Mississippi Catholic

Bishop Joseph N. Latino in memoriam

July 16, 2021

16 de julio de 2021

June 18, 2021

18 de junio de 2021

May 28, 2021

28 de mayo de 2021

May 14, 2021

April 30, 2021

30 de abril de 2021

April 16, 2021

March 26, 2021

26 de marzo, 2021

March 12, 2021

February 26, 2021

26 de febrero de 2021

February 12, 2021

January 29, 2021

29 de enero de 2021

January 15, 2021

December 24, 2020

24 de diciembre de 2020

December 11, 2020

November 20, 2020

20 de noviembre de 2020

November 6, 2020

October 23, 2020

Espanol 23 de octubre de 2020

October 9, 2020

September 25, 2020

25 de septiembre de 2020

September 11, 2020

August 28, 2020

August 14, 2020

Bishop Joseph Latino – farewell humble shepherd

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – The late Bishop Emeritus Joseph N. Latino, retired bishop of Jackson, who died May 28 at the age of 83 is remembered as a gentle and humble shepherd.
A native of New Orleans, Bishop Latino was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans at St. Louis Cathedral on May 25, 1963. During his priesthood, Bishop Latino served in parishes in New Orleans, Metairie, Houma and Thibodaux. When the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux was formed in 1977, he remained in the new diocese and served in many capacities including chancellor and vicar general. In 1983, Pope John Paul II named him a Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor.
He was appointed the 10th Bishop of Jackson on Jan. 3, 2003 and was installed on March 7, 2003 in the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle in Jackson, the place of his final resting place.
Msgr. Elvin Sunds, who served as vicar general for nine years under Bishop Latino and enjoyed his friendship for many years afterward, described him as a “humble, gentle and kind bishop.”
In his homily at a prayer vigil for Bishop Latino on June 8 at the Cathedral, Msgr. Sunds spoke about Bishop Latino’s episcopal motto – Ut Unum Sint – “that all may be one.”
The motto came from the Gospel passage of John that was read at the vigil, explained Msgr. Sunds. “In that Gospel Jesus is praying for his disciples, and he also prays, ‘For those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us.’”
“Jesus’ prayer is that through the proclaiming of the Gospel, may we all share together in the life of God as one. That was the motto and the focus of Bishop Latino’s episcopal ministry. He wanted all of us to be one in Christ Jesus. He promoted that unity in Christ,” said Msgr. Sunds.
During his years as bishop, Bishop Latino fostered Gospel-based social justice initiatives, lay leadership and vocations. During his tenure the office for the Protection of Children was established to help insure a safe environment for children in our churches, schools and communities.

