Saltillo mission, upcoming jubilee, part I

(Editor’s note: This reflection is part one of a two-part series from Msgr. Michael Flannery on his trip to the Saltillo Mission this fall.)
By Msgr. Michael Flannery

SALTILLO, Mex. – Recently, I had the unique pleasure to be present for the celebration of the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, on Sept. 29, the patron saint of our mission in Saltillo. I spent six days at the mission. The visit to San Miguel for me was a retreat. I had the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to make new ones. I must say that the mission is thriving.

Father David Martinez the pastor, continues the good work begun by Father Patrick Quinn more than 50 years ago. The new associate pastor there is Father Antonio Medel Gonzalez. Father Elevio Casarubias who had been assisting Father David, was recently moved to another parish in Saltillo. However, he did make it to the festivities on the Feast of San Miguel.

SALTILLO, Mex. – Above, a street bears the name of Father Patrick Quinn, who served the mission in Saltillo for many years. Msgr. Michael Flannery traveled to the diocese mission in Saltillo at the end of September and wrote a reflection on the mission and the upcoming jubilee year celebration in 2023. Below is a poster for the jubilee year. (Photos by Msgr. Mike Flannery)

Transitional Deacon Adam Frey, the Diocese of Biloxi, was present this summer for his diaconal internship and was a valuable member of the parish staff for four months. He just returned to the seminary of Notre Dame, New Orleans in preparation for his priestly ordination which will take place in May 2023.

Presently, we are serving the following churches within the city of Saltillo: San Miguel, Christ the King, St. Juan Diego, the Holy Martyrs, St. William and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Added to these churches the mission serves 34 mountain villages. The most remote village takes five hours of travel to reach. All the villages receive a visit at least once a month from the priests at San Miguel. Tuesday is the preferred day for the priests to take a rest from their busy schedule. This gets interrupted if there is a funeral to attend to or someone needing the last rites of the church.

San Miguel is situated in the colony of Vista Hermosa (the beautiful view). It is high up in the mountain and at night you have a beautiful view of the city of Saltillo below. The city of Saltillo is 5,000 feet above sea level. In 2015 the population was 807,000 and now it is estimated at being over 1,000,000. When the mission began in 1968 the population was estimated at being 200,000.

The headquarters of the mission was at Perpetual Help Church and in 1998 it was moved to San Miguel following the death of Father Patrick Quinn of happy memory. Msgr. Michael Thornton of the Diocese of Biloxi was named the first pastor of San Miguel. Following him came Father Bill Cullen, Father Richard Smith and Father Benjamin Piovan of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. With the shortage of priests in Biloxi and Jackson Dioceses, a decision was made to ask the Bishop of Saltillo to appoint a local priest to San Miguel. Both dioceses would continue financial support.

Big plans are underway to celebrate the silver jubilee of San Miguel in 2023. The first building at San Miguel was built by Father Quinn as a retreat center capable of housing 100 retreatants, complete with a chapel. It was built in honor of Father Patrick Quinn’s brother, Michael, a priest in Ireland who died of a brain tumor. The next building to be added was a church to serve the local community. The present church structure was built by Father Benjamin Piovan in 2009. All of this was possible through the generosity of the people of the Diocese of Biloxi and the Diocese of Jackson.

An ad hoc committee has been formed to plan the jubilee year celebrations in 2023. A huge candle with the symbol of the jubilee year engraved upon it, will burn for every celebration that will take place at San Miguel for the whole jubilee year. A representative from each of the other churches under the jurisdiction of San Miguel is on the committee to coordinate activities in the outlining churches. The priests who have ministered in the parish will be invited to the jubilee celebration as well as the Bishop of Saltillo, Bishop Joseph Kopacz and Bishop Louis Kihneman.

At every Mass, a special prayer for the jubilee year will be recited at the end of Mass. During Advent a special parish mission is planned, not only in San Miguel but also in the outline churches within its jurisdiction. The people of the 34 ranchos attached to San Miguel will also be a part of the celebration. Some minor renovations are planned such as: putting a weather sealer on the church tower and painting the buildings.

(Read more in the next Mississippi Catholic on Nov. 11.)