By action of the 14th Annual Convention of the Diocese in 1996, the Diocese of Fort Worth entered into an official Companion Diocesan relationship with the Diocese of Northern Mexico.
The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth supports mission work in the Diocese of Northern Mexico, specifically the western region of the state of Chihuahua. In the city of Chihuahua, work teams have constructed a major portion of the Anglican mission Santiago Apostol; in Cuauhtémoc, youth groups spend summers teaching Vacation Bible School to the homeless and abandoned children at La Gran Familia and performing light construction at La Iglesia Cuesto Rey Anglicana, which itself was built largely through the support of an Episcopal mission group.
The state of Chihuahua is modern, dynamic and full of history, and its geological features include magnificent mountains, spectacular waterfalls and vast deserts. It is located in the north-central part of Mexico, south of Texas and New Mexico. Similar in size to Arizona, Chihuahua is Mexico’s largest state. It is divided into two natural areas: the North Central Plateau region to the east and the Sierra Madre Occidental mountainous region to the west. To the far north is the largely unpopulated, giant Chihuahuan Desert, North America’s largest, which stretches into Texas and New Mexico; the word Chihuahua fittingly is derived from an Aztec word meaning “dry and sandy place.”
The city of Chihuahua, located in the Central Plateau, is hot and dry in the summer and cold in the winter. The city is the capital of Chihuahua state. It lies in a valley almost encircled by hills. Chihuahua is the commercial and processing center of a vast central area. Agriculture, livestock and mining are the economic mainstays of the surrounding region. This so-called “lady of the desert” is a favorite tourist and retirement location and is known for its colonial architecture, historical settings and museums, including Pancho Villa’s home. For many years it was by far the largest city in the state, but recently has been surpassed in population by the border city of Ciudad Juárez, now overflowing with refugees from the campos where drought and low prices have nearly ruined the livestock industry. Other important cities in the state include Ascención, Camargo, Delicias, Meoqui, Nuevo Casas Grandes, Parral, Ojinaga and Cuauhtémoc.
Fifty miles west of Chihuahua is Cuauhtémoc, located in the foothills of the Sierra Madres. At an elevation of 6,893 feet, Cuauhtémoc is cold and damp in the winter and temperate and rainy in the summer, ideal for cattle ranching and crop production. The Granero del Estado, as the city is called, likely is most famous for its apples, but other important crops are produced as well. The Mennonites who were invited to settle there by Mexican President Porfirio Días in 1921 are the region’s largest group of producers and have built large farms and dairies, and they produce -- in addition to the excellent apples -- cheeses, wheat, beans, oats and onions. Livestock abound, and there are producers of dairy and beef cattle, as well as fighting bulls.
The state of Chihuahua has 6,500 miles of paved highways linking the state to the rest of the country. A four-lane highway connects Ciudad Juárez with the city of Chihuahua and runs from there onto Cuauhtémoc. Both Juárez and Chihuahua have international airports. The state has an extensive railway system as well, with 2,091 miles of track connecting the cities of Chihuahua with the U.S. border, central Mexico, and with the modern port of Topolobampo to the west. The Chihuahua-Pacífico railroad runs through the Urique and Copper Canyon areas. Chihuahua has seven border-crossing points to the U.S.
The state of Chihuahua has a labor force of approximately 1 million people. Per capita income is less than $7,000. Forty-four percent of Chihuahua’s workers are employed in commerce and services, while a little more than a third are employed in mining and industry. About 20 per cent work in agriculture. Unemployment numbers are sketchy, but joblessness is a statewide problem.
Chihuahua’s annual Gross State Product (GSP) is about $6.2 billion (1990 figures), or about 2.9 per cent of Mexico’s total GSP. Manufacturing accounts for a third of the total GSP, while trade and other services amount to 53.5 per cent. Agricultural production makes up only 6 per cent of the total, though Chihuahua has the largest amount of forested land in all of Mexico. It is the leading producer of apples and nuts and second in pine and oak trees nationwide. The state is also the nation’s leader in raising cattle and sheep. In mining, it is the leading producer of non-ferrous minerals and zinc, and is second nationwide in extracting silver. In the last few decades, Chihuahua has become a leader in many industries, including cellulose, wood molding and brewing beer. Modern industrial parks are located in many of the larger cities.
Another force in Chihuahua’s industrial development is the growth of “twin plants” which involve a Mexican production facility and a U.S. administrative office. There are nearly 400 such plants in Chihuahua, and they employ more than 165,000 people. U.S. corporations such as Ford Motors, Digital Equipment, Data General, General Motors, Chrysler Corp., General Electric, RCA and Westinghouse have successfully established manufacturing facilities in the state.
The mission was established to engage in an active ministry of assistance and teaching in cooperation with the Diocese of Northern Mexico to build up the body of Christ in the region.
La Gran Familia is a home for abandoned and impoverished children in Cuauhtémoc. Fr. Greg David Spinks began the ministry in 1998. Through the grace of God, the women of the Diocese of Fort Worth raised $36,000 for the purchase of a home for the children, and recently a second home was acquired for girls. Approximately $5,000 a month is needed to provide food, utilities, support staff and special education needs for the children. The ministry continues to grow, even after Fr. Spinks’ death in 2001, but only receives financial support from donations in the U.S.
Cristo Rey Anglicana was designed and constructed in the middle 1990s by Harold Muellar and Glenn Polhemus of Good Shepard Episcopal Church in San Angelo, Texas. The building was partially funded by the Diocese of Northern Mexico and Episcopalians in Texas; today, its only funding is by generous donations from the U.S.
Iglesia de Santiago Apostol is located in a poor section of the city of Chihuahua. It is the only Anglican Church in the city. Fr. Helmut Schreiber is the rector. The congregation numbers about 300 parishioners. Adult mission workers from Texas have completed construction of a nave and offices in the church building.
Information was contributed by Lisa Jones with editing by David Morgan.