- Not So Far Afield Vol 18 No 1 – January/February 2009
- Introducing the 2009 Peacemaker Prize
- Ministry Helps Those 'Infected, Affected' by AIDS
- Paying it Forward
- Making Connections in Person and in Prayer
- Helen Marie Jones OSF
- Letter to Frank Maurovich
- News from the Knoll
- A Year of Change
- Maryknoll Mission Institute Program Plan for 2009
- All Pages
A Mission of Invitations
In August 2008, seven members of the Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter of the Maryknoll Affiliates traveled south to the suburb of La Morita southeast of Tijuana on the Mexican side of the border. Our desire was to share in the mission experience of the Missionary Oblates of the Immaculate Mary community serving the poor just three hours south of our comfortable homes in Los Angeles County and forty minutes from the US border.
We were met on the US side of the border by Oblate seminarian Jorge Mauleon Botello, who navigated us through the city of Tijuana to the dusty, hilly outskirts where many of the poor live in their search of greater opportunities.
Fr. Pablo Wilheim OMI, Fr. Nick Harding OMI and Brother Peter Vasquez OMI have been staffing a mission post in La Morita for many years. Here, they minister to a parish of over 180,000 Catholics over a wide geographical area. The main mission compound known as San Eugenio is a haven in the midst of unpaved roads and makeshift housing. The compound includes the Church, a medical clinic, classroom space, and housing for the missionaries and visiting medical volunteers. The playground at San Eugenio is popular with children and their families. Residents of La Morita come to the mission to meet both their spiritual and physical needs. Medical and dental care is available in a modern facility built by volunteers and staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Classes are offered in sewing, computer and adult education. Religious education classes are offered for children and adults of all ages. There are outreach groups for youth including after school programs and an active music ministry.
The face of La Morita is rapidly changing due to the presence of factories from the US and other countries located nearby seeking cheap labor. This has brought a huge migration of willing workers to the area. Many of the newcomers are squatters on government land. Although their presence on this land is illegal, they build their makeshift homes out of tarp, cardboard and scraps of lumber hoping that conditions will change and that they will be deeded land.
The work of the missionaries is not limited to the San Eugenio compound. Nine chapels have been erected by volunteers, and the priests say Mass in eleven different colonias over a weekend. They have been successful in building the capacity of the laity in each of these new chapels so that religious education, youth and family ministries are growing.
Our task during the weekend was to visit a newly built condominium development to invite the neighbors to Mass. Similar condominium developments are springing up all over Baja California. These tiny homes are built to supply the need for shelter to those individuals who are employed by the factories in La Morita, Tijuana, and just north of the US border. While these dwellings provide shelter from the elements, they are tiny, there is no piped running water, and the streets are unpaved. The cost to purchase the condos has created a cultural shift for Mexicans, demanding that both parents work long hours outside of the home. Since the residents are newly relocated, they lack the family support that they are accustomed to. This creates increased demands for social services and child care that the local government is not able to fulfill. A result of this is the increase in gangs in these areas.
One caveat of this new housing arrangement is a requirement that the builders donate a certain amount of land for churches. The Oblate community is very happy to request the land in order to be certain that Catholic Churches are available for the new residents. We were proud to learn that some of the chapels in La Morita had been built by students at Damien High School in Los Angeles County, a school that many of the Affiliates are familiar with.
We accompanied Seminarian Jorge and a lay volunteer into the neighborhood to invite the new residents to Mass. The chapel in their community does not yet have any signage, and many of the residents did not know where they might attend Mass. We also invited them to enroll their children in the Religious Education classes that were beginning at that time. The people that we encountered were gracious and happy to learn where they could attend Mass. It was delightful to see some of these families at Mass later in the evening.
For us Maryknoll Affiliates, it is always a joy to attend Mass with fellow Catholics. We very much enjoyed the joy and the music that was shared with us in La Morita. Fr. Nick requested that the Spanish-speaking Affiliates make a brief comment to the congregation at mass. The statement made to them for all the Affiliates was we were from Los Angeles and part of the Maryknoll Affiliates doing mission work, but in reality those at mass and including the children were also missionaries.
In the evening, we enjoyed a simple dinner with the Oblates as well as a group of college students from Orange County, California who had spent the day working on a building project. We were impressed at how this small group of men are able to minister to so many people. We were also touched by the many young people from California who come to this place to share and extend their talents.
Maryknoll Affiliate Veronica Horn was appalled by the poor living conditions that she witnessed on the trip and disappointed that the Mexican government does not provide basic municipal services such as running water and sanitation. She was touched at how hard people work just to earn enough money to eat. Maryknoll Affiliate Don Gonzales was impressed by the work of the religious community and the camaraderie that they share. They joke and laugh and encourage one another. Lyn Ibañez was impressed with the beauty of the Mass including the joy of the local musicians and the beauty of the chapel built by young people. Sr. Pat Norton MM reflected on the youth who took time out of their life to go to the mission, witness the poverty and help in building for the benefit of others. Irma Pazmino and Kathee Bautista were impressed at the joy of the people in the midst of hardship. Richard Perez was happy to have his first experience of observing missionaries in the field. This was the first of many experiences for Richard, who was recently sent as a Maryknoll Lay Missioner to Tanzania.
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ENOUGH FOR ALL
Ecumenical Advocacy Days
March 13-16, 2009
The Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns joins many of our colleagues in presenting this annual gathering of the ecumenical Christian community. This year’s theme, “Enough for All,” will connect the workshops on climate change, migration and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.
Come together with faith-based advocates and activists from across the United States in Washington, D.C., March 13-16 as we discuss the abundance of our world and how it can be allocated in a way that is fair and just for all creation.
Conference fee: $160 including two lunches and Sunday reception. Registration after February 13 will be $175. Scholarships are available.
Visit, write or call 202-386-6397 for more information.
Let the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns know that you are attending! We would like to arrange a Maryknoll gathering during the weekend.
Contact the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns at:
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Our New Website
If there isn’t enough change taking place, we have also been undertaking a major renovation of our website. If you have been to our site lately ( ) you will have noticed these changes. Depending on when you last visited, there may not have been much information.
We are changing the underlying structure which runs our website. In doing so, we hope that it will be more user friendly. We are working to have more information open to the general public while maintaining areas for registered users (Maryknoll Affiliates and Maryknoll Missioners) for materials that are for internal use.
We also hope to improve the ability for individual Chapters to maintain their own pages and information on our website so that visitors may find out more about a Chapter in their area. Our new website should be able to utilize some of the more modern features found on the web and integrate with web features applications as Google™ Maps.
Unfortunately, for those of you who have already registered you will have to do so again. If that feature is not up by the time you read this article it will be soon.
We would also appreciate any suggestions on how to improve our website and any assistance by people who have technical and web designing skills. Finally, it would be ideal if each Chapter could designate one person to maintain their Chapter web pages and to check our website from time to time for news and information.
If you have any questions or suggestions, need help registering or would like to help out in any way please contact.
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