Msgr. Sunds described Bishop Latino’s social justice work mentioning that he publicly addressed such issues as racism, the rights of immigrants, care for the poor, the death penalty, and the right to life of the unborn during his tenure.
Bishop Latino’s nephew and godson, Martin Joseph Latino delivered remarks about ‘Uncle Joe’ at the vigil service sharing stories of humor, of mystery and a little bit about his favorite movie “A Man for All Seasons.”
It is still as mystery to Martin Latino how his Uncle Joe was able to call him in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. At the time, Latino was the chief director of safety and was with the Mandeville Fire Department. With all of the cell towers down in the area, no one was able to receive any calls, but Uncle Joe got through.
“His message to me that day was don’t lose heart. Work hard. Restore your community. Be a leader and keep everyone safe. … I still to this day do not know how he was able to get through,” said Latino.
In attendance at the Mass of Christian Burial on June 9, were bishops from around the region with Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of the Archdiocese of Mobile as celebrant, along with the priests of the Diocese of Jackson, seminarians, deacons and the people of the diocese. In his opening remarks, Archbishop Rodi extended his sympathy to Bishop Latino’s family, Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz and the people of the Diocese of Jackson.
“We gather here in sorrow over the loss of a powerful presence of a good man, a good priest, a good bishop, who in so many ways in his ministry blessed the people first in Louisiana, then in Mississippi,” said Archbishop Rodi.
During his homily at the funeral Mass, Bishop Kopacz recollected his first encounter with Bishop Latino seven and a half years ago at the Jackson airport. He recalled Bishop Latino smiling “to know he had a successor that was real,” laughed Bishop Kopacz. From that point the two grew in their friendship over the years and he shared stories of Bishop Latino’s background and interactions they had over the years through his last one hours before Bishop Latino’s death.
“My final encounter with Bishop Latino was sitting at his bedside within hours of his death, softly saying the rosary and praying … as he slowly passed from this world to the next. I spoke the words that he no longer could,” shared Bishop Kopacz.
He also gave thanks for Bishop Latino’s trustworthy service for nearly six decades, through times of strength and his experiences of accepting the changes in his health.
“In his retirement at times he grieved the physical limitations that prevented him from serving more actively in the diocese. But at the foot of the Cross, his ministry of prayer and presence was a treasure for us. And his early monastic formation served him well in his later years. He could be in that state for prayer and through it all he trusted in the Lord, who called him forth from his youth and in holy fear he grew old in God,” said Bishop Kopacz.
Diocesan chancellor, Mary Woodward also spoke at the vigil service on her special friendship with Bishop Latino, as he lifted up her talents, supported her and mentored her. The two of them, along with Bishop Houck, who passed in 2016, traveled to Rome many times. Woodward described the last trip they had to Rome for an ‘ad limina,’ where they also added a trip to Sicily to the Latino family’s ancestral hometown of Contessa Entellina.
Woodward described Bishop Latino as “energized” by the trip and said that he was excited that he would be able to celebrate a private Mass in the home church of his grandparents. “But when the doors opened the church was packed with the townspeople coming to see this bishop from America,” Woodward mused.
Bishop Latino was always there for her and she for him, making sure he was “ok” until the end of his earthly life, just as the women in the Gospel wanted to do for Jesus.
Most did not know that Bishop Latino was in constant pain for the last 40 years. “He had nerve pain in his legs and it never subsided,” said Woodward. “He bore that Cross with such grace and elegance.”
Through many surgeries over the years to help relieve the pain, Woodward often felt like a “cheerleader” who was there to “help him carry the Cross.”
“And that last day, … I felt like I went from helping him carry the Cross to being at the foot of the Cross. … It was a beautiful witness to ‘I’m in God’s hands. God’s going to take care of me. It’s ok,’” said Woodward who was with Bishop Latino up until his passing.
“I don’t ever think that I could say in a few minutes the profound impact he has had on me and on all of us.”
Woodward also took great care in organizing Bishop Latino’s vigil and Mass of Christian Burial, making sure all elements he wanted were included. As an “opera aficionado,” Woodward made sure to include some opera. During the vigil, Woodward included a piece from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni. The significance being that Bishop Latino would come in most mornings into their shared office humming that tune. She even had to step away during the vigil upon hearing it.
“The witness of his life, the witness of him carrying that pain was something that strengthens me and I feel very privileged to have been able to walk that journey with him. I will be forever changed,” said Woodward.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Youth

May crownings around the diocese

JACKSON – St. Richard students Morgan Gates and Mae Rose Harkins work together to place a crown on Mary. (Photo by Lavonne Bruckner)
SOUTHAVEN – Gabby Porter places a crown of flowers on Mary. Also pictured is Cecilia Marie Hensley, holding the pillow. (Photo by Laura Grisham)
MADISON – St. Anthony sixth grade students Crawford Kraft and Emily Loyacono crown Mary during the school’s May Crowning Mass. (Photo by Kati Loyacono)
JACKSON – Fifth grader, Charis Ngong places a large crown of flowers on Mary in the prayer corner at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School. (Photo by Shae Goodman-Robinson)
NATCHEZ – Cathedral School PreK-3 student Landry Gaude’ crowns Mary during the PreK May Crowning ceremony on Monday, May 3, 2021. (Photo by Jody Upton)

Crowning Mary Mass

GREENVILLE – St. Joseph Catholic School celebrated their May Crowning Mass on Wednesday, May 5. Pictured are senior girls at their last Mass at the school before graduation. (Photo by Nikki Thompson)

Field day fun

MERIDIAN – Father Augustine Palimattam and Father Andrew Nguyen join in the field day balloon toss fun with fourth grader, Jackson Spitzkeit and third grader, Zy’Terrion Washington, as Coach Adrian Viger supervises. St. Patrick School held its first of three field days on Friday, May 7. Photo by Emily Thompson)

Running for education

SOUTHAVEN – Seventh and eighth grade students, armed with punch cards to tally their laps, begin their hour-long journey around the parking lot to raise money for Sacred Heart School for the fourth annual Race for Education Day. (Photo by Laura Grisham)

Deacon Bowden set his sights on the priesthood at a young age

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – From an early age, Andrew Bowden had a heart for service. On May 15, he continued that call as he was ordained a transitional deacon at his home parish of St. Jude in Pearl. He will serve as a deacon until ordination to the priesthood next year.
“The first time that I remember him saying anything about wanting to be a priest, he was about kindergarten age,” said his mother, Rhonda Bowden, who coordinates liturgy and pastoral care at St. Jude.
Deacon Bowden recalled attending a Mass around that age, celebrated by Bishop William Houck, that sparked his interest in religious life.

