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 prelature of Ciudad Madera was situated in the north-east of the State of Chihuahua (Mexico). Its 30, 0002 were in a high plateau crossed by plains and the Madre Occidental mountain range from north to south, a place formed by ranges of mountains, hills, valleys and ravines, isolated zones and gorges with a low level of population. In the high plateau of 2,200 meters above sea level were the larger Centres of population. But in its length it was mountainous territory with access difficulties.

La zona serrana de la misión de Madera, con grandes quebradas y muchas dificultades de comunicación.
The mountainous zone of the mission of Madera, with great ravines and gorges as well as great difficulties in communication.

The prelature had two districts: that of de Guerrero, with seven municipalities (Guerrero, Matachic, Temósachic, Madera, Gómez Farías, Namiquipa, Bachíniva) and the district of Rayón with two municipalities (Ocampo and Moris). They created in 1966 with the most mountainous parishes of the region the dioceses of Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez y Ciudad Obregón, for two reasons: the lack of clergy and a region with little accessibility and few resources; and the pacifying force of the Church after the revolution in 1965.

The Archdiocese of Chihuahua took over the parishes of Bachíniva and Ciudad Guerrero; the diocese of Ciudad Juárez, those of Ciudad Madera, Temósachic, Gómez Farías and Namiquipa; and those of Ciudad Obregón, that of Yécora.

In February 1965 the bishop of Ciudad Juárez, Manuel Talamás, was looking for a religious order that would take charge of these parishes, and this was what he mentioned to the apostolic delegate. Paul VI created the prelature on the 25th of April 1966. On the 20th of June 1967 the Observatory Romano published the naming of Justo Goizueta, provincial vicar of the Augustinian Recollects in Mexico, as apostolic administrator of the new prelature. His Episcopal ordination was on the 8th of March 1970 in the Church of Santa Monica of the Augustinian Recollects in the city of Mexico.

Catedral de Ciudad Madera, Chihuahua, México.
Cathedral of Ciudad Madera, Chihuahua, Mexico.

On the 2nd of May 1996 a small Recollect expedition left the seminary of the Province of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino in Querétaro that, between the 4th of May and the 28th of October, took charge of the parishes of Santa Ana, Nicolás Bravo, Ciudad Madera, El Terrero, Gómez Farías y Mesa del Huracán.

On the 8th of August 1967 Justo Goizueta took charge of the Prelature. He had twelve Augustinian Recollects, three missionaries of the Nativity of Mary, three Paulists and a diocesan priest. The Recollects continued taking on new parishes: Namiquipa (1967), Ciudad Guerrero (1968), Bachíniva (1970), Temósachic (1971), La Junta (1971) y Yécora (1971). There were up to twenty-three Recollects working in the Prelature.

Desde el primer momento se promovieron las vocaciones locales. El clero diocesano se fue multiplicando y se le fueron entregando las parroquias de Temósachic (1972), Santa Ana (1977), Yécora (1981), Mesa del Huracán (1982), Ciudad Madera (1989), Nicolás Bravo (1990) y Gómez Farías (1990).

From the first moment they promoted native vocations. The diocesan clergy started to grow and they handed over to them the parishes of Temósachic (1972), Santa Ana (1977), Yécora (1981), Mesa del Huracán (1982), Ciudad Madera (1989), Nicolás Bravo (1990) y Gómez Farías (1990).

On the 17th of November 1995 they formed the new diocese of Cuauhtémoc-Madera, in which was integrated Ciudad Madera as one of the Episcopal sees and other municipalities which belonged to the diocese of Chihuahua. In the year 2011 there were two remaining Recollect communities in the new diocese (La Junta and Ciudad Cuauhtémoc).

The work of the Augustinian Recollects was of evangelization and the sacraments. The large distances, the scarcity of lay and religious personnel, and the lack of an organized and oriented pastoral structure brought to them a labour more similar to that of the first missionaries than that of the modern pastoralists.

Población indígena en La Junta, Chihuahua.
Indigenous people in La Junta, Chihuahua.

The Order did not work directly in fields of health and education, but from the beginning they organized school breakfasts and dispensed medication. In the mountainous region they gave out large quantities of food and medicines.

After the departure of the Augustinian Recollects and after seeing the results, those who knew at the beginning the people and the places talked of almost prodigious transformation. The materialism and neoliberalism advanced with the years, along with the religious indifference, but also there were quite a lot of large displays of religious feeling.

The main difficulties which the missionaries had to fight against were illiteracy, superstitious beliefs, and the little daily influence in the lives of the people they served; the lack of communication; the high percentage of alcoholism; and emigration.

The Augustinian Recollects work efficiently for the vocations. Proof of that is the handing over of the Prelature to the diocesan clergy with a wealth of religious vocations. Also the material works have been abundant. After their withdrawal, the Recollects handed over to the diocese parochial houses with all the necessary facilities. The present parochial infrastructure in Madera, Nicolás Bravo, Santa Ana, El Terrero, Bachíniva, La Junta, Ciudad Guerrero or Temósachic owes much to the work of the Recollects.

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