To the east of Juarez there lies the appropriately named Valley of Juarez, which is a fertile area of some 80 kilometers in extension where for generations the folks have raised all manner of vegetables for the local market.
For many years the inhabitants have also dabbled in smuggling and drug trafficking on behalf of the local Cartel called “La Linea.”
As of two years ago the Cartel de Sinaloa has been in competition to gain access to the U.S. market. Hence, a very bloody war has broken out in the aforementioned Valley with very heavy loss of life. Some of the priests there have celebrated up to 100 funerals each; so the toll amongst the rural families has been extraordinary.
The two preceding parish priests of a small town called Porvenir have both had to leave after having their lives threatened. The neighboring parish priest, Pablito by name, is a friend of mine and I have been concerned for his physical well-being. Not only does he attend his own parish but has to bear the added weight of a Mass schedule in Porvenir.
Recently I inquired if he needed some help, to which he effusively replied in the affirmative.
Three weeks ago I, along with some very committed people from the Parish of Corpus Christi, where the Columban Fathers have the privilege of serving the People of God, headed out on a Sunday morning bound for Porvenir.
Upon leaving the city we were stopped by a large Patrol of the Federal Police and questioned severely about our intentions. Finally, we were allowed to proceed the 80 kilometers further on to Porvenir, sharing nervous, jocular anecdotes and saying Rosaries as we wound our way through the surprisingly lush countryside, so different from the harsh desert which surrounds our Columban Parish.
There were a goodly number of people for confession and after some light-hearted banter with the folks we commenced a packed Sunday Mass. Our visit to Porvenir was a small gesture of solidarity given the violence which has affected the rural communities all throughout this Mexican State of Chihuahua.
On concluding the Sunday Eucharist, we bundled back into our truck for the speedy trip back to Juarez, passing many military checkpoints and the remains of burnt out houses which have been destroyed in the struggle for profits from drug trafficking across the Border. It was with some relief that we arrived back to “our” part of the city unscathed.
As I enter my tenth year here in Ciudad Juarez I am constantly reminded of the bravery of the people here and the strength that their Catholic faith gives them to think and care for others, when all are being affected in this, the world’s most violent city. Please pray for them … indeed for all of us.
Peace and God bless,
Columban Father Kevin Mullins