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By Fr Kevin Mullins
A day in the life of Columban Fr Kevin Mullins who works in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.
On the morning of 27 November 2011 Leo, the full-time parish worker, and I were crossing Juárez City, Mexico, to meet with Manny Vargas, the editor of Misión Columbana, the Spanish-language magazine of the Columbans in the USA.
After a short stop at the bank, we continued on only to be passed by speeding police cars and military convoys with sirens blaring.
Soon enough, we passed by a tragic and frequently common-place scene: the recently executed body of a 47-year-old father of four who was stretched out at the street corner.
Hurriedly, we decided to at least attempt a prayer or a blessing for the victim concerned, not wanting to repeat the example of the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan who passed by the injured man on the side of the road to Jericho. Although it is notoriously difficult to do so under the current security circumstances.
I parked our vehicle just in front of the recently shot-up funeral home which belongs to the family of the Mayor of Ciudad Juárez. We then attempted to pass the police line with its respectful and yet unhelpful automatic weapon-toting agents.
Whilst I was engaged in a rambling conversation with the police, Leo had fortunately gained access to a squad of soldiers who were more accommodating and who, in turn, sent us further along under and through the streams of yellow tape surrounding the scene of the execution.
Lo and behold . . . and ‘Thank you, God’ . . . we discovered there a younger policeman who had finished the Confirmation Course in our parish some three years before. After the mutual greetings and the mutual ‘What are you doing here?’ he sent us on another ten meters towards a group of masked investigators, who showed signs of impatience with us.
Fortunately, two of the younger female officers in charge of the crime scene took me much nearer to the body. At that moment, another officer took me back away from the body and just left me in a sort of no man's land.
I had already donned my stole and philosophized about the cruelty and the violence of Juárez, surrounded as we were by troops, sobbing relatives, crackling radios and spiraling helicopters.
Once again the younger female officer came to the rescue and guided me through the commandos and into the house of the recently deceased. I met with his wife who was in a terrible state. I prayed for her and her recently executed husband. She confided with me that at least she was glad that their four children were safely living in the United States.
The press later reported that she had been wounded in the execution and that her husband had been shot as he stepped from his vehicle. All the above was untrue. She was uninjured and there was no vehicle anywhere near the crime scene.
I left the house and paused for a blessing over her husband's body. I then found the ever-resourceful Leo amidst all of the commotion and we continued on our way.
Fr Kevin Mullins is the parish priest of Corpus Christi parish in the poor neighborhood of Puerto de Anapra in Juárez City, Mexico. It has been classified as the most dangerous city in the world because of the ongoing wars between drug cartels. He has served there for 11 years.
On 26 March 2010 PBS TV in the USA featured Fr Kevin Mullins in Juarez Drug Wars. You may watch the program and read a transcription here.
There is the YouTube version.