Saltillo Mission trip brings joyous adventure

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
The return after three years to our Saltillo Mission was a high-spirited and joyful adventure after nearly three years since the previous visit for the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Father Patrick Quinn’s missionary work in 1969. But many of you know of this pastoral visit through the social media networks of the Diocese of Jackson and the Diocese of Biloxi. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you have already enjoyed multiple portrayals of the whirlwind of four days. It is amazing to consider the high volume of activity that occurs in such a compact timeframe. It can be exhausting and exhilarating over every bump on the road.

Let me digress a moment to treasure the source of the spiritual bond that continues to thrive between Mississippi and Saltillo even in the absence of overland mission trips.

In our Catholic world we are in the midst of celebrating the golden triangle of exceptional Solemnities beginning with Pentecost Sunday and the culmination of the Easter season, the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, and the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

The gift of the Holy Spirit received in faith and celebrated uniquely at Pentecost opens up a world of mystery with our God who is love, the Holy Trinity of persons who overflowed in love in the gifts of creation and salvation. The celebration of Corpus Christi continues this outpouring of love poured out on the Cross and commemorated and lived each time we gather for Mass, the holy Eucharist.

The three feasts together reveal the nature of love within the Trinity which manifests itself in Christian community, unity, communion and fraternity in the Body of Christ throughout the world bonded by one faith, one baptism, one God who is Father who is over all and in all. Thus, the joy of solidarity and unity can overflow with every liturgy, with every fiesta, with every meal and with every conversation in all parts of our world.

From this fountain of faith, hope and love, we all cherish the history of these past 53 years, the memory of Father Quinn, and all who have given of themselves, from here and over there, whether for years or for weeks.

The Sacrament of Confirmation with 80 candidates was the culminating liturgy with Bishop Hilario Gonzales Garcia, the recently installed Ordinary of the Diocese of Saltillo. It was heartening to concelebrate with him around the altar, and to spend time at table afterwards.

One year into his episcopal ministry and he already has experienced the blessings of the relationship that Jackson and Biloxi have with his diocese. He fully supports what we are doing and hopes that we will accompany one another well into the future. We all hope that the day will come when the overland mission trips are able to resume, enabling the a new generation of Mississippi Catholics to be missionary disciples, evangelizing and being evangelized by our Mexican brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Amidst the many grace-filled moments, meals and ministries from Monday to Thursday evening’s Confirmation, there were various signature events. On Tuesday we celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation two hours out at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Garambullo and then bounced back to a special liturgy at San Miguel’s that honored all fathers in attendance with a special blessing as the Mariachis played and sang full throated and unsparingly.

Afterwards, a fiesta followed honoring the young people who raised the most money for their individual parish communities. Various groups of entertainers, mostly young, performed splendidly in song, dance and gesture in a religious and cultural festival. Que Buena noche!

Wednesday saw another memorable event unfold before us in amazement. In route to St. Pedro’s for the Sacrament of Confirmation we gathered at St. Joseph’s Chapel which was dedicated three years ago on the last pastoral visit. After prayer and blessings, cars and trucks were organized into a procession that grew into a ‘flotilla on the road’ to San Pedro. You have seen some of the photos, and the entire experience was as joyful as it looked. The fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit were in abundance at the Confirmation that followed.

On Thursday prior to the Confirmation Bishop Kihneman and I, along with the other pilgrims from Jackson and Biloxi, visited the tomb of Father Quinn in the Church of Perpetuo Socorro. Over the past year the back walls of the church above his tomb have been covered with the photos that provide a panorama of the events, the people and the places of the Father Quinn years. It is well done and very touching.

While I stood there in admiration, I felt so grateful to have a part in this amazing story whose chapters are still being written, and to represent the faithful of our diocese who further the mission through prayer and generosity.

Next year will mark the 25th anniversary of San Miguel, the cornerstone parish of the mission since Father Quinn’s death, and the dates are on the calendar for the September 2023 anniversary celebration. Stay tuned!

Bishop Louis Kihnemann of Biloxi, Father David Martinez, pastor of San Miguel Mission and Bishop Joseph Kopacz wave during a procession on the road to San Pedro. (Photo Terry Dickson/Diocese of Biloxi)