MEXICO: Salesian missionaries operate three oratories in Ciudad Juárez that serve more than 5,000 people
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries working in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, operate three oratories that sit on several hectares of land, each in different parts of the city. More than 5,000 people visit the oratories every week to access the programs tailored for people of all ages.
“If Don Bosco was in the oratories of Ciudad Juárez, he would be without a cassock and sunburned, but he would undoubtedly like seeing the courtyards full and with activities suitable for children and young people of the 21st century,” says Salesian Father Juan Carlos Quirarte, who directed the centers for seven years and is now responsible for the Salesian Planning and Development Office of the Mexico-Guadalajara Province.
Salesian missionaries arrived in Ciudad Juárez 28 years ago and built their first oratory, San Juan Bosco, on land that was once a landfill. Years later, the Domingo Savio oratory was developed and finally the Lupita oratory was established, the name an abbreviation of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Ten years ago, Ciudad Juárez was the world’s most violent city with more than 300 murders a month. Drug cartels, killers and migration had become a deadly mix for thousands of young people. The city is one of many border cities between the U.S. and Mexico. The border spans 1,969 miles and has more than 20 checkpoints along its route.
Many border towns feel the consequences of social and political tensions between the two nations. They are plagued by crime and violence such as the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people. Salesian missionaries have been working in Mexico and in these border towns and have increased cooperation between the Salesian Province of Mexico-Guadalajara and the Province of USA West. The goal is to work together to address the increase of violence and insecurity in the region and launch proposals for education, social integration, drug prevention and combating the effects of organized crime.
The oratories in Ciudad Juárez open their doors at 8.30 a.m. and close late at night, offering a series of uninterrupted activities, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In the morning, activities and workshops are held for mothers while children are at school. In the afternoon, parents get a break while children are entertained and offered a chance to learn.
There are also sports schools, martial arts sessions for children and adults, dance, circus workshops, painting and writing workshops, skateboarding lessons, parkour, free-climbing and zip line. There’s even a game of their own invention, “three-way soccer”, with three teams of three participants each and the team receiving the least goals winning. Many of the children who had spent considerable time in the oratories growing up are now the educators and volunteers who give life to the activities taking place throughout the city.
According to UNICEF, there are 52 million people living in poverty in Mexico, approximately 45 percent of the country’s population. For children, the rate rises to just over 53 percent with more than 20 million youth estimated to be living in poverty and 5 million of those in extreme poverty.
Salesian missionaries in Mexico primarily direct their efforts toward the country’s at-risk youth, including girls and young mothers. Creating safe havens and improving educational opportunities are essential to deter youth from life on the streets where they are susceptible to drugs and gang violence.
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Salesian Missions – Mexico
UNICEF – Mexico