PEARL – Andrew Bowden makes the promises of the elect with Bishop Joseph Kopacz at his ordination to the transitional diaconate on Saturday, May 15. (Photos by Tereza Ma)

“He had an incredibly powerful voice, and I was impressed by him. So impressed that the next time I saw my pastor, Father [Martin] Ruane, I announced to him that I wanted to be a bishop,” laughed Deacon Bowden.
Father Ruane, who passed in 2015, was a great influence on young Bowden. His sense of humor, humble nature and his joy were attributes that Bowden wanted to emulate. “I don’t remember exactly how he responded to the four-year-old declaring that he wanted to be bishop, but he was able to replace that idea … with the desire to become a priest,” said Deacon Bowden.
Around the same time, Bowden also started talking about wanting to be an altar server. Although Father Ruane’s policy was that alter servers must be in the fourth grade, he graciously did an abbreviated training session just for Bowden in the third grade, shortly before he left St. Jude for a new assignment.
“Altar serving then became a major part of my pre-discernment,” explained Deacon Bowden. “Through altar serving at St. Jude as I grew up, I began to love God, the church and the priesthood in a much deeper way.”
Bowden was also actively engaged in St. Jude’s youth group and enjoyed sharing his faith and teaching the younger altar servers.
His mother, Rhonda couldn’t recall any other possible vocation or career path her son ever mentioned, other than around four years old saying that he wanted to be an architect priest who would build churches and work in the church, imagining as only a child can, to also build underground tunnels to his house so that he could eat lunch with her every day.
By the end of high school, Deacon Bowden strongly felt he was being called to the priesthood. Father Jeffrey Waldrep, who was pastor at St. Jude in Bowden’s high school years inspired his interest in liturgy and was helpful to him as he entered the formal discernment process for priestly formation.
His parents were extremely supportive of his desire and after graduating from Brandon High School in the spring of 2014 he completed his application for the seminary just as Bishop Joseph Kopacz arrived in the diocese.
“We strongly encouraged Andrew to have a ‘backup-plan’ in case the new bishop was not eager to send an 18-year-old to seminary college. [But], he was adamant that God’s will would prevail, and that God would make a way for him. And God did,” said Bowden’s mother.

Rhonda Bowden, mother of newly ordained Deacon Andrew Bowden cried “happy tears” at the event. She says that her son’s love of God and the church started early on in his childhood.

Bowden spent four years at St. Joseph Seminary College in Covington, Louisiana and moved on to Notre Dame Seminary, where he just completed his third year before being ordained a transitional deacon on May 15.
“During the diaconate internship we try to place our men in parishes that will give them a wide range of experiences,” said Father Nick Adam, director of vocations, who first met Bowden in high school, while he was in seminary school.
“This will be the first time a seminarian baptizes a baby, witnesses a wedding or presides at a funeral, and we want to make sure they have plenty of opportunities to dive into parish life and walk with families in this way.”
Those in the transitional diaconate are also tried to be place at a parish with a school so they can be a part of the day-to-day life of the kids and faculty. A great place for that is at St. Mary Basilica and Cathedral School in Natchez, and Bowden is looking forward to his service to the community.
“During seminary, I have greatly missed the local expression of the church that is the Diocese of Jackson. I am greatly looking forward to spending the next few months in Natchez with Father [Scott] Thomas and Father [Mark] Shoffner. … It will be so good to get to know people there and learn how I can serve them best,” said Deacon Bowden.
During his diaconate ordination, Bowden’s mother cried ‘happy tears.’ “Seeing my son so happy and knowing that he was responding to God’s call made my heart sing with joy.”

