The missions, social projects and solidarity actions are a constant in the action of the Augustinian Recollect Family. The Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentine has always lived in mission, since its very birth was motivated by the opening of the first evangelization missions in the Philippines in the 17th century. Since then, he has carried out his evangelizing activity following the mandate of Jesus in the places today called “frontiers”: there where it is necessary to defend the dignity of human life, social justice, equal opportunities, the defense of the most vulnerable.


The area of the Hospitals contains three centres: the Hospital General, for those who have no other possibility of medical care; The Children´s Hospital Federico Gómez, a specialized paediatric hospital; and the Hospital Medical Centre “21st Century” for those with Social Security medical care. They have annually 50,000 admissions and there are 850,000 external consultations and 2,500 deaths. 60% come from outside of the Federal District and 72% have low or very low economic resources.

At the beginning of the 21st Century they built a small chapel which the faithful called Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Hospitales and Hospitals. In times of the Catholic militant (cristeros) war the small church was closed and disentailed, but was opened again for worship due to popular appeal. It was established as a parish in 1947 with little geographical extension to ease the attention of the sick.

The arrival of the Augustinian Recollects

In 1961 Cardinal Miguel Darío Miranda was looking for someone to attend to this ministry. The Augustinian Recollects, expanding in Mexico, promised to manage the parish and be chaplains of the hospital centre. On the 2nd of October four Recollects took possession. In 1963 the health complex grew and there was an increase in the number of patients who received care. They decided to build a new church. The works lasted for little more than a year and were mentioned in the news.

At the beginning of 1979 the Parish was news with the visit of John Paul II to the Children´s Hospital. The next incident was the earthquake in 1985: 50% of the buildings in the district came down. The number of deaths was very high, as well as the economic damage. The Augustinian Recollects opened all the parish facilities to emergency attention.

The earthquake changed the sociodemographic profile of the district. Before it was characterized by traditional families of great religiosity, generosity, and collaboration with the Church. After the earthquake the population was floating, the level of life went down and delinquency increased. The district now became known for being dangerous.

A world with new needs

At the beginning of the 21st Century the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino started its restructuring. The society was different, with changes in the educational systems, in the understanding of human beings, the vision of religious acts as something more private than public, the influence of new technologies, the new economy and the exaltation of individual freedom.

Also the religious orders were different: the religious asked themselves about the ways in which they were present and gave witness in the new society. The configuration of the members varied with the internationalization and multiculturalism, the generation gap, the fall in numbers without disposing of tasks and services in the Church and in society.

In the General Assembly of the Vicariate of Mexico and Costa Rica in 2004 the religious asked about the places which would need more and better energies and resources. They endorsed the presence in the Hospitals and the open and responsible collaboration with society. The religious and a few ministers of communion could not be the only figures. The new society demanded a quality service and painstaking service which was professional with efficient resources and infrastructures.

The religious approved of a social project which was representative of the Augustinian Recollects. They understood the immense responsibility of their presence in the district of Colonia Doctores, one of the most conflictive in the Federal District. Also that of the arduous work in the health centres with conditioning factors very different from those previously observed.

The General Hospital, the Medical Centre “21st Century” and the Children´s Hospital Federico Gómez are centres of reference for the whole country. It came about to attend to the inhabitants of Mexico City, but now 60% of its patients are from outside. It has been added that the families come from away, with nothing more than what they are wearing, to accompany the patients derived from the national health system.

CARDI was the accommodation of a task that is always a living reality; a flee from corporative self-management to create a network of links, people and institutions that wish to contribute their collaboration, ideas, time, professional skills and resources. Its name officially means Centre of Accompaniment and Recuperation of Integral Development. But the letters AR also make reference to the Order which thought up and managed it: Augustinian Recollect Centre of Integral Development.

The objectives of CARDI

CARDI has three main types of attention: the patients, the families who attend to them and the volunteers and the network of support created around them. In all three cases the life of these people is changed by illness, with consequences that are psychological, economical and that affect their working lives.

This legally recognized Civil Association has reorganized and planned the spiritual and psychological attention of its integral programme. The Centre is a space of rest, washing and cleaning facilities, a low cost medical dispensary, dental services, psychological consultancy and attention, rehabilitation, individual and group therapies, a School for Pastoral care and Health, a communication centre, registration and management, and the administration and supervision of the volunteer’s activities.

CARDI gives workshops, diplomas and courses on the dying, psychology, grief management, the humanization of health, and guidance on help and rights. It involves other institutions and public administrations so that their help and tasks might be more effective. With their area of work, CARDI selects and presents concrete cases to other agents making their services and effective and direct.

Means for an end

For years the costs of the attention to the Hospitals fell upon the parish. A greater number of services also require a greater necessity of resources. Between 2006 and 2010 80,000 people had received some type of service from CARDI. The parish economy could not pay for the project. The inversion for the construction, the equipment of the building is only one part: there is every individual project, the courses, the handing out of food and medicines, the telephone calls, the fixed costs…Many people and institutions take part.

The actions of CARDI are developed from a professional basis. To attend to moments of pain and loss good will is not enough, it is also necessary a professional and careful quality service. The volunteers are formed in the Saint Ezekiel Moreno School of Pastoral Care and Health from three perspectives: Gestalt psychology, speech therapy, and care of the dying. The courses open to all members of society; have a cost for the students and help pay for the operative costs of the building.

Perspectives within the hospital

Illness, pain and death are an inherent part of the mystery of what it means to be human and change the lives of the people with implications that are affective, social, work related or to do with the family…It is not easy for the sick. The diagnostic consultations and pre-operational exams, the operations and post-operative treatments take place a long way from home, at an average of an eight hour journey.

The problems detected in the ill are a lack of psychological attention so as to accept the illness; difficult access to medicines and apparatus, and the more sophisticated and specialized they are, the more expensive they turn out to be. The lack also of company when travelling, in hospitals and in external consultations; the lack of resting places and hygiene facilities, a tranquil place in a big inhospitable city often cruel and unjust.

For families there follows the unexpected economic load, transferred far from home which at times results in the loss of jobs. They are often in the hospital alone accompanying the sick. Feeding, sleeping, washing of clothes and showers are activities that frankly in a big city are difficult to resolve. The relatives suffer unbalance, aguish, stress, and if the hospital treatment continues, economic pressure.

The volunteers arrive willing to help, but it is not easy to get close to a human being that lives in pain, they need the right tools: a message which lifts the spirit of the sick person or the relative, a human quality, a knowing look, talking, listening, touching.

One of the places most humanly difficult to manage is the hospital. The mental situation of every worker, patient or relative is a key influence in a very sensitive context. Stress, depression, nervousness, and tiredness are commonplace. CARDI helps to reduce the conflicts. The health professionals should be formed in the “humanization of health”: treatment of the new patient, communication of tragic news, and contact with relatives. In many cases their formation has been exclusively scientific, but their daily contact with people requires other qualities.


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