Steven and I toured Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hebbronville, TX the day of Vaquero Fest. (The edited version below is from the audio recording made November 7, 2009.)
“My name is Azalia Perez, and I’m the president of the Hebbronville Museum Foundation and member of the Jim Hogg County Historical Commission. I’m also an active parishioner of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Hebbronville.”
“The church is in the form of a cross. All Franciscan churches are built in the form of a cross. You have the main altar with two small altars, one on either side. The church gets a new priest every three years, since Franciscans are missionaries subject to reassignment more often than regular priests.
“In 2005, Father Ricardo Rivera came to Hebbronville and started changing our church, which was very plain. Father said we have a beautiful church, so we need to show it off. It was donated by Stella Kenedy in memory of her husband. It’s the only Franciscan church in South Texas.
“The altar is made from wood that was brought from San Luis Potosi. Father had the altar moved toward the front, and it’s bigger now.
“We also got new lights, marble on the sides of the church, and lit panels. The ceiling will be getting a new cover, and more changes are coming.”
St. Anthony’s relic
“We have St. Anthony on the right as one faces the altar. In May, part of St. Anthony’s elbow, or relic, visited our church. The bishop was present for the ceremony, a special Mass, and fellowship before the relic was taken to another church.”
“This is similar to the activities at St. Paul’s in Flour Bluff when Our Lady of Guadalupe’s tilma arrived for a three-day visit,” I said. “We had a wonderful Mass and, of course, a potluck afterwards. Different festivities took place during her stay and, at the end, a despedida Mass and a short procession from the church to the van that transported the tilma to its next destination.”
“When St. Anthony’s relic crossed the border from Mexico into the United States, it got to San Agustin Church, the basilica in Laredo. Although our diocese is not Franciscan, the bishop did not want to release the relic until all our churches were blessed, so he invited everyone to the cathedral for Mass and a celebration. Only then was the relic brought to Hebbronville. We were very blessed to have St. Anthony’s relic, even if for a short time, Sunday morning until Sunday night. It will visit every Franciscan church in the United States and Mexico before it returns to Italy.”
“Here at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church we celebrate the Divine Mercy. We are very blessed because not every priest supports this devotion. We also have a spiritual relationship with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Francis, and St. Joseph. We have a statue of St. Isidore on one of the side altars because he’s the patron of farmers. Since ours is a farming and ranching community, the church was originally named St. Isidore. But that changed in 1926, when the Franciscans arrived from Mexico. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the protector of our priests as well as the patroness of the Americas.”
Next, we walked into the Annex, which is through the side door on St. Anthony’s right.
“After tomorrow this will be known as the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament,” Azalia continued. “Our provincial is visiting here from Guadalajara, so he’ll bless the chapel after seven o’clock Mass.”
On entering the chapel, I couldn’t help but say, “Oh, I love angels. I love angels.”
“If you look around, we have paintings, beautiful paintings. The artist is from Monterrey. We use the chapel every day for early morning Mass at seven and again at twelve-fifteen. This room used to be longer; but, when Father Ricardo arrived here, he turned part of it into an office and put up some Tau windows.
“Earlier today, part of our Franciscan fraternity met with the provincial. I told him, ‘We, in Hebbronville, are in love with the Franciscan charisma, with St. Francis.’ We will never change our priests for anything, so now he knows that we won’t let him take our priests away from us.”
“Are you kidding?” I interjected. “This is ever so special!”
“The church remodeling is an ongoing project. We still have lots to do here and in the church. It takes a lot of money. We’re a poor community, so we greatly appreciate not only the heartfelt efforts and contributions from our parishioners but also the generosity of others willing to help us with this endeavor.”
“So have you always been fascinated with all of this?” I asked.
Knowing my fascination with Franciscans, Steven got me a copy (Villalobos Avendaño, 2006) after today’s book reading in the church basement. I can hardly wait to see the old photos and read through the interesting facts.
I stopped taking photos for a moment. “We came to Vaquero Fest today because we love Bill Hellen. From the beginning, he piqued our curiosity when he insisted we ‘come see the old church.’ During our first visit, Lorenzo [one of the workmen] invited us back. Then, in Laredo, you told us, ‘You have to come because it’s ready.’ So I told Steven, ‘She invited us. That’s it.’ You’re the reason we’re here.”
“Oh, thank you! I’m so glad to hear that!”
“This visit means a lot to us,” I continued. “Even though we’re in different places, still, we’re part of the same community.”
“What more can I tell you? All our windows were donated by parishioners. They’re very old. They’re as old as the church. I don’t know if the work was completed in 1962, more or less, or in 1963. Construction started, stopped due to lack of funds, then started again. We’re very blessed with our church. There’s something unique about it.”
