Missionaries of Charity Fathers find forgotten corners of Tijuana

IMAGE: CNS photo/David Maung

By Brooke Binkowski

Mexico (CNS) — The men trudged down the dusty road of an impoverished Tijuana neighborhood.
The Sunday morning air was already arid and hot, but the small group was on a
mission: They were heading to a tiny neighborhood community center, bearing
lemonade, food and prayers for the local families.

men are members of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers, founded by Blessed
Teresa of Kolkata. The Fathers’ generalate house has been in Tijuana
since 1988.

preparations for Mother Teresa’s Sept. 4 canonization continue, priests and
volunteers carry out her work in Tijuana’s most ragged and forgotten corners:
in its makeshift plywood towns built over dirt roads with sewage trickling
through them; among its addicts and deportees; and among those living amid
trash and desolation.

there are not many changes,” said Father Zbigniew Szczotka, indicating the
dusty roads as he and his crew drove through the neighborhood, dodging
roosters, puppies and children. Father Szczotka, known locally as “Father
Zibi,” first came to Tijuana in 1989 and has watched it grow and change
since. Only the poorest areas remain the same.

Missionaries of Charity not only hold Masses and teach religion; they also
operate a soup kitchen, tend to the ill, and help the poorest of the poor in
other spiritual and material ways.

Tijuana, continuing Mother Teresa’s legacy often means taking in and helping
people who have been deported from the United States, who are physically
separated from their friends and families by border laws and stranded with no
support network. Some of them even join, offering their services and donning
the blue T-shirts emblazoned with a picture of Mother Teresa.

pray about this,” said Leonardo Guerrero, 36, a volunteer with the
Missionaries of Charity and who was deported from the United States about two
years earlier. “This community of Catholics, they emphasize people that
are immigrants, that have gotten deported … they emphasize that they need

credits the group with enormous positive changes in his life. The onetime
addict has given up drugs and is now getting his tattoos removed. He also said
that he plans to stay in Mexico to do what he can to help.

I go back, I’m going to be labeled as an illegal immigrant, and I don’t want
that anymore,” Guerrero said. “I just want to try to live life as a
law-abiding citizen and try to make the best of it. I’ve had a lot of jobs
here, and throughout all of it there’s prejudice, they look at me differently…

that I’m here with the disciples of Christ … you have to put your feelings a
little bit to the side. Now that I’m going back to my roots, my religious ways,
I want to do things in a spiritual sense. Let God do his divine work.”

Tijuana Missionaries of Charity Fathers helped make the case for Mother Teresa’s
canonization. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk,
who divides his time between Tijuana and Rome, is currently in Rome for the
ceremony. He has been preparing evidence of her sainthood for 17 years.

her work quietly continues in the places that the rest of the world forgot.

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