MATAMOROS, Mexico — After delivering much needed supplies as part of the Order’s border program Knights of Columbus from the United States and Mexico celebrated La Posada, a traditional Christmas portrayal of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter before Jesus’ birth, at a migrant shelter in one of Mexico’s most dangerous cities.
Posada, the Spanish term for inn, is the reenactment of journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph, who found “no room in the inn.” A widely popular Mexican tradition created by Franciscan missionaries from Spain, it is celebrated with friends, family and communities, and often includes children in period dress, acting out the roles of Jesus’ parents.
Taking a simpler form, the Matamoros event on Dec. 13 was held for more than 100 residents finding shelter at Casa Del Migrante Juan Diego y San Francisco de Asis, which is named for Sts. Juan Diego and Francis of Assisi.
“The Posada is a reenactment of when Joseph and Mary were going with Jesus Christ trying to find a place,” Knight Alfredo Vela said. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph and Jesus Christ were rejected two places before they found shelter in the third one.”
Vela said the Holy Family’s experiences were similar to those living in the shelter in Matamoros.
“These folks, they're just trying to find a place to sleep in safety,” he said. “We don't have to worry about that here in the United States. And sometimes, you know, we got to share our blessings with others.”
Matamoros sits along the edge of Rio Grande, with the Gateway International Bridge joining it to its sister-city of Brownsville, Texas. And it’s from Brownsville that Knights of Columbus travelled to celebrate Christ’s birth with those in the migrant shelter this December.
According to Bishop Mario Alberto Avilés, one of the bishops from Brownsville who attended the event, the Knights and those on both sides of the border are “very close” to the migrants’ situation in Matamoros. Violence there is common; the city is in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which the U.S. State Department has classified a level 4 threat because of frequent crime, kidnapping, assault and other violence.
Yet the Knights and volunteers at the shelter put aside danger, as well as politics and differing opinions to help “without looking for reasons or why they’re here or where they’re coming from,” Bishop Avilés said. Instead, they are just “one family.”
“The majority of the people in our area are Catholics,” he said. “So they share the same faith of these people and they are able to live the gospel by helping their brothers and sisters in need.”
So, when Knights came across the border to celebrate Christmas with La Posada, they came with trucks filled with vitally needed supplies to help the shelter.
La Posada celebrations let children and adults from all cultural backgrounds share in the joy of Christ’s birth and five years ago, the Knights adapted the ceremony for use in English-speaking communities as the “Journey to the Inn: An Advent Celebration.”
For those at the shelter in Matamoros, as well as the Knights visiting from Texas and the Mexico North East jurisdiction, the event provided an opportunity for charity, fraternity and traditional Christmas celebrations, with piñatas and tamales.
The Knights and residents of the shelter were also joined by Bishop Eugenio Lira of Matamoro, whose diocese sponsors and administers the Casa, and Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville.
“Posadas is a celebration that's been around for centuries especially in Mexican culture,” Bishop Flores said. “People gather and they represent Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay for Mary to give birth. As we know, they found no place at the inn.”
He explained that the experience of Mary and Joseph knocking on the doors and being told no is “a synopsis of the whole immigrant experience.”
But, he says, the Knights are helping draw attention to their plight.
“The Knights of Columbus throughout the world have made a conscious effort to kind of gather resources,” Flores said. “That's very important, because the Knights touch so many other people in all the different parts of the country and in the world.
“We can't just deal with only the things that we see, because sometimes the most important realities that require our attention as followers of Jesus are exactly the places we don't ordinarily look. And the Knights are kind of helping us gaze at that.”
WATCH VIDEO OF CELEBRATION AT U.S. - MEXICAN BORDER HERE
With its donation of clothing, food, water, and medicine for migrants in Matamoros, the Knights of Columbus has surpassed a commitment made at this year’s Supreme Convention in Minneapolis.
The goal of the program was to provide at least $250,000 in relief for refugees along the US-Mexico border. With the supplies in Matamoros representing a donation of $30,000, the Knights have now contributed approximately $272,000 since August to help meet the humanitarian needs at the border.
“This is a statement of principle,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson at August’s Supreme Convention as he announced the new program.
“This is about helping people who need our help right now,” Anderson said in his report to the convention. “It is a natural and necessary extension of our support for refugees across the world. It shows our nation and the world that where there is a need, there is a Knight to answer it.”
The Knights made similar deliveries of humanitarian supplies in recent months to centers in Piedras Negras and Juarez, Mexico, with the help of Knights in Texas.
The efforts along the border are consistent with the Knights’ long history of coming to the aid of those in need who are displaced, including most recently in the Middle East and Ukraine.
Journey to the Inn is one of many Faith in Action Christmas programs. Check out the resources available at www.kofc.org/christmas.
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