“It’s gorgeous!” Steven enthused.
“So tell me about your history with the church growing up. Your mother brought you?”
“My mother and my grandmother,” Azalia continued. “Actually, my grandmother on my dad’s side. I grew up when the priest was facing the altar. Most of the time, you didn’t know what he was saying.”
“Yes, in Latin. Yes. I understand,” Steven chuckled. (We both took Latin in high school, but it’s a dead language nonetheless.)
“We would walk four or five blocks from my grandmother’s house to church for Mass at six. My husband and I got married in 1966, baptized my children here; and my son, who now lives in Kingsville, got married here. I’ve been working with the church since 1982.”
“My gosh,” I said, recalling my own early morning walks with Sylvia to attend six o’clock Mass as a kid. “That’s a very long, personal history with this church.”
“I had a special-needs child who took all my time, so I couldn’t be here fulltime. But, after he passed away, I said, ‘Lord, here I am.’ So this is what I’ve been doing ever since.”
“Was your child a boy or a girl?” I asked, as Steven listened intently.
“A boy. Actually, up until the time that he was born he was okay. But, because of complications at birth, he died in 1992. That was seventeen years ago. He would’ve been thirty-one right now.”
“What a blessing to have him the time that you did but how very sad, too,” I said.
“You learn early on that God has sent your trial to show you something or to teach you something. And we did. We did. We think we did.”
“All he wants is the very best for us,” I continued. “But, as you said, he allows us to go through situations he knows we can handle, even though it’s tough at times to understand that.”
“As soon as he passed away I sponsored the altar servers for twelve years. Then I joined the choir and the Franciscan fraternity. And, when Father Frank arrived, he gave me the ministry for baptisms. I’m very happy with that.”
“You get to deal with the little ones! Well, they come in all sizes for baptism.”
Azalia smiled. “They do. They’re precious. I try to be at every baptism. Sometimes I can’t, but this new priest is adorable. He’s very spiritual. Father Frank replaced Father Ricardo in August. The first time I saw him celebrating a baptism, he lifted the baby all the way and announced, ‘Parishioners, I present to you a newborn Christian.’ That was beautiful. I tell the parents, ‘Bring your cameras because, once your baby’s up there, it’s awesome.’”
“It’s just that one quick moment, and then it’s over,” I said, remembering. “It has to be captured in photos, so the child can know that this very special event happened.”
We talked a bit more before Azalia realized that she had tours to give as well as other duties to fulfill that afternoon.
“Well, thank you for coming! I didn’t expect for y’all to come, but I’m glad you did.”
“Thank you! You are very blessed, Azalia!”
Steven and I were most appreciative of the time she spent with us.
Lord God, to whom belongs all creation and who call us to serve you by caring for the gifts that surround us; inspire us by the example of Saint Isidore to share our food with the hungry and to work for the salvation of all people. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
December 13, 2009
Azalia emailed and included photos.
I’m sending you some pictures of the altar.
Oh, the last picture is of Father Juan José. He was with us for two months but is leaving for Spain on Wednesday. He will be helping another Franciscan who is by himself and needs help. Great example of St. Francis.
“We are minstrels of the Lord, whose work is to lift people’s hearts and move them to spiritual gladness” (St. Francis).
April 4, 2014
All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection. By reading we learn what we did not know; by reflection we retain what we have learned
(St. Isidore of Seville).
Links of interest… Divine Mercy: about / song (YouTube)… Franciscan: experience / prayer / resources… La Mota Ranch: Bill Hellen (agritourism: more / fishing & hunting)… Our Lady of Guadalupe: church (Hebbronville) / mother / patroness / tilma… Sacred Heart of Jesus… Scottus College (more)… St. Anthony: miracles & traditions / relic… St. Francis: about / biography / national shrine… St. Isidore: farmer (more) / feast / litany / novena / printable prayer / quotes… St. Joseph… St. Paul the Apostle Church: facebook / parishes online / website… Stella Kenedy… Tau cross… TX Tropical Trail Region…
WP posts… Franciscan treasures… Grapes of generosity… Historic nuggets… Holy relics… Making meaning… Mary’s miraculous medal… Mary’s seven joys… My Franciscan Crown… Prayer… Si quaeris miracula… St. Anthony… St. Felix… Vaquero Fest Saturday
Filed under: holy relics, Our Lady, prayer, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Isidore | Tagged: building community, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church-Hebbronville TX, overcoming adversity, San Agustin Cathedral-Laredo TX, St. Paul the Apostle Church-Flour Bluff TX, TX Tropical Trail Region | Leave a comment »