Noel Díaz with the Pope Noel Díaz with the Pope 

Catholic TV/Radio network founder: 'All the baptised must be prophets'

Noel Díaz, founder of ESNE radio and television network, says that the laity must get involved with the mission of the Church, and reach out to the poor and marginalised.

By Joseph Tulloch

Noel Díaz grew up in extreme poverty on the streets of Tijuana, Mexico. Now he runs ESNE, a Spanish-language Catholic television and radio network based in the United States.

Despite this success, however, Mr. Díaz has been careful to keep the poor and marginalised at the centre of what he does, heeding Pope Francis’ call for a Church which goes “out to the peripheries”.

A difficult childhood

“[I] came from a real poor neighbourhood,” says Mr. Díaz, “with a single mom, so I really never grew up with brothers and sisters, and no Dad.” He and his mother lived in a house made of cardboard, and were even imprisoned together for a time when he was nine years old, after she was accused of buying a stolen bike.

One story from his childhood in particular sticks in Mr. Díaz’s mind. When he was seven, he was told he would be unable to celebrate his First Communion along with his classmates because his mother didn’t have the money to buy the white shirt and black trousers he needed. Determined not to be left out, he began shining shoes on the streets of Tijuana. “I would stop in the stores and ask ‘Do I have enough for a white shirt?’,” he says, “and finally I was able to buy my shirt and my pants, and even shoes.”

Going to the peripheries

This story, Mr. Díaz says, struck a chord with Pope Francis when the pair met in 2015. The Pope encouraged him to continue his outreach to the poor and marginalised, in particular migrants, themes he has stressed continually throughout his pontificate.

ESNE runs an orphanage in Mexico with almost 30 employees. It also works with illegal immigrants in the US, providing them with support when they are unable to travel back to their home countries to be with families after a bereavement, and is responsible for evangelisation projects in Mexico and Central America. 

Involving the laity

Pope Francis has also spoken often of the importance of involving laypeople in the mission of the Church.

Mr. Díaz agrees wholeheartedly: “The mission for all baptised is to be prophets, to share the good news, to share the values of Christian life.”

“It’s so beautiful,” he says, “it’s a blessing to know that you can serve while you’re healthy, while you have life, and not be selfish and just think about yourself … true happiness is when you really give yourself without expecting anything in return except the peace that God can give you.”

Listen to the full interview

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08 October 2022, 07:00