Photo: Frères de Saint-Jean

By CAROLINE BRENNAN

The Parroquia Francesa Cristo Resucitado y Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, a Catholic church located on Avenida Horacio in Mexico City’s bucolic suburb of Polanco, is well known in the area for being a place of worship, full of spirituality, peace and faith.

Run by monks from the French religious order the Community of Saint John, the Parroquia, along with its religious services, is very active in helping the community around it, giving back to its less fortunate residents.

Despite its calm and tranquil exterior, the interior courtyard of the church is the bustling hub for its charitable activities, most notably its dispensary, which services 225 registered needy families.

Pulse News Mexico sat down with the prior of the Parroquia, Father Miguel Pro, who shared with us the charitable operations of the dispensary and how the community at large can help.

He said the Parroquia dispensary “was happy it could play a small part of a big problem.” referring to the endemic poverty in the city.

Open only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the dispensary currently services needy families — some from nearby suburbs, and others who travel over an hour into the city — by offering food, clothing  and other household items for a nominal fee of 25 pesos a month.

Some of the families have been registered with the Parroquia’s dispensary for over 15 years, due to the main breadwinner being sick or incapable of working. Other families have different histories of hardship and difficulties, with some having handicapped members in their household.

Run by a team of nine volunteers, and one religious brother, each of the families is assigned a registration card and an ID number which entitles them to come to the dispensary once a month, pick up three items of second-hand clothing and donated foodstuffs.

Also on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and open to the general public and nonregistered families, is the dispensary’s weekly “Garage Sale,” where donated household goods and toys are sold for a small fee, with proceeds being used by the church to buy food items in bulk, which, in turn, it gives away for free to the registered families.

Every month, each registered family is also allocated a kilogram of beans, rice, sugar and pasta, and a half liter of vegetable oil.

Furthermore, if there is an oversupply, Father Miguel explained that food items such as canned goods and vegetables are also sometimes given out to the homeless in and around Polanco.

The mobility of expatriate families and their annual summer exoduses upon leaving Mexico regularly ensures the availability of a plethora of household goods, toys and clothing that cannot be taken overseas. According to Father Miguel, the dispensary would always welcome, receive and offload these items from departing expats as donations, so they can be given away to the families registered with the dispensary. As long as they are clean and in a good ,usable state, they can be used again, he said.

During the year, two celebratory events are held by the church for the dispensary families: One is Mother’s Day, when all registered mothers are treated to a mole chicken lunch, cake, a dance and presents (which are usually donations).

The second event is held at Christmas and is for the children of the registered families. Each child receives a sandwich and a toy (usually second-hand toys that were given away for the garage sale) and they get to swing a pole at a pinata full of treats.

Unfortunately, these events came to a halt with the start of the covid-19 pandemic, but that didn’t stop the Paroquia’s operations.

While the church was forced to close down and suspend its religious services and social events, the dispensary services were never suspended and continued to function throughout the countrywide closures with only three volunteers.

It was also during this time that the Paroquia received many immigrant refugees from neighboring countries seeking clothing and food since most of Mexico’s refugee centers also closed down.

Now that life is slowly returning to normal in the city, the number of volunteers and donations are starting to increase again, and other needy families who wish to be registered with the dispensary are on a growing waiting list.

Father Miguel said nonperishable food, household items, monetary donations and volunteers would all be happily welcomed. The more supplies they have, the more families they can service, he said.

The Parroquia Francesa is located on Avenida Horacio 1758 in Polanco. It’s office is open to receive donations Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. A video on the dispensary and it’s efforts can be viewed on the Parroquia’s website. 

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