Hope is a Strategy

In 1999, the Claretians established a mission in Ciudad Juárez, a rough Mexican border city of 1.5 million people across the river from El Paso, Texas. The Tierra Nueva section was built up around the U.S. and European-owned maquiladoras, factories that offer jobs to Mexico’s unemployed. Many factory workers were losing their jobs because some corporations were again shifting their operations to even cheaper industrial centers in Asia.

Mexicans in search of a better future continue to arrive, and the Claretians continue to serve them. Currently, Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza (Our Lady of Hope Parish), is home to a remarkable 50,000 people, and it continues to grow.

“Simply finding gathering spaces for the parishioners is a challenge,” explains Claretian Father Gabriel Ruiz.

It is not unusual to see a Claretian leading prayer in a small public square. “We bring the altar with us,” explains Manuel Villalobos Mendoza, C.M.F.

“The Claretians respond to the reality of a people according to Gospel values,” says Father Ruiz, “which means that we must respond to their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.” During Mass at Esperanza, foodstuffs for the hungry are offered with the gifts of bread and wine. The poor share with the poor.

The parish established an Office of Human Rights in response to the violence against women that plagues Ciudad Juárez. More than 300 women have been murdered in the past decade.

A lay minister explains, “We respond to the current crisis—a funeral, a family without food, a suicide attempt, or another missing woman. Our job is to walk with these people in the complexity of their lives and to provide hope—to provide esperanza.”

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