Every year, we travel to Tijuana, Mexico in July (other than during COVID). We walk with the poor in the new Maria Inmaculada Parish in the Terrazas area on the eastern edge of Tijuana. We run construction programs that provide housing for people who would not otherwise have safe places to live. We also offer programs for local children and teens and a mother’s program. We visit other groups working with the poor and have heard from many locals about the struggles they face because of poverty. Each trip provides opportunities to reflect on what we have seen and heard, so we can make a difference in our own communities when we return home.
We provide opportunities for education, immersion, and commitment to promote human dignity.
We foster Friendships and spiritual growth by reaching across borders to bring people together. By putting our faith into action, we build lasting and vibrant communities in collaboration with Maria Inmaculada Parish in Tijuana.
We Provide opportunities for education, immersion, and commitment to promote human dignity.
Our main value is solidarity and from there comes love for our neighbor, respect for dignity and life. These principles not only define our reason for being, but also define the people who make this organization possible.
Not only does it define the organization, but also the i communities in the US and Tijuana that are united by love, and all willing to do our part to make a better world.
In 2004, Fr Jon Pedigo was the pastor at St Julie Billiart Parish in San Jose California. He wanted to take a group of teens, parents and adults to Tijuana, Mexico so that they could experience poverty - first hand. He felt that by building a home for a needy family, the parishioners could not only learn what poverty was like, they might also begin to understand that love – coupled with hard work – were the best tools for fighting it.
He had met Fr. Dan Crahen who was working in Tijuana at San Eugenio Iglesia (St Eugene Church). Both priests shared a belief that such a program could not only teach people about poverty, it could also expose misconceptions about the poor and build leaders. The two priests soon found a kindred spirit in Monica Rising, a parishioner at St. Julies who had expressed an interest in helping.
During that first trip, we were able to build one house by using wooden garage doors for building material. We also provided crafts, games, soccer, and religion lessons as part of a Children’s Program designed for the local kids. We noticed that most of the mothers who brought their kids to our children’s program didn’t just drop them off and leave. Instead, most of them stayed along the edges of the program areas. However, they didn’t seem to talk to one another very much. So, one of our mothers, Juanita Velasco, gathered them up and had them introduce themselves to each other and share their faith, struggles and dreams. This was the beginning of what became our Mothers’ program. Today, the mothers of the area look forward to our arrival and have gathered with us every year since.
Every evening the entire team would gather and reflect on what we had seen, heard, learned and felt that day. We had a local priest join us for an overview and talked to other locals so that we heard their stories. These experiences, our comparisons to their lives and ours and the reality of their poverty changed each of us in different ways. We saw their struggles, but saw their faith, love and generosity as well. Many of us were surprised to learn that in many ways, the people of Tijuana were very rich – perhaps more than we were.
Call To the Heart
Each year that we’ve returned has brought new revelations. We’ve learned how to be more efficient and make more friends. We reflect more on our relationship with God and learn how to improve our programs.
We have been part of amazing miracles. Every year we found we were part of the Holy Spirit using us to help fulfill the obvious needs of the families we worked with and the needs in our spirit we didn’t know we had. Every year we had different experiences. We help to make new homes, new friends, watched children grow and have seen the neighborhood improve. All of that is God’s work. When you answer God’s call, the Holy Spirit uses you to answer the prayers of the poor.
When Monica started organizing the first trip to Tijuana, the only thing she had to work with was a phone number for Fr Dan’s cousin. Together they started making a list of what it would take to bring a group of volunteers from San Jose to Tijuana: passports, Diocesan requirements, transportation,finances, etc.
They recruited some parishioners and started planning the details of the first trip. By July of 2005, 39 teens and adults had agreed to join. None of them had been to Tijuana before. None of them knew what to expect. They just left with a lot of faith and assurances from Fr Dan.
Fr Dan met our eleven cars at the border and guided us through the streets of downtown Tijuana out to La Morita. We then drove slowly and carefully through dirt roads with huge potholes. Small shacks lined our path until we finally got to the San Enrique Chapel where we stayed. It was surrounded by 8 ft. fences and razor wire along the top. Our culture shock was complete.
We were all together, sleeping, eating, building and working. We had our share of challenges - clogged toilets, a power outage, language differences, crowing chickens and grunting pigs next door. We soon learned to take short showers, as water was in short supply, even though we were so dirty and tired. We slept in cots or on mats that were not as comfortable as the beds we were used to.
Fr Jon Pedigo
Pastor at St Julie Billiart Parish
San Jose California
Fr Jon was the pastor of St Julie Billiart Catholic Church from 2001 to 2012. He used his passion for social justice to show his parishioners that as Catholics, we all are all challenged care for the poor, the hungry, the suffering, the stranger, the sick and the immigrant. His vision was to take groups of people to Tijuana where they could learn about these issues first-hand. He hoped that the experience would energize them to make a difference at home as well as in Tijuana. He is now working at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, where he continues to make a difference on a larger scale. He works to meet the immediate needs of the poor while fighting to change the unjust systems and beliefs t hat keep people in poverty.
Fr. Dan Crahen
St Eugene Church
Fr Dan is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an order which is dedicated to serving the poor. In order to help the people of the area around San Eugenio, they have established a clinic, started a homework center and provided social service programs and psychological services for the people.
The Oblates are a force for lifting people out of poverty, which made San Eugenio the best place to teach the people of St. Julies’ how to work alongside the poor and learn from them.
Parishioner at St Julie Billiart Parish
San Jose California
The desire to help the poor has always been part of Monica’s core values. When she met Father Jon, she was inspired to do more and he became her mentor and nurtured the calling she felt to help her community at St Julie Billiart. When the opportunity to work in eastern Tijuana was offered, she jumped at the chance to turn her dreams into a reality. She takes great joy in meeting new people, in the States and in Tijuana, and watching the best in each of us to grow. The experiences have called her to work for justice of many kinds and to teach others how they too can make a difference.
The Tijuana Housing Ministry builds houses for families in desperate need.
With over 80,000 people moving there each year, Tijuana is one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, and also has some of highest poverty in North America. The majority of Tijuana's population is made of migrants from other regions of Mexico, and many of the residents are transitory, either to other parts of Mexico or the US. The city is continually expanding out into the surrounding hills with unregulated, substandard housing and few municipal services.
Many people live without potable water, electricity, sanitary sewers, and housing is often little more than an overcrowded shack, shared with many.
We go to Tijuana because the area of our ministry is just 20 miles across the US border, giving travelers the opportunity to experience severe poverty on a global level. There are many organizations that serve the poor of the United States, while few focus on the needs of the families in Tijuana.
We are focused on building community within one of the most impoverished areas of Tijuana, Mexico. The ministry was founded in 2004 by members St. Julie Billiart Parish who were focused on the problem of global poverty and social justice. Since that time the ministry has grown to include home building, special building projects, and week-long outreach programs for children, teens, and mothers from the local community.