Destrehan missionary has led students into Mexico for 13 years

Brings children to poverty-stricken Piedras Negras

Mexico’s Piedras Negras is a poverty-stricken “pure unconditional love” that has drawn Janeen Rodrigue back there as a missionary for 13 years.

Rodrigue brings friends, too.

Averaging about 30 children per summer, she leads missionary groups in the area.

“We worked in two Catholic orphanages (Casa de Nazaret) with boy and girl orphanages,” said the Destrehan resident. “We just fell in love with the children and the people there. We just kept going year after year after year.”

As St. Borromeo Catholic Church’s director of youth ministry for 30 years, Rodrigue leads the groups on the missionary trips.

“I just love to work with teenagers and help to bring them closer to Christ,” she said. “I love volunteering, teaching the kids about that and that God calls us to be servants. I love service. I just love my teens.”

Their work expanded several years later when they got connected to Casa de Misericordia or House of Mercy, a Methodist orphanage. Rodrigue said this is where they met a girl who moved there, from Casa de Nazeret where she left a brother and sister.

“Every time they would cry and want to see their sister,” she said.

Rodrigue contacted child protective services and got permission to bring the two to see the girl.

“And that’s how we got started with this location for the three of them, while also building relationships with everyone there, as well,” she said.

Their main contact there is Sister Ursula Herrera, a missionary Benedictine sister who lives in Eagle Pass, Texas. She’s been there 19 years crossing the border two to three times a week to bring supplies to the needy in Mexico, and she connected with Casa Bethesda or Disabled Children’s Home, in Piedras Negras. It averages around 30 people, which Rodrigue said actually range in age from 18 to 60 years old.

“Some are mobile. Many are bed-bound and have multiple different disabilities,” she said. “And that just became a special place for us and, definitely, an eye opener for our young people. You just fall in love with those people.”

Rodrigue said the children who come on these mission trips return with a lasting impression.

“It’s family … when the kids talk about their experience there,” she said. “They feel at home when they go there. Everybody is very welcoming. If you walk into the house of the foreman or the cooks or orphanages, the pictures on the wall are of his children alongside the photographs of us. They consider us family.”

Their work provides basic necessities having built a medical clinic, expanded kitchens and more.

“They live simple lives,” Rodrigue said of the people they help. “Mexico is a very Catholic country. They love their God. They love their faith. We experience unconditional love like no other place.”

She sees beauty in their simplicity.

“They’re very poor, but they don’t miss the things that we have like video games or air conditioning,” Rodrigue said. “They don’t have it so they don’t expect it. They just live that simple life with what they have and what they can afford.”

Surviving on a basic diet of tortillas and beans, she has witnessed her foreman give up his meal to the orphans. The people consider others who have painted houses to be rich. Some have running water in their houses, but not all.

“I absolutely love being there,” she said. “My husband says I need to get dual citizenship. It’s just so different than here. Simple. Different. People talk about the dangers there, but the community is protective of us. I feel they give more to us than we give to them.”


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