By Rich Reader and David Rizo
Editor’s Note: The Tijuana youth group in this article is from Iglesia San Eugenio De Mazenod, an Oblate Parish headed by Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI, assisted by Oblate Fathers Webert Merilan and Lucio Castillo.
One of the things that the youth ministry here in Tijuana has learned to do very well is to welcome youth groups from the United States and exchange cultures. Our parish has long been blessed by the parish of St Frances X Cabrini, which regularly amasses several trucks and a group of about 15 adults to bring an array of items they have collected (furniture, bikes, clothing, toys, etc.). They also bring enough food and supplies to make 100 or so despensas to give to the community. This trip, they brought several of their youth, which created the opportunity for the cultural exchange.
About 12 youths from our parish worked side-by-side with them organizing and distributing the goods. There was a lot of life-story sharing about growing up here in Tijuana, becoming part of the youth ministry, going to college, and doing community service. The US youths likewise reflected on their blessings and shared their faith and life stories. The intermingled group then played games, and the Mexican youth taught them their favorite dances, some of which, they had learned from other visiting youth groups. The Church provides such a rich commonality that it is inspiring to see how the Holy Spirit works in people everywhere.
Another group that has built a long term relationship with our youth ministry is from the University of San Diego (USD), a Catholic University not far from Tijuana in San Diego. This college has about 7500 students. They have a youth ministry that strives to enrich their participants’ lives by traveling monthly to Tijuana to do things like interact with the Oblate Youth Ministry, visit the house where migrants are given temporary assistance, visit the HIV clinic, and listen to talks by political activists representing the people’s labor struggles. Some of the Tijuana youth that have Visas occasionally travel to USD to learn about the US culture and life at USD. Playing picture BINGO with the words in Spanish, is a favorite hoot. If you are Mexican, and you are the caller, you have to say the word in English, and you say them as fast as you can, so the other players have to discern your pronunciation (or mispronunciation) and mark their cards as fast as they can. And if you are from USD, you have to say it in Spanish, and don’t forget the La and El, and that “i” is pronounced as a long “e”, and “e” is pronounced as long “a”; so snow is “nieve” and is not pronounced “naive”. That is only what you are when you mispronounce it.
We encountered another family in need of help last week. The mother and 3 youngsters moved here recently because the oldest daughter (age 10) has leukemia, and the mother believes she will receive better health care here. She went through chemotherapy, lost her hair, and is just getting it back. But she is recovering well. She has not been able to go to public school because her treatments have been too frequent. But, she knows some basic math and has learned to read a little. We were fortunate to have a US group visiting because a couple of them made a donation allowing for the purchase of a stove, dishes, pots, and a kitchen table. Currently, they have just one bed, but we hope to remedy that as well.
Our featured student this week is Karen Lizbeth Soto Armenta, who is studying Engineering Logistics, thanks to her donors Rebecca and Juan Baron. Karen has become the leader of a sub-youth group at one of the colonies in our parish. Her group helped out in the event mentioned above this week.