Youth

May Crowning

GREENVILLE – St. Joseph senior, Madison Cain crowns Mary with the help of Simar Thomas. (Photo by Nikki Thompson)
MERIDIAN – St. Patrick Catholic School first grade students Kayleigh Johnson and Kyler Hill place roses in front of Mary during the May Crowning Children’s Mass on Thursday, May 5, 2021. (Photo by Emily Thompson)
Abby Grace Roach and Camilla Jeffers crown Mary during VCS’s May Crowning. (Photo by Lindsey Bradley)
COLUMBUS – May Crowning was held on Monday, May 3 at Annunciation School. Eighth graders and prekindergartners brought flowers to adorn Mary. Pictured is eighth grader, Armando Leyva placing Mary’s crown. (Photo by Katie Fenstermacher)
MERIDIAN – St. Patrick School first grader Valentina Espino places a crown of flowers on Mary during the May Crowning Children’s Mass Thursday, May 5, 2021.(Photo by Emily Thompson)
NATCHEZ – Cathedral School second graders Skylar Huff, Alexa Hardy, Kate Carlton and Clifford Tillman place flowers in front of Mary during the traditional May Crowning. (Photo by Amy Gamberi)

Survival in the Arctic

JACKSON – St. Richard students learn about how animals can survive in the Arctic region. Pictured is first grade teacher Rachel Caver with Garrett Fridge, Asher Smith and Mia Nasif. (Photo by Chelsea Hamilton)

There’s no place like Nome

By Joe Lee
MADISON – In preparation for his retirement in June 2019, Msgr. Elvin Sunds purchased a pickup truck and a travel trailer with an eye on visiting national parks around the country. Aware of this, Bishop Joseph Kopacz alerted Sunds of ongoing pastoring opportunities in the small Alaskan town of Nome, should he want to venture that far. This year everything came together to make that road trip (actually an air trip) a reality.
“The bishop in Alaska has a real priest shortage up there, and congregations can go without Masses for long periods of time,” Sunds said. “I agreed to fill in for the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Nome for three weeks so he could visit his family in India.”
Sunds, who fills in at St. Francis of Assisi in Madison, flew out of Jackson on April 13, leaving behind muggy conditions and temperatures in the low 80s. He knew to pack a lot of clothing he would never use this time of year in Mississippi.
“Nome has a population of less than 4,000 and is a little over 100 miles below the Arctic Circle,” he said. “When I arrived, there was two feet of snow on the ground and temperatures were in the teens.
“The area is incredibly beautiful. It has mountains, valleys, tundra, coastal waters, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of wildlife. The scenery is particularly stunning in snow. It was a major site of the Alaskan gold rush of the early 1900s. Today gold mining is still the major industry.”
How utterly vast is Alaska? The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins in Anchorage and finishes a jaw-dropping 1,049 miles later in Nome. To reach his destination, Sunds flew to Dallas, across the country to Seattle, then to Anchorage before a 90-minute flight (covering 540 miles) to Nome. He found the people to be friendly and warm, despite the many layers of dress.

“About half the people of Nome and St. Joseph Church are Eskimo and half are of European descent,” he said. “Life is simple, and people live simply. A lot of them are grateful for Mass being available, even once a month.”
“Houses are small and well-insulated because of the cost of heating. Winter temps often reach more than 30 below zero. Food and supplies are expensive because everything must be flown in. Fuel oil and gasoline is brought in by barge twice a year. Snowmobiles and four-wheelers outnumber cars and trucks, and all must be brought in by barge.”
The average attendance for the three weekends Sunds celebrated Mass at St. Joseph was 25, down due to COVID. Remarkably, the tiny parish serves three mission churches. The community of Teller is 71 miles from Nome by dirt road and impassable from October through May because of snow; they have Mass weekly from June to October.
Then there’s Kotzebue, 180 miles away by plane and offering Mass once a month. Finally. St. Joseph serves Diomede, an island 130 miles out on the Bering Sea and one mile from Russian territorial waters. Diomede has Mass twice a year since the island is only accessible by helicopter.
“What attracted me to the Jackson Diocese many years ago was Jackson being a mission diocese—only two percent of the population across the area was Catholic. The Diocese of Fairbanks is almost eleven times the area of the Diocese of Jackson, but most it is wilderness. It has 12,300 Catholics and only two active diocesan priests.
“There are sixteen other priests serving the diocese who are either members of a religious order or on temporary loan from other dioceses. This was a whole new experience of mission diocese.”
Sunds said his volunteer pastoring in Alaksa has given him a better understanding of the mission work of the church outside Mississippi and a deeper appreciation of the work of our own diocese. And he didn’t lose his sense of humor while pastoring in The Last Frontier.
“The only way to Nome is by plane or dogsled,” he said. “While all roads may lead to Rome, no roads lead to Nome.”

