Together We Can Carry the Cross in Mexico
As we head into Holy Week, Lent draws to a close. We hope and pray it has been your best Lent ever. Around the world, Mission Tradition priests and their parishioners join you in prayer and sacrifice. They have benefited from your past generosity to Mission Tradition, and they would be grateful for any Lenten alms you can share as we meditate on Our Lord’s Passion and death.
Fr. Daniel Heenan, FSSP, continues to serve in our mission in Guadalajara, Mexico. He generously took time to chat with Mission Tradition staff about recent successes and ongoing needs at his apostolate. We hope his comments will inspire you to support Mission Tradition this Lent.
Mission Tradition: Father, what are some of the biggest crosses that Mission Tradition donors have helped your apostolate to carry in recent months?
Father Heenan: Some of the funds have helped us run our Cultural Center. That’s been a big asset lately. We have catechism classes and lots of different activities there. The Cultural Center is going to save the day for us during Holy Week because we had some difficult news just two weeks ago. For the last four years, a generous person here has lent us a hacienda where we’ve had our Holy Week liturgies because our church is too small. But the Archdiocese has told us that we’re no longer allowed to do that.
We’ve had to figure out how to accommodate ourselves in our church, which brought up a bunch of challenges, but the Cultural Center is going to be a big asset. We’re applying to close the streets around our church because we’re going to have to put people under tents in the streets. Our church only holds 200 people and we usually have about 1,000 for Holy Week.
We also got a grant that we’re putting to use to make some audio-visual improvements in our church. We’ve had somebody working tirelessly the past couple of days to hang TVs on the front of the church and have wires down to our side chapels. Our main side chapels don’t have a line of vision to the nave of the church. So we’re going to put in screens there and have the audio there so that we can fit another 80 people on one side and 50 on the other, along with 200 people in the street with the doors open.
But what’s missing is that at the hacienda, there was a parking lot and a little store and café and places to sit. So when people came from far away, it was comfortable for them to spend all day there for Mass and the different devotions. We don’t have that at our church. But the Cultural Center can provide those things. We’ll set up a store, and there are restrooms and places to rest.
MT: Do you have any new priest candidates since we last spoke?
Father H: We do. We have one who looks very promising. And I have another priest who’s going to arrive in October to spend a year with us.
I think they both want to join the Fraternity. One of them is Canadian and he’s a language professor. It’s kind of opportune, because we’re hoping he’ll be in residence here and become a full-time English or language teacher for our candidates. English is so necessary for anyone, male or female, who wants to pursue the priesthood or religious life in the traditional world right now. So we want to establish within the Cultural Center a little language academy as part of our homeschool group, so that the parents can start teaching English to their children from a young age. So if they want to discern a vocation later, they’ll already have a head start.
MT: Good to hear! Father, have you been able to continue beautifying your chapel with the help of Mission Tradition donations?
Father H: Yes. It’s a slow process! But we we’ve basically finished enlarging the sacristy. And now I’ve got an architect working on a design for our chapel. He works for the government in their historic buildings section, so he’s in charge of maintaining all these historic churches.
We have the first draft of his design, and now I’m waiting for another architect who’s going to do a digital version of his drawing as well as a 3D tour that we can pass on to benefactors to raise the rest of the money we need. It’s all a little more elaborate than we had originally planned, but it’s going to be really beautiful. There’s supposed to be a Baroque altar piece in the center. And we want to change out our stained glass windows because the chapel came with these very 1970s-looking windows. We’d also like to install air conditioning in the chapel because it gets hot in there in the summer when the chapel is full.
MT: Have you also been able to continue expanding the online presence for your apostolate?
Father H: Yes. I have a very enthusiastic new volunteer who’s working with Livemass.net to get our apostolate’s Masses broadcast on there again. We’ve improved the sound quality already, and there are a few more things he’s going to do. And I’m working with our apostolate in Mexico City to coordinate our online resources for FSSP Mexico. We’ve restructured our domain names, and we’re trying to imitate the structure you see in the US, where each parish has its own website but there’s also a website for the North American Province, and some things are in common. We’re working on building a good library of resources and making sure everything is online and easy to use.
MT: Excellent! When we last spoke, you also mentioned a pilot program for a hybrid school.
Father H: That’s pretty exciting. This year, we started a group called Sede Sapientiae. The Cultural Center has given them a place to meet, which is a godsend because for many years, we were having to bounce from one church to the next, borrowing space. They’re rolling out their curriculum piece by piece. Next schoolyear, they want to meet at the Cultural Center two days per week.
