Originally published on OMI World.
Fr. Nicholas HARDING, one of the five Oblates working in the La Morita barrio of Tijuana, Baja California, just south of the Mexico-U.S. border, gives some updates about the mission there.
Recently, I met “Yolanda” who hitchhiked almost 1,000 miles from the state of Michoacán with her baby and two little girls. Her husband had left her for another woman, and she hopes to find employment in Tijuana with the help of her uncle Zamora, a brick maker in our parish, who lives along the train tracks. I was impressed that when I was introduced to her, the first thing she wanted to know was whether her nine-year-old daughter could still enroll in catechism to make her First Communion. Our parish found two discarded garage doors for her to use as walls for a shack for her little family to live in (no electricity or running water). Our parish area continues to grow rapidly due to newcomers from the south of Mexico like Yolanda.
In the past six months, 1,500 families have built themselves shacks on unoccupied land, again without sewage, water or electricity services. We help provide tarps for roofs and some Catholic groups from California build some houses.
In June we had a big “crop” of candidates for confirmation in our parish. The archbishop came three times to confirm a total 515 of our youth. Also, in December he came to confirm 68 adults. We began a special formation school for our 232 catechists. We now have a team which goes once a week to each of our fifteen chapels because it was very difficult for the faithful in the countryside to come to one central location. Some of our more remote chapels are located where there is no public transportation or paved roads.
Over the summer we had summer schools in several locations for the neediest kids…Bible study, arts and crafts, sports, and a paseo (field trip) to a museum. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity helped a lot.
In our ‘special education’ building we continue to have classes Monday to Thursday for our children who have autism, Down’s syndrome and other conditions which prevent them from going to regular public schools.
On Friday our bus picks up other special needs children and youth for classes. We now offer acupuncture as well as tutorial and remedial classes for youngsters who have been deported from the U.S. and who don’t speak Spanish very well. There are an estimated 5,000 such deported youth in Tijuana.
Once a month we have been blessed with volunteers from the University of San Diego and Loyola University (Los Angeles). These students have helped with painting buildings and paving our driveway with cement to make it useable during the rainy season. The young people also have lugged stones to build a chapel in our Rojo Gomez Alta neighborhood, which is high up on a hill and accessible only by a dirt road.
About a mile from the main parish complex is Casa Memorias which houses 85 HIV positive patients. There we help in whatever ways we can at the hospice and the tuberculosis ward attached to it.
This autumn, we supplied about 100 children and youth with becas. These are small scholarships strictly based on need and adequate performance. They enable both boys and girls to pay school fees and purchase required uniforms, shoes, notebooks etc.
Each year in preparation for the December feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, there is a wonderful tradition here of parishioners visiting homes with her image and praying the rosary at a different house each evening for 46 days. We had about 100 teams for these visits, so 4,600 homes were visited.