Living Hope Newsletter – December 2008


Keeping hope alive in Juarez

Juarez, Mexico – It is a great pleasure for me to share with you the missionary work that the Claretians are doing in Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

It will soon be three years since I started working in Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope) parish, which is made up of laborers and migrant workers. The main ministry that I carry out is that of imparting the sacraments, which I seek to celebrate with the parishioners knowing that these liturgical signs carry over into our lives. We give thanks for the transformations that they bring to our daily work.

During the time that I have been working here, I can see among us a social awareness and how the people are evolving in their own Christian commitment to the community. Here in my parish, there are lots of people who work towards social justice.

Through social ministry, the plan is to first help the people that are most in need and then have this ministry become a kind of collective savings cooperative that can help uplift the dignity of those facing challenges such as unemployment, low wage salaries, and unfair layoffs. Another challenge we face is youths at risk of falling into vices and gangs. We have created a Center of Assistance for Youth that has been lending services to our young people since January of 2008.

As one continues to move forward on this social ministry path, which is a slow process, one realizes with high hopes that our work is a response to the expectation of the people that becoming a new person is possible.

That hope can be seen in our people’s interest, commitment, and discipline in how they approach their work and their daily lives. It can be seen in the ideology and the creativity that comes to light as they start committing their time to projects to help the community.

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One particular need we have is to replenish our food pantry regularly so that food can get to the hands of those in need. Since we don’t want to stop with just giving this kind of assistance, we still need to set up a space, which at this point will be inside one of the parish facilities, equipped as a storage room for the food, clothing and medicine that we receive through donations.

In my experience, the dimension of faith has always played a very important role in the life of the poor, because they trust in the Lord of Creation and Life. Paradoxically we also have the poor who still need to assimilate the phrase from a very popular hymn that says “When the poor can believe in the poor, then we will be able to sing of freedom.”

Certainly many of the poor and the rich alike do not see the potential of faith, trust, hope and ingenuity that exists in the lives of the underprivileged. We need partners who can support and walk with the poor so they can rise out of their burdens and indignities. We must remember that the poor evangelize us!

- Father Oscar Rodriguez, C.M.F

2/1/06: Chicago. Holy Cross food pantry. Claretian Volunteer John Marchese, (unknown). Photo by Tom Wright.

Feeding the hungry

Matthew 25:40 “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Each year the Claretians provide food and clothing for those in need in their ministries throughout the world: In the food pantries at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Chicago and Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and in shelters as far away as Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope) Parish in Juarez, Mexico. With Claretian ministries in more than 60 countries, the opportunity to help those in need is always present.

“This is what we’re supposed to be doing,” says Father Tom Moran, C.M.F., who heads the food pantry at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Chicago. “Not just as Christians, but as citizens of the world. Nobody has the right to superfluous things when their brothers and sisters struggle to obtain the necessary things in life.”

Each week parishioners from Our Lady of Guadalupe travel to Indiana to buy rice and beans at low cost and every two weeks the parish lends 75 families support of either food or clothing.

“It’s a privilege to be able to help these people,” says Father Moran, “some are laid off, some are single mothers, and some have been hit hard economically by the tough times all Americans are coping with. We provide a significant help to people in need. It’s not just giving food; you’re giving friendship and kindness, which is just as important as a bag of beans.”

Father Moran sees the importance of the Claretian mission to feed the hungry not only in his parish life, but also each time he visits Guatemala, where he served as a missionary for 25 years. “In Guatemala it’s especially important. These are poor people with big families that live off the land and appreciate any help we can give them,” he explains. “A little bit goes a long way.”

At Our Lady of Fatima Parish, located in a working class neighborhood in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, people come from across Middlesex County to receive assistance from the parish’s food pantry. Each Wednesday, the parish assists 25-50 families in need of food and clothing.

“There is a hunger in each of us; a hunger for God, for peace. The way to connect that hunger in each of us is to reach out to those in real need,” says Father Frank Iacona, C.M.F. of Our Lady of Fatima parish.

“Someone once asked me, ‘Why is there so much suffering in the world,’ and I told them it is there to open our hearts. I do believe that the poor need us, but I also believe that we need them to open our hearts and feed the hunger within us,” he explains.

Father Iacona travels across the country each week seeking assistance for the poor and always meets people willing to help those in need. “What I would wish is for our donors to join me on a pilgrimage and be transformed. Money certainly helps, but more than money it’s helping the donor see the situation and the inspiration that it brings to those in need.”