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Ministry with migrants
18/05/2011 Mexico

During the month of April, Fr. Héctor LUJÁN took part in a program that is run by Fr. Pedro Pantoja, “Bethlehem, the migrant’s inn” (“Belén, casa posada del migrante”), located in Saltillo, Coahuila.

The first phase of the experience was to get to know the work and the personnel in charge of this ministry. The latter have specialized in various areas: psychological care; legal issues; communication, etc. The ministry of “Bethlehem, the migrant’s inn” is supported by young people from Jesuit universities (Jesuit volunteer program). They team up with youths from Germany who commit themselves for a year of pastoral service. The ministry with migrant people includes much team work and is part of a national and international network.

The second phase consisted in regular dialogue with migrant persons who come to the house asking for help. The migrants come from Central America and Southern Mexico. In these dialogues, they tell of the painful experiences of their journey; they highlight the attacks of organized crime: kidnapping, extortion, mistreatment or rape.

In their personal sharing, they speak of their trip in “the wild beast.” They were moved onto the roofs of the trains or into smelly boxcars; in addition, they suffered hunger, thirst and fatigue from the long trip. These memories remain fixed within them because of the blows to their bodies as they got on the train and the horrible images of the fall or the death of their companions. Here, I could appreciate the desire that each person has to be heard and enlivened in the faith process.

The third phase was the experience of Holy Week with the local community and the house of migrants. The liturgical activities had a hopeful approach and an invitation to recognize the Risen One in our lives. It was touching to have present the mother of a young Honduran boy who has been unjustly imprisoned. Another aspect of Holy Week was the insecurity in which these people live; there have been 20 kidnappings and disappearances. The meditations and the acts of popular piety were framed by these experiences that plague this part of the country. This pastoral reality implies a challenge to express the life of faith through the liturgy or the sacraments and thus walk with our people in faithfulness to our ministry.

My stay in the house of migrants has raised my awareness of what is needed in this ministry to migrant people. The migrants are trying to achieve a better life and, conscious of the dangers and risks, set out to get something their country of origin or our Mexican society does not give them.

This ministry with migrant people makes me think of our Founder, St. Eugene de Mazenod who experienced this during his childhood; he wanted to be heard and supported in his needs. His contact with Italian culture, away from his own and at an early age, gave him people who were full of faith and who encouraged and supported him. Therefore, through our own Oblate charism, I feel encouraged by this experience.