Slain Guatemalan migrant leaves behind legacy of faith in two countries

By Ann Rodgers Angelus News
CARTHAGE – For nearly a quarter century, Edgar Lopez was a pillar of St. Anne Church in Carthage, Mississippi. The devoted husband and father of three spent four years studying pastoral ministry to better lead prayer groups, youth ministry, and social outreach. He gave generously from his wages as a mechanic at a local poultry plant.
On Jan. 22, his charred remains were found with those of 18 others in and around a bullet-blasted truck in the Mexican-American border town of Camargo in Tamaulipas. Lopez, 49, an undocumented worker who had been deported to Guatemala after a notorious 2019 immigration raid on Mississippi poultry plants, had tried to return to his wife, children, and grandchildren in Carthage.

CARTHAGE – In this undated photo at St. Anne, parishioner Edgar Lopez is pictured with the Crucifix. Lopez was deported after the ICE raids in 2019 and was on his return trip to his family and home in Carthage in January 2021 when he and 18 others were killed in Mexico. (Photo from archives/courtesy of Sister María Elena Mendez, MGSpS)

“People are in shock. They can’t believe that something like this could have happened,” said Father Odel Medina, a priest of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity, and pastor of St. Anne.
Most of the dead had relatives among Carthage’s burgeoning population of indigenous Mayan workers from Guatemala. Poultry jobs were arduous, dirty, and dangerous, but paid more for an hour of labor than the Guatemalans would make in two days in their villages.
Most of the massacred migrants were from the desperately poor town of Comitancillo, seeking jobs in Carthage that Americans had long refused, Father Medina said.
He called it a bitter irony that, seven months after the government deported hundreds of undocumented poultry plant employees, they were declared “essential workers” during COVID-19.
“If they didn’t work, you would not have food on anyone’s table,” Father Medina said.
Lopez grew up in the village of Chicajala, where death from malnutrition is common. He had no shoes for school and was bullied by other students and teachers alike.
His response, Father Medina said, was to say, “I’d like to be a teacher and change the way they teach children.”
He left for Guatemala City in his teens, entering the United States in his mid-20s. He was deported a year later, but soon returned to his wife and baby in Carthage. They bought a modest house in which they raised three children, now ages 11 to 21.
He organized the first Spanish Masses at St. Anne. In addition to being a lector, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and youth minister, Lopez was the head of the St. Anne “directiva,” a pastoral advisory board that looked after the needs of the Latino community. He spent four years studying for certification in Hispanic ministry through the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami.
Whether he was in a leadership role or simply participating, “he was always at the service of others,” Father Medina wrote in the parish newsletter.
Juanatano Cano, who ministers among Guatemalans in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, never met Lopez, but had a parallel childhood. Their adulthoods diverge because Cano, a leadership development consultant who is finishing his doctorate, received asylum and working papers after entering the U.S. illegally in the late 1980s.
Cano pins their early hardships on prejudice against their indigenous heritage.
“Racism in Guatemala is worse than in the United States. To call someone ‘an Indian’ is the worst insult if they want to humiliate someone,” he said.
He described indigenous Guatemalans as descendants of those who survived the Spanish conquest 500 years ago by fleeing to the hinterlands. No government has ever tried to integrate them into the Guatemalan economy.
“There was no money for education or health care for us,” he said, “According to the government, we are an obstacle to the prosperity of the whole country.”
People in Cano’s village were stunted physically and intellectually from malnutrition. “They said that we are stupid, that we don’t want to learn, that we don’t want to succeed,” he said.
In 1981, Guatemala’s long-running civil war escalated. “I saw the military bombing little towns and little Indian villages. I told my mom, ‘Let’s get out of here. They are going to wipe us out,’ ” Cano said.
She would not leave. So in 1982, at age 13, he left alone for the city. There he did housework in exchange for room and board, while attending night school. When his high school diploma brought no opportunities for advancement, he traveled by bus and train through Mexico, walking across the border into California.
“At that time it was not as bad as it is now,” he said.
He graduated from college, taught math for 15 years, earned his principal’s certificate, then made a career shift to leadership formation. He is a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on Native American Affairs and volunteers at Immaculate Conception Church, Holy Cross Church, and La Placita Church in LA.
Today’s Guatemalan migrants bring the same dreams and needs that he did, he said. He blames the government of Guatemala for their suffering.
