2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the presence of the Legionaries of Christ in the prelature of Cancun-Chetumal in Quintana Roo, Mexico. When the Vatican assigned this mission territory to the Legionaries in 1970, it was sparsely populated with only a few small mission churches. But shortly afterwards the area experienced unprecedented economic growth and development as a tourist destination.
Now known as the Mayan Riviera, the area is famous for its beautiful beaches and resorts. The population of Cancun is now well over one million, and Playa del Carmen is over 400,000. The growth of the prelature where the Legionaries of Christ are serving is also remarkable, with over 50 churches and more than 400 chapels built, many schools, a university, and a seminary.
Behind the polished resorts are many poor individuals and families who have immigrated to the area with nothing, in the hope of building a better life for themselves by working in the booming Cancun/Playa Del Carmen tourism industry. The Church has struggled to keep up with the challenges presented by this fast-paced growth, and there is a critical need for more churches and schools to serve the people who are settling in the area. Churches not only bring the faith to the residents of Quintana Roo; they also build the moral life of communities, and provide a minimal social safety net.
With this in mind, delegates from the North American Territory of Regnum Christi travelled to Quintana Roo in November to explore options for joint Catholic World Mission/Mission Youth missions to the area in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Legionaries of Christ’s presence there. The dual purpose of the planned visits and missions would be to increase awareness of the evangelizing and humanitarian work accomplished in the prelature to date, and to build support for the important work that members of Regnum Christi do in the area.
The delegation included Stephanie Quinlan from Catholic World Mission, Fr. Michael Mitchell, LC, and Carolina Dorantes from Mission Youth, Fr. Emilio Diaz-Torre, LC, from Cancun, as well as Fr. Hubert Reiner, LC, and Clark Zentner from Playa del Carmen.
The prelature of Cancun-Chetumal is now entering its third year of preparation for the jubilee. On November 17, the delegation attended the opening of the Year of the Holy Cross in Carrillo Puerto, the center of the Mayan area. Following an extended and enthusiastic Eucharistic procession through the town, Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo Cardenas, LC, celebrated an outdoor Mass with many priests, seminarians and Catholic members of the prelature. After Mass, participants were treated to a wonderful performance of traditional Mayan dances.
The group also visited two Mayan villages served by the prelature in Carrillo Puerto. Living conditions in the many scattered jungle villages are primitive. With as many as 40 villages in the area, there is a need for well-trained, full-time evangelizers to collaborate with the priests in bringing the faith to these people through catechesis.
Another pressing need in the area is the completion of more churches. Playa del Carmen, a rapidly-growing tourist center, has only 6 fully-developed Catholic churches to serve a population of over 400,000. Several churches stand unfinished, waiting for the necessary funds to complete them.
Catholic World Mission, a Regnum Christi outreach, supports evangelizing, humanitarian and infrastructure projects in the prelature of Cancun-Chetumal. Catholic World Mission is a registered charity in the United States, making donations to support the Church in the prelature of Cancun-Chetumal tax deductible through Catholic World Mission by visiting www.supportourchurch.org.
In fall of 2020, Catholic World Mission and Mission Youth are planning several missions and collaborative trips to this area. The concept is to provide individuals and groups from the United States and Canada the opportunity to understand the needs of the church in the area, see some of the works developed in the prelature over the past 50 years, and gain an understanding of the reality of the lives of the poor people served by the Church. The program they are developing is a three to five day mission in a retreat atmosphere, with an emphasis on collaborating with on-going local efforts. For more information, please contact Mission Youth at firstname.lastname@example.org