(Editor’s note: Msgr. Michael Flannery has penned a book, “Saltillo Mission,” detailing the history of collaboration between the Diocese of Jackson and the missions in Saltillo, Mexico. Proceeds from the sale of the book will benefit Madison St. Anthony school. Father Michael O’Brien offers the following review.)
By Father Michael O’Brien
Inspired by the Second Vatican Council and the call for the “first world” to reach out to the “third world” and share their resources, Father Patrick Quinn was selected by then Bishop Joseph Brunini to open a mission for the diocese of Natchez-Jackson in Saltillo, Mexico. Msgr. Mike Flannery’s book chronicles the history of this mission since its inception in 1969 to the present day (2017). As a young priest Father Flannery spent three wonderful years (1971-1974) working with Father Quinn at the mission. His book captures the excitement, challenges, faith and creative spirit of this great mission and particularly the charisma and vision of Father Patrick Quinn. The mission in Saltillo was, in my opinion, the most significant and inspiring program ever undertaken by the Catholic community in Mississippi.
Father Patrick Quinn was truly an amazing priest. He made everyone feel special and loved. He particularly loved the poor. He loved America and especially Mississippi. He loved his native Ireland, but he laid down his life every day for the people of Saltillo, Mexico. He served as pastor of four churches in the city and approximately 50 mission churches in the surrounding mountain villages. He built 2,250 cinder block homes for poor families. He established the “Saltillo Summer Program” where high school and college youth from Mississippi and beyond were invited to spend a week at the mission. More than 20,000 youth participated in this program over a 40-year period. It was a life-changing experience for most of them as they experienced poverty, faith and the rich Mexican culture.
The mission inspired many vocations, both in Saltillo and at home in America. Father Serio Balderas from Saltillo is serving as pastor of St. Elizabeth parish in Ocean Springs. Father Quinn’s ministry continues through him in Mississippi. Many young priests from our diocese served with Father Quinn in Saltillo. They learned to speak Spanish and it has laid the foundation for our present outreach ministry to the Hispanic community in Mississippi.
Two years ago, a reporter from Saltillo, Jesus Salas Cortes wrote a book on the life of Father Quinn. Father Flannery’s book builds on this and compliments it nicely. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Father Quinn and 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the mission. Writing this book “Saltillo Mission” is a wonderful way to celebrate these occasions.
Finally, a personal story. I was at home in Ireland one summer about 30 years ago. I stopped at Father Quinn’s home in Ballaghlea, Co. Galway. Father Quinn was at the table working. I asked him later what he was doing. He told me he was writing Christmas cards (in July) to all the supporters of his mission in Saltillo. Even on his vacation in Ireland, when he should be visiting with family or playing golf, he was thinking about his poor parishioners at his mission in Mexico!
This book is filled with inspiring stories, life-changing stories, faith stories, and stories told by many of the priests and lay people who visited and worked at the mission in Saltillo, Mexico.
The book is available at the chancery office on Amite Street in Jackson, Madison St. Francis of Assisi Parish, the Carmelite Monastery gift shop on Terry Road in Jackson and Downtown Marketplace, Main Street, Yazoo City.
Father Flannery is also planning to bring the book to the Diocese of Bioxi later in the fall to offer at several parishes and the chancery office there. The cost is $15 plus shipping.
(Father Michael O’Brien is the pastor of Canton Sacred Heart Parish.)