Christianity at Work: The Real Work at the Comedor in Nogales where Everyday is for Thanksgiving

By on November 23, 2011

“We are instruments of a big orchestra…,” Father Rodrigo

by Peg Bowden for

•November 22, 2011 • 3 Comments

I first noticed this full-bearded fellow swabbing out the toilets and sprinkling Ajax in the sinks at the comedor. He looked a bit like Jesus. (at least the Jesus image in an old Bible I have at home) When I introduced myself, he told me in halting English that he was Father Rodrigo, from Mexico City, and was studying to be a priest. Dressed in a flannel shirt and jeans, and holding a mop, we spoke of his year in training in Nogales at this shelter.



Father Rodrigo and Peg

Often I would see Rodrigo sitting at the long picnic tables inside the shelter talking quietly to migrants. Sometimes I would see him feeding the stray cat that has taken up residence. Rodrigo and Fr. Martin (the director and “head priest”) act as “bouncers” at the doorway of the comedor. Only those with proper immigration papers are allowed in for meals and clothes. They are very strict about this. You are either “in”, and can eat the wonderful food, or you are out on the sidewalk. If you are out in the cold, you are perhaps a “coyote”, a local homeless person, a pimp, maybe a drug dealer. Frs. Rodrigo and Martin run a tight ship.




And then I would see Rodrigo carrying plates piled high with steaming Mexican food out to the sidewalk for those people that he was not allowing inside the comedor. When I asked him about this contradiction of being “in” or “out”, he would just smile and say, “everybody must eat, no?”





Comedor Taco

The people who run the comedor/shelter in Nogales, Sonora are Jesuit priests. Their organization for this outreach is the Kino Border Initiative. They don’t look like the priests in the movies. Dressed in jeans and hoodies during these cold autumn mornings, they get their hands dirty. The priests and nuns here dive into the fray. This is a hands-on operation.



Salsa made fresh every day


Fr. Rodrigo is learning English and struggles with the verbs and nouns. A few weeks ago I told Rodrigo that I was writing a blog about my impressions and experiences at the comedor, and gave him the online email address. Later that evening he wrote me a note, which I treasure:

“Thank you very much Peg for the link, I’ll see it with calm, and congratulations for learning Spanish. I think We are Instruments of a big orchestra and God is the director, everyone makes own part, thanks to you too, because you give us hope for believe that other world is possible, we are making possible, together, one hug and regards !




Washing the dishes at the comedor.

And I gotta say that the selfless actions of Rodrigo give me hope that another world is possible too. I try to tell Rodrigo how much his daily work here at the comedor touches my heart. The language obstacles get in the way—I struggle with my Spanish, and he works very hard at his English. But we have a bond here in this humble shelter.

I am neither Catholic nor do I attend church. Organized religion doesn’t speak to me these days. Regardless, there are miracles afoot each time I go to the comedor. The priests and the good Sisters of the Eucharist who assist them are doing God’s work. There is no better religion than this.  Here at the Comedor,  every day is Thanksgiving.



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