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Turn to Jesus (Article)

City of Joy
Charities work together in Mexican city to aid the poor and terminally ill

Hogar de los Niños
Hogar de los Niños

Quintana Roo, Mexico -- Innovation and entrepreneurship – these words may not be top of mind when one thinks of charitable organizations. But these concepts are at the heart of one organization in a city near Cancun, Mexico. 

In Quintana Roo, a man named Fernando Garcia and some of his friends became inspired by a group of nuns, the Missionaries of the Risen Christ.  The congregation cares for the needs of the poor and terminally ill in areas throughout Mexico, as well as in Haiti (they were among the first responders after the earthquake) and in Chad, Africa. 

At the beginning of the new millennium, the founder of the sisters, Bertha Lopez, came up with the idea for a place she wanted to call the City of Joy (Ciudad Alegría).  This would be a place where several charities could co-exist together in one location to be of service to those who needed help the most. 

“They are heroes,” says Fernando about the sisters, having
Hogar de la Mujer
Hogar de la Mujer
witnessed their selfless acts of charity.  “They are the inspiration for the whole thing.  They take care of those that no one else really wants to take care of.”

Fernando, whose wife Lola is a member of Regnum Christi, would later become the vice president and co-founder of the City of Joy, along with men like Jesus Herrera, Jose Ampudia and Fernando Rodriquez.  The Legionaries of Christ would also become involved, and the Bishop of the Cancun area, Pedro Pablo, LC, would become its Rector.  Many RC members, including women like Lola, now serve as volunteers in the different City of Joy Homes. 

Today the City of Joy has been in operation for a decade and includes, on a 12-acre site, 10 homes and centers that serve over 30,000 people each year, with help from hundreds of volunteers and donors.  Thus far, businesses and private citizens have invested $10,000,000 in the City of Joy. 

The charitable groups all operate autonomously within the City of Joy. The groups include: 

  • Hogar de Cobija y
    Hogar de los Ancianos
    Hogar de los Ancianos
    Pan (The Bread and Blanket Shelter), which supplies food to the City of Joy homes and local people in need.

  • Hogar de los Niños, offers daily childcare including nutritious meals, educational activities and healthcare, for babies and infants of working mothers, ensuring their overall development.

  • Hogar de la Mujer, a shelter for women, serving girls who are pregnant outside of wedlock or women suffering from abuse.

  • Hogar de los Ancianos, a home for the elderly.

  • Mano Amiga School, which offers education to nearly 1,200 children from low income families.

  • The Training Center, run by Santa María Fortaleza, where over 60 people suffering from addiction to alcohol or drugs receive daily support and guidance

  • Hogar Cafarnaum, a hospice for the terminally ill.

  • The Personal Development Center whose facilities are used by a wide range of organizations for spiritual retreats, training courses and special events

  • Acción Liberadora, a program run by the Order of Mercy to provide help and guidance
    Hogar de la Mujer
    Hogar de la Mujer
    for prisoners 

City of Joy also offers a multipurpose center which contains a chapel, an auditorium and serves as a hurricane shelter; a community legal services where people can access free legal advice; medical services with a doctor always available on site, and an emotional support service that works to raise young people’s awareness regarding respect for life, non-violence, justice and charity.  

Fernando and the other founders started a foundation to support the charitable organizations within the “City.”  

“We build their homes and help them over the first year or two until they reach financial stability,” said Fernando.  “And if they need to expand – we organize events and fundraising bazaars twice a year, splitting the funds equally among the charities.  We hold concerts, bull fights, golf tournaments, etc. to do this.” 

One of the most inspiring areas of the City of Joy for Fernando is the Hospice center.  He said he is most impressed by how the sisters work with the patients near death. 

“We are happy that so many terminally ill people are able to die in communion with Jesus because they have been taken care of by these great nuns who help them spiritually as well as physically,” he said. 

He also said that, because of their involvement with the Mano Amiga school, approximately 100 parents of the students have gotten married who might not before have done so, and about 250 kids have made their first communion. 

Fernando points out that, though the City of Joy is a Catholic institution, it serves people regardless of their race or religious beliefs.  “We help people in the most need, with no distinction for age, ethnicity or religion,” said Fernando.  “We are all are sons of God.” 

But the City of Joy stays true to its Catholic roots.  All the
Sister with a baby
A Missionary of the Risen Christ sister with a little resident of the City of Joy
homes emphasize the dignity of human life in all its stages, from offering young women in crisis pregnancies alternatives to abortion to helping the elderly meet their needs when 60 to 70 percent of them have no means to pay.

Fernando explains that City of Joy operates under the principles of “synergy,” “subsidiarity,” and has been recognized for its “transparency” and “ethical behavior.” (See website for more details.) 

“Volunteers and donors can choose where they want to help,” he said. “All operations are regularly audited.” 

The organization also works for continuous improvement, he said. 

“This year we added a gym for the elderly to exercise.  We built a new store and chapels.  We are creating a home for immigrants and ex-convicts, so they can find their place in the community.” 

Fernando points out an interesting international coincidence with the founding of the City of Joy, noting that in this world, “good balances out the evil.” 

“Everything began with the City of Joy in September of 2001,” he said. “The first stone was laid down on September 11, at the same time as the plane crashes happened in the United States.”

Let us keep the City of Joy in our prayers to continue to bring good and overcome evil.  Those who would like to support one or more of the charities within the organization can make contributions with credit or debit cards or checks (made out to Fundación Ciudad de la Alegría A.C.) Donations can be made by filling out a donation form and sending it via FAX to 52 988 898 6224 or via email at  To obtain an online form, register at the website by clicking here.

Bank deposits can be made to “Fundación Ciudad de la Alegría at A.C.,” via BBVA Bancomer, Suc. 5764.  The account for US dollars and foreign currencies is Account No. 0132417154 (Swift Code BCMRMXMM).  Donations can also be made in kind, for items including: 

  • Perishable and nonperishable foods.

  • Personal care and cleansing products.

  • Clean clothes in good condition.

  • Medical equipment and medicines (within expiration date).

  • Furniture and domestic supplies in good condition.

  • Construction materials. 

Please look at the website to get more information about the specific requirements of each home.



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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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