Witness at San Mateo Parish-Reflection 1/20

On Sunday the Theology II seminarians got split into two groups. One went to a women’s shelter and the other group, my group, went back to Saint Matthew’s Parish. Brother Joseph P.E.S, Michael Rienhardt, Adam Johnson, and I arrived early via Uber. The trek from the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe to San Matteo took us 4 hours on the metro and busses during the week, but it took us less than an hour by Uber on Sunday. Needless to say we were very grateful.

When we arrived, we were told that Father was saying Mass at another chapel but would be here shortly (which, as we’ve learned, could mean just about anything). So with some extra time on our hands some of us walked around and prayed a rosary, others simply prayed in the old church. Bro Joe and I walked through a jam-packed street market praying our rosary we were stared at but left alone. Amidst the countless stands which we passed not one tried to sell us anything once they caught sight of the rosary in our hands. A few “Buenos dias” and some “Ave Marias” and it was time to meet Father and prepare for Mass.

The Mass we attended was the children’s Mass, meaning children sang in the choir and read the readings. It was packed with children, we sat about half way back. Everyone who sat in front of us were younger than us or were the teachers of the students.

At the end of the Liturgy of the Word, Father invited us up to talk about why we were here. As the four young white men walked up to the sanctuary all the eyes were fixed on us, from the littlest niño to the oldest abuelita. Bro Joe speaks fluent Spanish, but the rest of us introduced ourselves in the best Spanish we could muster: “Hola, mi llamo Jeshua, I am twenty … yo tengo vente … uno, dos, tres, cuatro … yo tengo vente cuatro años.” Then Mike and I sat off to the side and Adam gave his testimony while Bro Joe translated.

At the end of his testimony, Adam asked, “is there anyone here who is considering religious life or priesthood?” To our happy surprise, it was not just us four who raised our hands in the sanctuary, but probably a dozen hands went up in the church. When we sat down Father thanked us for our witness being there and asked a question to the congregation. One little girl in the back raised her hand and was invited up and when she got there she was handed the microphone. She said, “thank you very much.” It was the cutest thing ever. At least four people in the crowd were moved to an audible, “awww”.

Mass continued as normal until the sign of peace where we were swarmed on all sides by 40-50 children wanted to share peace with the American seminarians. At the end of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but before the closing prayer, father asked another question, I understood three words of it “Padre Nuestro” and “ingles”, so I raised my hand. Father proceeded to hand me the mic and I recited the Our Father. I thought that Mrs Johnson, my 2nd grade religion teacher, would be so proud.

After the closing prayer we were greeted by many who wanted to practice their English and we handed out little saint cards and Our Lady of Guadalupe cards that Bro Joe had brought with him. It was a great experience. May I ask that you pray for the Parish of San Matteo and that God may bless that parish and all of Mexico with many vocations.

-Josh Salonek