IN THIS ISSUE
Always Close to the People
The reality is this: The cost
of living is the same in Tijuana as it is
just across the border in the United
States. However, a “good” job at a
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate live amongst the poor and reach out to those living in deplorable conditions. In the area known as La Morita, poverty is profound. Houses made from garage doors line the bumpy dirt roads. Wires run across the ground in a desperate and dangerous attempt to get electricity to nearby homes.
Oblates have established the San Eugenio Mission in La Morita. Here, the underprivileged can visit a doctor, dentist, or even see a physical therapist without the worry of cost. Children can study after school or learn to use a computer. Women gather to learn trades that will benefit their families. These services are a vital part of everyday survival for the 180,000 people living in this Oblate mission, and without the Oblates, they would never have these extraordinary opportunities.
As you will see from the stories which follow, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate are always close to the people. They become a cornerstone of their community and risk their lives to better the world around them.
THREADS OF HOPE
The soft hum of sewing machines is the sound of hope for several women living in La Morita. Working busily, these women strive to learn the sewing techniques necessary to make things like school uniforms and dresses. To them, this is not a hobby. Learning these skills for $1 per session could transform their lives and the lives of their children.
In 1998, a sewing class made its La Morita Mission debut at the“Hall of the Rainbow,” a small garage on the Oblate property. Today, the group meets in the basement of the clinic. The class was founded by a woman named Mariana, whose photograph now hangs as a memorial on the wall of the classroom. When Mariana passed away from cancer, Angélica stepped into her shoes as the instructor of this fundamental class.
Angélica understands the vitality of the sewing program.She explains that too many people are selfish with their time and talent.“I have to teach,” she says. Working to supply the class with a steady flow of challenges, she buys sewing publications with designs from local stands. Finding new and exciting techniques isn’t Angélica’s only struggle. The class shares only three sewing machines, while the small classroom can often find ten or more eager students waiting for a turn to test their skills.
In three months time, the women will learn how to make a skirt. In another three months, they will have perfected the techniques for blousemaking. Many of the women in the class come primarily to learn how to make school uniforms. This skill is not only helpful for their own children’s use, but they can then take requests from other parents who do not know how to sew. A uniform will typically take two to three hours to make, and the seamstress will receive $5 for the end result.
The women gathered together in the tiny classroom at the La Morita Mission are eager. They are eager to learn, eager to share, and eager to change the lives of their families with every $5 uniform that is created. To them, sewing is more than a diversion from realities of life. Sewing is the clothing on their backs, the food on the table, and the roofs over their heads.
A MIRACLE IN LA MORITA
When he was just 14, Victor Hugo was diagnosed with kidney failure. He was given just a few days to live unless he received a transplant. Victor’s father had no medical insurance for the family through his work, and his paycheck of $60 a week, from working 12-hour days at one of the large factories in the area, could never cover the costs of the countless tests and medications. One test alone cost $1,500!
As Victor lay dying in a hospital bed, his mother, Luz, prayed that God would save her son. Victor needed a new kidney immediately. His parents and his four brothers and sisters were tested to see if they were compatible to provide the kidney, and thankfully, one of Victor’s brothers was a match.
Even given the good news of a kidney match, Luz and Angel were losing hope, because they did not have enough money for the operation, nor could they find a doctor to perform it. Thankfully, Victor’s father, Angel, was able to get insurance through work, but it wouldn’t cover all of the bills. As the search for a doctor continued, Victor was put on dialysis to keep him alive a little longer, but he was losing hope.
In the midst of heart heartwrenching days and nights for the family, they were able to keep hope alive with the help of Fr. Pablo Wilhelm, O.M.I. He visited Victor frequently, listened on many occasions as Luz visited the rectory and expressed her frustration, and prayed with her. When Fr. Pablo learned that the family needed urgent help to offset costs for the transplant, he sought the help of friends, who were able to secure funding for the operation.
Luz continued to look for the specialist they needed, refusing to give up. After much effort, the family was referred to a clinic that was over twenty hours from Tijuana, where the operation was performed a week later.
Following the operation, Luz had to travel with Victor by plane and bus every week for follow-up, which meant lodging, food, and medication costs. Father Pablo’s friends again stepped forward to help with the costs. Without the selfless love and the compassion of his family and friends, Victor would have surely died.
Today, Victor is alive and well. He is eternally grateful for his miraculous recovery. Victor has also become very active at St. Eugene Parish, and hopes that some day he will become a Missionary Oblate Priest, so that he can help share with others the love and compassion that was shared with him in his time of need.