St. Agnes Church

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When Steven and I travel, we’re always on the lookout for Catholic churches in case we want (or need) to stop sometime.  This is why the sign for St. James Catholic Church in Sanderson caught our eye as we drove US Hwy 90 to Marathon on our way to Big Bend National Park Thursday morning.

“Three o’clock Mass on Sunday?” we both asked in disbelief.  Quite late in the day, but something to keep in mind.

Since Segy (our youngest) and I attended Mass at Big Bend, August 1993, we’d anticipated that a priest would most likely visit for Sunday Mass this time, too.  If not, we’d figure something out.  And Sanderson seemed doable.

Change in plans

We’d intended to remain at Big Bend through Monday, April 18, until we learned Friday afternoon that the park hosts only an interdenominational Sunday service at the Chisos Basin amphitheater.

“Do you want to do that?” we asked each other.  “Could we be okay with that?”

We agreed that we could do confession before Mass the following weekend, but it just didn’t feel right.  We decided instead to leave Big Bend by no later than seven-thirty Sunday morning to attend ten-thirty Mass at St. Agnes in Fort Stockton and maybe even stop by Notre Dame in Kerrville off Interstate 10, viable choices that would get us home between seven and nine that evening.

First impressions

The morning was chilly, so we quickly opened the door and stepped into the spacious vestibule at St. Agnes Church.  We could see and hear a class in progress in the large adjoining parish hall.

Since we’d arrived half an hour early and no one else was around, I explored my surroundings by taking photos until a man with two teenaged boys arrived.

“Good morning!” I smiled.

The man engaged us in small talk before making his way to his pew.  “The church will be filling up soon!” he beamed.

I had no doubt that the church community would be just as welcoming as the sacred space was beautiful.

St. Agnes Church

As more and more parishioners arrived, I wondered about the time.  The church was filled with too many tantalizing treasures— exquisite stations, paintings, statues, stained-glass windows, and more— to do them justice; so I turned off my Coolpix and changed gears, hoping for a subsequent visit someday.

I walked over to the intriguing duo— a friendly woman and an equally affable man— occupying the folding chairs to the right of the sacristy’s doorway, complimented their vibrant church community, and inquired about the stations of the cross.

Sweet parishioners, Mary Gonzales and Johnny Cordero were so eager to tell me about St. Agnes that I learned quite a bit before the opening song that prompted the start of Mass.

And the big reveal?  Besides St. Agnes and St. Joseph in Fort Stockton, St. James in Sanderson is the third mission that Fr. Serafin Avenido shepherds as part of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  Small world, though not so much for Father, who travels more than sixty-five miles to Sanderson to celebrate Sunday Mass at three o’clock.

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Deacon’s homily (edited from the audio recording of 10:30 A.M. Mass)

We sit here, and we listen.  Last week we heard a long gospel, and today’s is very short.  You wonder, “What is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us?”

So today I’ll tell you a story of a good shepherd whose flock asked questions as they walked together.

Why do we continue celebrating Easter?”

The good shepherd tells his followers, “Remember the Good Shepherd who opened salvation— all the gates of heaven— to us, his faithful.”

“How did he do this?”

“God, the father, gave up his son, the true lamb, as a sacrifice for all of us.”

“What does that mean?  Why do continue to celebrate Easter?”

“It takes our response to Easter to pass on [the faith], to help each other out.”

“How can we with all these faults; all these failures; all these weaknesses, disease, violence?  How can we continue the celebration of Easter?”

“Through [Christ’s] sacrifice, the Holy Spirit, and [all that the Church offers], God graces you with his infinite love and mercy.”

“How do we know this?”

“As you walk with me [and] live your lives, what I’ve asked you to do and what I do for you [gives] you strength [through] grace and forgiveness.”

The shepherd’s followers think back on the graces received that helped them with their problems— the times they received sacraments, the times they were embraced when they were most in need, the times they were forgiven, and the times they forgave someone— and they begin to understand why celebrating Easter is so necessary.

