Social pastoral care in the Parish of the Divine Redeemer during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lomas de Casa Blanca is a slum in the city of Querétaro, Mexico, whose Parish of the Divine Redeemer - and its three chaplains - has been served since 1983 by the Augustinian Recollects, who since they arrived perceived the needs of the neighborhood and were deciding methods to respond to social problems. The current parish priest Manuel Antonio Flores, together with the priestly team, has put all his imagination into play to respond to the situation of poverty heightened by the coronavirus pandemic.
News | 2020 Jun 19

The health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19, which has been spread in so many countries, has also done so in Mexico, especially in Mexico City and intensely in  Queretaro, in whose neighborhood of  Lomas de Casa Blanca is the Parish of the Divine Redeemer, managed by the Augustinian Recollects for about forty years.

Because of the confinement many families have been left without employment and without income, so the pandemic is being in this Parish a special hardship for the poor people of the ward who receive periodically, even in ordinary circumstances, their pantry or other aid through parish social pastoral care.

The Parish, like so many other institutions, has had to close its doors to the public and has avoided the presence of the faithful in the temple, although the community of friars has celebrated Mass and prayed for the sick, health and other personnel who are sustaining the functioning of society. It has also cared for the sick in some cases and held the funerals for the deceased. This situation of confinement has affected all aspects of parish life, but those responsible for each pastoral care have sought to respond adequately to the situation in which they have been involved.

Currently the parish social pastoral care is coordinated by Pedro Luis Ornad Miranda, Augustinian recollect, and Sister Karen Lissette Alvarado Aguilar, Augustinian recollect missionary. Collaborating in the 50 Missionary’s Ministry from the eight parish sectors.

Social action before the pandemic

Other aspects aside and sticking to social pastoral care, thanks to the missionaries who have collaborated in this ministry, for years it has been possible to maintain a delivery of pantries that have ranged from 100 to 200 monthly. In addition, the Parish since 1997 has a social dining room for the elderly of limited resources, and during these twenty-three years - in the chapel of the Lord of Friendship - there have been five to 50 hot meals a day from Monday to Friday.

This year 2020 the Parish began by delivering 102 pantries a month to low-income people and serving 28 meals a day in the dining room, a number that decreased because some people found work.

Social action during the pandemic

When the pandemic arrived concern arose among  the lay ministry  and the religious Missionaries  Agustinas Recoletas  -MAR-, who are in charge of the dining room, what was to be done with the beneficiaries of the pantries and the dining room, because the way to obtain donations in kind for the two activities is in the Children’s Mass - who have been cancelled to avoid contagion - when families donate beans, rice, oil, sugar, flour, and many other edible and hygiene items, with which the pantries that distribute social pastoral care are formed.

Another means of collection was with the activity of the missionaries of social pastoral care who in pairs go out every month to knock on doors, house by house, in their respective territorial sub-sector  to ask for donations in kind in order to collect items for the monthly pantries and the food that is cooked in the social dining room. But also because of the health contingency situation they have no longer been able to go out and do this work, since walking from house to house carries a great risk and most of them are vulnerable people because of their age and health. The problem was raised.

But Divine Providence touched the hearts of some donors so that they can continue to serve the poorest in the community. Through the masses and programs of "The Walk of the Parish" that are transmitted on social networks on the Internet of Facebook and YouTube, the Parish began to request donations of non-perishable food and articles of personal hygiene and cleaning. Many people responded to the call with what little they had, to relieve the burden of others.

On the other hand, some donors have brought supplies in considerable quantities (sacks of beans, rice, and sugar; boxes of oil, toilet paper, etc.) to the Parish. Some cases are truly eye-catching: for example, in the early days of April a lady came in with her car full of items for the pantries and said that her mom had seen Mass on Facebook and listened to the request, and that she had sent the van. Another donor through his son has brought a large amount of food and cleaning and personal hygiene items to the Parish every month, and he has already made four deliveries. The Augustinian-Recoleta Spirituality Center  (CEAR) of the Aspirantado San Pío X, in Querétaro, has also donated twice with the delivery of a van full of groceries and cleaning supplies for the pantries. Even from the northern state of Chihuahua came a strong donation. Diocesan Caritas donated 150 pantries already packed to the Divine Redeemer. The Aspirantado San Pio X, for its part, has donated fresh vegetables.

"Thank God and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, says the parish priest Manuel Antonio Flores, we have been able to continue to distribute the 100 monthly pantries to our beneficiaries that we already had in lists during the months of March, April, May and June. In addition, we have given two pantries a month to the beneficiaries of the social dining room who were eating every day until March 13, when we had to close it as a precaution for the beneficiaries and the volunteer cooks. The 19 people in this situation have been given two pantries per month prepared in a more personalized way, because the  MAR, coordinated by Sister Karen, are prepared according to the number of people who make up the family and taking into account the ages. Even two of the old beneficiaries of the dining room, as they live alone and have no stove in their rooms and because of their physical conditions they cannot cook themselves, are prepared the food by two neighboring lady volunteers, also missionaries from the Parish who are in a small community, to whom we give them the pantry for his meals.  We've been on this plan for three and a half months."

Charity has not been limited to people who usually receive food care from the Parish, but this, having managed to provide itself with abundant food and cleaning items, has been able to deliver 100 more pantries to others who have so asked for it because of the critical situation in which they have been left because of pandemic.

To assemble the pantries with the proceeds and distribute them the teens of the JARs (Augustinian -Recollect Youth) were asked for help in the beginning, who enthusiastically not only participated in helping to pack the items, put it in the bags and leave the pantries ready, but also helped take them to the homes of the beneficiaries, because most of them could not go to the temples, which is usually the place where social pastoral workers hand them over to the beneficiaries. But when they had their Holy Week holidays ended, they had to go back to school, and we had to find other ways to get the pantries to those in need.

The social pastoral care of the Parish of the Divine Redeemer  also carries out other activities such as distributing blankets, providing diapers for children and adults, and even rescuing old people from unhealthy places or providing aids for more specific things, such as delivering metal sheets for the roofs, mattresses... Charity has no limits.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

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