Our Lady of the Forsaken: The Church in a multicultural neighborhood

Not long ago, the headlines of the press insisted on saying that the neighborhood of San Cristobal de los Angeles, at the southern end of the district of Villaverde, was a city without law. Neighbors against squatters, the "camels", gangs, unemployment, school failure, the buildings built on the clay soil of a life that goes uphill. Today is a multicultural Madrid, a geography that has mutated from immigration that came to the progress of the sixties to the current radiography of ethnic groups that claim their space. A neighborhood with thirty neighborhood associations for which the Church is one more, with which we must count. In San Cristóbal de los Ángeles, which is the limit even of the diocese of Madrid, already touching the district of Getafe, one of the first Pastoral Units of the diocese has been formed. A Pastoral Unit that serves two temples, that of San Lucas, in the Plaza de la Paloma de la Paz, 1, and that of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados, in the Plaza de los Pinazo.

To the Pastoral Unit of San Cristóbal one must enter through Caritas. It can not be done any other way, if one wants to understand the presence of the Church in a borderline neighborhood of the human. A presence that does not ideologize faith nor points to false dialectics between love and justice. A Caritas that, attended by Sister Aquilina, a religious of the Santa Teresa Company, and by a dozen volunteers, welcomes a large group of Muslim women with their wide veils and a multitude of small children.

This Caritas, pure providence, cares for more than 1,000 people, some 600 with food from the European Fund to Help the Underprivileged managed by the Red Cross. We talk about 17 tons of food a year. Cáritas also has the CEM project, the Children's Education Center, with its school support and its activities aimed at the integration of children in the society in which they live, a score of children and the urgent need for volunteers to serve them. The CETA is the adult education center where they are taught from Spanish classes for newly arrived immigrants to cooking sessions and other basic skills to be able to live and find a job. In close collaboration with the social services of the district, people who are new to the neighborhood are followed up. Resources are always limited, but Providence is generous and has many names.

In this Pastoral Unit, which has as its parish priest the young priest Jaime Vales, a whirlwind of the Spirit and common sense, also work the parish vicar Javier Martin and the priest of the Congo, Francis Muhunga, student of San Dámaso. They are helped by the Teresian Institution. Among the activities that occupy until the last breath of the priests is the Friends Club of San Cristóbal, which works with kids; the Junior Association, the rest of a vigorous Catholic Action, which now attracts children and young people for integral education and leisure.

The «Risen Jesus Community» helps in the tasks of evangelization. Counts the Pastoral Unit with a group of catechumenate of adults, with the prayer that the Teresianas organize in their house, with a group of Christian formation and with the presence of the Charismatic Renewal. Young people attend both "Oremus" and "Watch and pray", which is a prayer for young people that comes through their eyes and organizes the Renewal in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.

But those that do not go unnoticed among the buildings of flats are the two temples that make up this Pastoral Unit. Separated by a few meters, the Church dedicated to San Lucas has an impressive façade that protects a square, the usual place for citizen calls. And the temple of Our Lady of the Desamparados, with its imposing image of the Virgin in the access, hides a spectacular church of worship, with an imposing stained glass window no less spectacular with the last supper, its apostles and its Judas at one end, work by Mateo Tito 66. Temples that undoubtedly have marked the history of a neighborhood for which the Church is hope and future.

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