Puebla was such an experience. When Fr Francesco (an Oblate from Zambia in Africa who ministers in Mexico) and I got out at the bus terminal it was so funny, people were staring at us. In their eyes I could read this question: “What on earth are they doing here?”
However what has stayed with me are Sunday Masses in a couple of Mission Centers run by the Oblates in Puebla. They are right on the outskirts of the city. If it is an event to see a foreigner at the main bus terminal which is in the CBD you can imagine the poor suburbs surrounding the city. However as Fr Francesco and I turned up to celebrate Mass there was no surprise or curious looks. The parishioners were greeting or waiving to us as we were their next door neighbors. The reason for that is very simple. Their communities have been served by the Oblates for some years now and these people have seen Oblates coming to them from all over the world. As it was the Solemnity of Christ the King I couldn’t help thinking that what the Oblates have achieved here is the people’s understanding that the Church is Universal. She cannot be framed by cultures, mentality, geography, nationality or color of skin. The Catholic Church is as big as big are Jesus’ desires to save people.
At one of the Masses I was asked to say what I can observe as I celebrate Mass with them. I said that even if I don’t understand Spanish but looking at them and hearing them sing in the chapel I understand very easily their love for Jesus, and how passionate they are for their parish. I was explained that they aren’t an official parish yet but they are hoping to become one soon as they are well organized and have people involved in all the necessary projects like liturgy, teaching of the faith, maintenance, finances, etc. They cannot wait to be an official parish because it also means that they will have a priest permanently residing within their community. They are praying that it would be an Oblate. I have read lots of things about our Oblate heritage, I have heard many comments of people in various places about the Oblates but somehow that little whisper I heard from the parishioners in the poor suburb of Puebla: “We are praying so that the Oblates could not only continue their ministry among us but so that they could become our official parish priests” was a moving moment for me. Right there on the outskirts of Puebla I felt so proud of my brother Oblates and at the same time I was so humbled that I am one of them.