the pope would be a sign that things are going well with Iván … that I’m doing what I need to be doing to be a good mother to him.”
The staff at Guerrero said teachers and students at the campus have slowly learned about Iván’s participation in the papal visit, and share in the excitement of the news.
“Iván is a blessing … a child that is loved by everyone at Guerrero,” said Principal Jill Crossley. “For him to be present at this historic event is just wonderful. He represents the hope and the perseverance of every child, not just at Guerrero, but throughout EPISD.”
Iván is enrolled in the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities and is non-verbal. However, he is adept at communicating with others and has flourished in the few years he’s attended Guerrero.
“For a student like Ivan who everyday has challenges and struggles that the rest of us can’t even imagine, this honor of going to see the pope is in my opinion so well deserved,” Crossley said. “It touches all of us because we see the hard work of his teacher and his mother. He is one loved child.”
To read all our coverage on the Pope’s Visit to Juarez, click HERE.
Author/Video: El Paso ISD