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Tijuana Oblates work to rebuild chapel destroyed by fire

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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A letter by Fr. Julio Narvaez, OMI (Pastor), Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI (Youth and Mission Outreach), and Bro. Peter Vazquez, OMI.


We want to take this opportunity to thank you for the blessing that you have been in the lives of the people of our mission.  We also want to give you an update of our mission.

As you may know, our mission parish is unlike any parish in the U.S. Our parish includes fifteen chapels (church buildings) in fifteen different communities. Each chapel has many ministries, including a religious education program and a youth group.  In our parish there are over 260 catechists and hundreds of children and youth who participate in these programs. Aside from the vast amount of parish ministries, we also have a clinic and a community center with many programs. Our clinic includes two doctors, a dentist, two psychologists, medical staff and a social worker.  The fee for an appointment with the doctor is approximately three dollars but it is free if the people can’t afford to pay for it.  Our community center offers services and programs for children with Down syndrome, English classes, computer classes, a GED program and many other programs. Last year thousands of people from this community received medical care, dental care and many other services. In addition, thousands of families received food baskets on a regular basis. We gave out close to 60,000 food baskets last year. All of this has been possible thanks to your generous support!

Last year our parish suffered a great loss. Our chapel of San Martin, located in the community of Vias de Monterey, was destroyed in a fire. The fire completely destroyed the Church building, the Religious Education classrooms and seven neighboring houses. Three other houses also suffered some damage. The chapel of San Martin de Porres is located in the poorest and most vulnerable area of ​​our parish. The fire left many families with nothing. Our parish supported these families with food, baby formula, clothes, shoes, toiletries, kitchen supplies and furniture; such as, beds, tables, stoves, refrigerators, doors, windows and lumber.

The chapel of San Martin de Porres is one of the 15 chapels in our parish. Fifteen years ago this chapel was built due to the great material and spiritual need of the people in that community. Many families from this community live in extreme poverty; consequently, they do not have running water, electricity or a sewer system. Some children don’t attend school because they cannot afford the school uniform, school supplies or the bus fare. This chapel is more than a church building for this community. This is a place where people gather, grow, unite and help each other. There are many ministries in this chapel that support the community in many ways.  Volunteers visit families, distribute food, visit the sick and provide clothing and school supplies for children. Many children and teens from this community receive a small scholarship so that they many continue with their education. These ministries and services are crucial for this community in order to reduce crime, empower children and youth and help families live in a healthier environment. We will rebuild this Chapel and a community center! Please PRAY FOR US!

On a very positive note, this year we had several American groups that came across the border to build houses for the poorest families and to distribute food, clothing, medical supplies, school supplies or toys. A group of volunteers from Our Lady of Malibu parish, in Malibu California came three times last year to distribute food and other supplies to more than 400 families on each of their visits. A few months ago, Martin Sheen (the Hollywood Star) came to our parish with the group from our Lady of Malibu Parish. Martin Sheen spent hours signing autographs, taking pictures and distributing food to hundreds of families. He is an amazing man with a very generous heart! We hope he comes back soon!

Despite the many tragedies this last year, there were also many blessings! The people in our community are hopeful and grateful. Their faith and resilient spirit is admirable.  We feel tremendously grateful to be on a journey with the people of this parish.

Thank you so much for your generous gifts, support and prayers! Please keep our parish and us in your prayers, as we will keep you in our prayers.