“So what do we do?”

“Celebrate Easter.  Be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and the resurrection.  You are today’s disciples.”

Members of the flock exchange glances.

“Where does this lead us?  What do we do?”

“Look for the good shepherds.  Look especially for the Good Shepherd who will lead you if you follow his ways.  Be good disciples, and lead others as well.  Remember that each of us was baptized to be priest, prophet, and king.  Remember that God sacrificed his own son to open heaven to all, that the Good Shepherd called us to be good people, holy people, to lead each other to the divine pasture, heaven.”

By this point, the shepherd’s followers are inspired.  They know they can walk through the dark valley of tears [through faith].

“So how about this celebration?”

“Let me tell you.  It’s not about a great deal of music, food, dancing, drinking, partying, flowers, and barbecue.  No!  It’s not that kind of celebration.

“It’s responding to God’s call with your mind, heart, and soul,” the good shepherd continues.  “It’s responding with gratitude, praise, thanksgiving, and forgiveness.  It’s asking, ‘What am I to do, Lord?  What is my mission?  Wake me up where I am.  Let me follow you.  How am I to respond within my family, my community, my parish?  What am I being called to do?’  Then just do it.

“Don’t worry.  God will give you what you need.  He’ll provide the grace, the strength, the forgiveness to get up and follow that divine Shepherd.  Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

“And then there you’ll be, entering the most divine pasture that you’ve ever seen, with anything and everything that you’ve ever wantedAmen.”

Prayer

Almighty and everlasting God, you choose those whom the world deems powerless to put the powerful to shame.  Grant us so to cherish the memory of your youthful martyr, Agnes, that we may share her pure and steadfast faith in you.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

June 10, 2016

Jesus, you are my rock!  Deepen my faith in your love, your wisdom, and your provision— no matter what collapses around me (the Word among us, June 2012, p. 49).

January 21, 2017

“You may stain your sword with my blood; but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ” (St. Agnes).

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Links of interest…  Fort Stockton: about / attractions / county seat…  Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish…  Missing Mass on vacation…  Santo Niño de Atocha: miracle / novenaprayers / requests / Sanctuario de Chimayo (website) / Traditions (blog)…  St. Agnes: about (more) / devotions (more) / eve & day / feast day (more) / for kids / martyr (more) / novena / prayer (more)…  St. Agnes Church: Catholic directory / Discover Mass (bulletin) / facebook / parish history / pastoral team

WP pages…  Praise…  Saints…  St. Joseph

WP posts…  Budding relationships…  Faith and prayer…  Finding St. Rita…  Forever grateful…  Grapes of generosity…  Guadalupe Church…  Kateri’s sainthood…  Little gifts…  Living one’s gifts…  Notre Dame revisited…  San Giuseppe…  Slice of heaven…  Sorrowful redemption…  St. Elizabeth Church…  St. Michael chaplet…  St. Monica…  St. Peregrine relic…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Vattmann church

Then and now

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Of all the Texas Tropical Trail Region outings, Kingsville certainly made a long-lasting impression, mind, heart, and soul when we visited the Missionary Daughters’ Solemn Place of Prayer and learned about Venerable Julia Navarrete, known also as Julia of the Thorns of the Sacred Heart, though more lovingly regarded as “Mother Julia.”

Then: December 21, 2010

Sister Maxie, spokesperson for the Missionary Daughters of the Most Pure Virgin Mary (MDPVM) congregation, was all smiles with stories to tell and a dream to share.

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With the assistance of community activists like Maggie Salinas, Sister Maxie and the Missionary Daughters hoped to restore the original school house where their foundress, Mother Julia, generously invested her gifts and talents, time and love to spiritually nurture South Texas residents in our Catholic faith.

We were inspired!

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Growing curiosity

As years passed, my need to know grew stronger and stronger.  How is the school house restoration progressing?  Did they get the funding they so desperately sought?  Who’s helping them?  So many questions and no one to ask.

