Mission work in mexico

Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI: a talent for passion & service

In the largest and most poverty-stricken diocese in Tijuana, Mexico, just south of the border from California, Jesse Esqueda, OMI, went to work two years ago at his first mission as an Oblate priest.

This year, with the San Eugenio Parish mission right-sized and turned over to the Archdiocese, Fr. Esqueda and the mission will move to where the need is even greater – the poorest and least developed part of the parish to the east.

Born in Mexico, and raised in Southern California, Fr. Esqueda grew up “a curious child,” he said, raised in a home filled with music and faith.

“My father was a very talented violinist and worked full time as a musician,” he said. “From my father, I learned the value of hard work, honesty and commitment.”

From his mother, Fr. Esqueda learned faith, generosity and service. “She was always around guiding our spiritual life,” he said. “We grew up praying the rosary together every evening and attending mass every Sunday. My mother was a very strong and generous woman. She was a catechist, parish leader and missionary.”

His father passed away in 1993 and his mother lost a battle with cancer last September.

As an outgoing child, Fr. Esqueda had been so involved in his parish growing up that when he graduated from high school, he joined a SEARCH retreat ministry in Los Angeles.

“It was during this time that I discovered my talents and passion for service,” he said. So he followed a call to become a long-term missionary experience in Honduras, Central America.

There, he worked in the Diocese of San Pedro Sula as a youth advisor and elementary school teacher, also volunteering in an orphanage of children living with HIV/AIDS while pursuing a theology degree from the Catholic University in Honduras.

“The experience of sharing my life with the poor, the sick and the suffering changed my life forever,” he said. After two years, Fr. Esqueda returned to California to work as a youth minister in the Oblate parish of Santa Rosa Church. “The Oblate spirit, compassion, and zeal for the mission encouraged me to continue with my discernment process.”

He entered the pre-novitiate program in Buffalo, NY, in 2007, then continued his formation at the Oblate Novitiate In Godfrey, Illinois, before professing fist vows as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate. In 2014, Fr. Esqueda earned a master’s degree in divinity from the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio and was ordained a priest. He set out for his first mission in Tijuana.

“There are about 200,000 people living within our parish boundaries,” he said of San Eugenio, which was established in 1996. “We have 14 mission churches in 14 different communities. Each mission church functions as a small parish. Each mission church has many ministries including a religious education program and a youth group.”

Three priests and one Oblate brother currently work at the mission. They will soon be moving the mission closer to Union Antorchista and Fuentes, where new migrants tend to build along railroad tracks, squatting on federal land, in neighborhoods lacking basic infrastructure such as paved roads, potable water, sanitation and electricity.

parnership family field trip to tijuana

Partners and friends from around the country met in San Diego on June 24 to kick off the second annual Partnership Family Field Trip to San Eugenio Mission in Tijuana.

Highlights of the trip included:

  • rooftop conversation and family-style meal in San Diego
  • tour of mission medical and dental clinics and literacy center
  • back of the truck ride for teens around mission perimeter
  • craft session with kids from Special Needs Program
  • interactions with mission youth ministers
  • food and clothing distribution for needy at out-station chapel
  • 2 piñata parties
  • impromptu dance with youth ministers

Mission host Fr. Jesse Esqueda, OMI summed up the experience by stating:

“We provide a “community” for all of the people you have seen.  We are a place where they can bring their suffering, their poverty, their sadness, but also their joy and their hope.”

Fr. Jesse invited each of us to now feel a part of this community.  How could we not?

ATTENDEES:  Kathy Raskob Van LoanTim and Emily Van Loan (Arizona); Kevin, Max and Ava Henseler (Minnesota); Dennis, Mikayla, Katherine Kempf (Missouri); Michael, Julie and Stephanie Whitehurst (Texas); Mike, Charlotte and Elizabeth Koroscik (Texas); Don Gonneville (California); Lena Romano (California); Penny Cuffe (Arizona) and Artie and Caitlin Pingolt (South Carolina).