In December 1970, a handful of students from the University of Dallas traveled to Capulin, Mexico to help make bricks for the impoverished people of the area. The group consisted of freshmen Ed Wray and John Cocharo, Tom Sexton, seminarians Anthony Suellentrop, Frank Faecke and Billie Ray Betzen.
“The six UD students who volunteered their three week holiday over Christmas and New Year’s were introduced to the project by [Betzen], a senior philosophy major from Hereford, who was on his fourth trip down,” wrote David Morgan in The Dallas Times Herald. “It began in 1967 when the first contingent of students worked with the mountain people south of Morelia in the state of Michoacan. That first summer they had helped pipe pure water into a tiny village called Capulin.”
Although the journey was rewarding, it also had its challenges. Capulin was an extremely poor village, and the residents suffered from intestinal parasites.
“The mountain people are especially poor, making their lives by sapping the pine trees for resin which is trucked into the cities and sold to make turpentine,” Morgan wrote.
The students slept in sleeping bags on the floor of Morelia’s monastery. Their labor was grueling, as they used old molds to shape every brick. In all, they used five wheelbarrows of red dirt, 25 kilograms of cement and 25 kilograms of lime.
Despite the primitive surroundings, these students were able to connect with the community and watch several posadas during the Christmas season.
This trip was made possible by a grant received from the Catholic foundation, which provided money, meals and gas for the journey. According to Morgan, the leftover money went to Father John Manchino. Manchino was the project organizer and had lived with the people of Capulin for many years.
“He will use the money for building materials, medical supplies and a hundred other things he needs to administer to the 14,000 people he visits in 45 little villages like Capulin,” Morgan wrote.
“I hope one of the freshmen here or one of the seminarians will take over now,” Betzen said. “Once you get to know the people, the kids, it begins to feel like a home.”
Betzen, who graduated in 1971, was later presented with an award by the president of UD’s student government for his volunteer services.