Again and again, I kept telling Steven, “I want to go back.  I have to see how they’re doing.”  But, mostly, I wanted to hear more stories from Sister Maxie.

Then, late October 2015, an article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times really piqued my curiosity.  Mother Julia’s museum was to open to the public in November!

Now: April 2, 2016

Of course, life is funny.  Time passes.  We forget.  We don’t have time.  Then, just like that, everything falls into place just because.

Driving north from Brownsville on Highway 77, we took an unexpected detour, drove up and down streets in search of the restaurant where we’d eaten more than five years ago, and settled on a new place instead for an early afternoon lunch.

“Do you think we can we look for the Missionary Daughters’ Solemn Place of Prayer afterwards?” I asked even before we got off the vehicle.

“Yes.”

And, wouldn’t you know it?  By the time we got back in the vehicle, I’d forgotten.

But Steven hadn’t! 

So off we went with great anticipation.  And, oh, my! 

The Sisters’ dream had indeed come true!

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Prayer from the Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph (2016: 1061)

Grant us, Lord God, a vision of your world as your love would have it: A world where the weak are protected and none go hungry or poor, a world where the riches of creation are shared and everyone can enjoy them, a world where different races and cultures live in harmony and mutual respect, a world where peace is built with justice and justice is guided by love.  Give us the inspiration and courage to build it through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

April 3, 2016

Act in such a way that all those who come in contact with you will go away joyful.  Sow happiness about you because you have received much from God; give, then, generously to others.  They should take leave of you with their hearts filled with joy, even if they have no more than touched the hem of your garment (St. Maria Faustina Kowalska).

April 4, 2016

Then, overcome by joy, I cried, “Jesus, my love.  At last I have found my vocation.  My vocation is love.  In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love; and then I will be all things” (St. Thérèse de Lisieux).

April 5, 2016

If you truly want to help the soul of your neighbor, you should approach God first with all your heart.  Ask him simply to fill you with charity, the greatest of all virtues; with it you can accomplish what you desire (St. Vincent Ferrer).

April 9, 2016

“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God, we must begin every day of our life with new ardor” (St. Charles Borromeo).

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Mother Julia’s chapel & museum – 408 East Richard Avenue – Kingsville, TX

Links of interest…  Capia de la Madre Julia nuevo lugar para oración (p. 6)…  Community celebrates Mother Julia jubilee…  In memoriam: Sister María Del Carmen Villalpando (obituary)…  Maggie Salinas: For Kingsville woman, helping others “is a gift we should all share” / TX story project…  Missionary Daughters (MDPVM)…  Mother Julia’s Good Samaritan Shop (open monthly: 1st & 2nd Saturday; facebook)…  Museum to honor Kingsville’s Mother Julia (10.26.15)…  Praying to the saints:   Christian practice / gracious advocates / heavenly intercessors / intercessory prayer / litanies / novenas (221) / why pray to the saints…  Sainthood: 87 new causes for sainthood / becoming a saint (five stepshow – models – process – rules – what is – what makes) / John Paul’s beatification…  Sister Maria Elena Casillas (more)…  Sister Maxima Cruz: A life of devotion (Sister Maxi; pp. 22-24)…  South Texas Catholic…  St. Martin of Tours Parish: 100 years as a faith community / diocese parish finder / facebook…  TX Tropical Trail Region (more; Tropical Traveler, p. 1)…  Venerable Julia Navarrete: about (facebook – YouTube) / celebrating 100th anniversary /  “Christmas miracle” planned / decrees of the congregation for sainthood causes / gardener’s miracle / Julia of the Thorns of the Sacred Heart / quote

WP posts…  Holy relics…  Honoring Joselito…  Multicultural Mass…  Sacred Heart Church…  Saturday evening Mass…  Solano, Solanus, Solani…  Today’s Beatitudes…  Unexpected detours…  Vattmann church…  Vattmann Thanksgiving…  Venerable Julia Navarrete…  Venerable Margaret