Even by U.S. standards, health care costs are high in Guatemala, he said. At least two migrants killed with Lopez were seeking jobs to pay for relatives’ medical care: surgery for a baby with a cleft lip and medication for a mother with diabetes.
“These people died because they wanted to make a little money for surgery that was so basic. Why does the Guatemalan government ignore this? Why? Why? It makes me sick to think about it,” he said.
“That is why people leave their country. They are aware that it is dangerous, but they take the risk, even knowing it could be deadly.”
Smugglers, known as “coyotes,” are luring customers with claims that the Biden administration has opened the border, Cano said.
“They are telling them to come and the United States will accept you and give you legal status,” Cano said. “They are lying to people.”
Catholic social teaching calls nations to regulate their borders in a humane manner, recognizing both security and a human right to migrate in search of food, medical care, and safety, said Christopher Ljundquist, adviser for Latin America in the U.S. Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace. The church views immigration as a source of, not an obstacle to, economic development, he said.
Since about 2010, however, the journey through Mexico has become far more deadly as cartels became increasingly savage.
“Migrants en route to the United States are perfect prey to these cartel killers, who force them into smuggling, kidnap them, extort them and, as we have seen, murder them in cold blood without the least scruple,” he said.
Many cartels promote devotion to a “horrible female grim reaper” whose name, “Santisima Muerte,” means “Holy Death,” he said.
Anyone considering migration, he said, needs to understand that “the journey north is dangerous, that there are killers en route who often literally worship death, and that [migrants] are seen by the cartels as human merchandise.”
The August 2019 immigration raids that led to Lopez’s deportation were national news. Of nearly 700 workers detained, two-thirds remained in the U.S. Lopez was deported as a repeat criminal due to his earlier deportation in the 1990s.
He spent nearly a year in detention, surviving COVID-19 while ministering to inmates.
“He never lost his faith, even with those terrible experiences that he had passed through,” Father Medina said. “When he was in the detention center, he called me and asked for books and rosaries in order to make a prayer group. He said that, even in those circumstances, you always cry out to God.”
Many people in Carthage tried to help the detainees. St. Anne’s hosted a legal clinic. Father Medina accompanied Lopez to court.
“We tried to do our best for him, to fight for his freedom, to say that he was a person with character,” he said.
The federal judge called Lopez the kind of man he would like to have as a neighbor, but said that the law tied his hands. “It hurts my heart to see what this great nation is doing to you,” he told Lopez as he ordered the deportation.
In July 2020 Lopez was flown to Guatemala. While volunteering in the parish he had built through his donations, he longed for his family.
“I tried to give him support and prayer and spiritual guidance,” Father Medina said.
When the priest left for vacation in late December, however, Lopez had said nothing about returning. “I think he wanted it to be a surprise,” Father Medina said.
Lopez contracted with a local coyote who was trusted, Father Medina said. The group set out on Jan. 12. Their families last heard from them on Jan. 21.
The next day, “The coyote called his family in Guatemala and said that they had all been killed,” said Father Medina. “The coyote had a son who was with the group, and he was killed as well.”
Mexican investigators found bodies burned beyond recognition in a truck pierced by 113 bullets. Identification came through DNA. Twelve police officers were arrested for killing them, though authorities have identified no motive. Speculation ranges from mistaken identity to a cartel refusing to let others move human merchandise on its turf.
Guatemala declared three days of national mourning. The nation’s president met the flag-draped coffins at the airport, in a ceremony televised live nationwide.
Father Medina went to the funeral for the Comitancillo victims, held on a soccer field. A local priest denounced the injustice that forced villagers to seek work in another country and the deportation of a man who had been a beloved neighbor for two decades.
Migration will not stop, Father Medina said. While he was there, two families asked him to bless their sons for the journey north.
Men from the parish carried the heavy coffin on their shoulders to be buried at his village parish in Chicajalaj, an hour’s walk on a hard, hilly road. They told Father Medina that bearing the coffin on their shoulders was a tradition to honor those who had made great contributions to the community.
“I have witnessed the burial of an apostle, a man who recognized God’s call and who lived his baptismal life with great hope,” Father Medina wrote to his parishioners.
“Now Edgar goes to enjoy the presence of God. May the soul of Edgar and the soul of all his companions by the mercy of God, rest in peace.”

(Reprinted with permission of Angelus News, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.)