Sede Sapientiae has collected a lot of old resources such as grammar books because, just like in the U.S., the schools here don’t teach basic grammar anymore. But to try to provide a classical education, the group has to go to used bookstores to find old grammar books and assemble their own little curriculum. They’ve got some people they want to hire, because it’s a tedious process to type all of this up and put it in textbooks. They have a vision three years in the future to keep rolling out pieces of the curriculum. And they’re looking for financial help to be able to pay these people, whether they’re typists or experts in the field of literature or mathematics.
There are a lot more resources for homeschooling in English right now, so the group is also translating many of those materials into Spanish. They’ve heard from Spanish-speaking families in the U.S. who are interested in using whatever they can put together because these families haven’t been able to find good homeschooling materials. So one of the goals of Sede Sapientiae is to package their program neatly with a do-it-yourself kit that they can send to other cities to help them copy the model as they establish their homeschooling groups.
All of this is becoming more and more necessary. So many Catholic families in Mexico are becoming fed up with the quality of education and the indoctrination that’s happening in the schools and they’re deciding to homeschool.
MT: You’ve also mentioned the possibility of moving your parish bookstore and opening a coffee shop. Any developments there?
Father H: Actually, right now as we speak, we’re in the process of moving the bookstore. Holy Week was the impetus, since we’ll be having liturgy in our church and the Cultural Center will be a rest area. We’re going to try to launch the new bookstore and cafe for Holy Week. So we bought a bunch more inventory, and we’ve received donations of furniture and bookshelves. A benefactor is paying for some adjustments to the building. They just tore down a wall to open a patio and install another bathroom. Unfortunately, nothing works as smoothly as we want—we had a pipe burst the other day! We’re frantically working to repair the plumbing before Holy Week.
MT: When all of that gets up and running, will the bookstore generate some income to help support the apostolate?
Father H: We’re still defining it, but I think we’re leaning towards the bookstore generating some of the revenue that will support the Cultural Center in terms of paying rent and performing maintenance.
MT: And is your apostolate still supporting and forming pre-seminary candidates?
Father H: Yes, we have five candidates right now. And four of them will probably submit their applications to the seminary with hopes to start next September. We’ll have our next vocations retreat in June, where we’ll evaluate a new class of candidates. We’ve had quite a few people contact us about that.
MT: Thank you for all the updates, Father. Consider everything we’ve discussed, what’s the next biggest cross our Mission Tradition donors can help your apostolate carry?
Father H: Well, the Sede Sapientiae group just gave me a number for the person they want to hire to help get the first grammar textbook out. They’ll need to raise $3,200.
We’re also continuing to work on the chapel in our house, Casa Cristo Rey. The architect gave me a couple of estimates. To do everything we need to do to make the sanctuary suitably beautiful for Mass would cost about $25,000.
We continue to work on our parish church. It’s an eighteenth-century church, and we’ve been reticent to invest a lot of money in it because we have had dreams of moving to a bigger building. But given the situation in the Church for traditionalists, we believe we should go ahead and invest because we might be here for a while. This same architect proposed a multistage plan where we would finish the sanctuary, and then the nave of the church, and then the side chapels.
We have a very nice old multi-level altar. But the decorations are made of plaster, and over time, pieces fall off. And we have these two enormous paintings of the Evangelists in the sanctuary, but they’re desperately in need of a restoration because they’re so cooked in soot that you can’t even make out who they are. And with the humidity, the material is peeling off the base. So it’s urgent to restore it.
We’re going to make a little video, hoping some generous person wants to help restore an old church for God’s glory. It looks like we’ll need about $23,000 just to restore the altar.
MT: What would you most like to say to Mission Tradition donors?
Father H: We’re extremely grateful that people want to help us build up our apostolate here. We also hope that what we do here has ramifications for Spanish-speaking traditional Catholics in the U.S. More and more of them are discovering the traditional Mass. And it’s interesting because Hispanic people tend to keep ties to where they’re from. So we always get people visiting from the U.S. and coming to our apostolate. They really appreciate the materials we put online, such as cultural things and devotions.
Just the other day, there was a lady visiting Guadalajara from Minnesota. She attends the FSSP apostolate there, but she hardly speaks any English. So she goes to Mass and then goes home and watches our sermon online because she can’t understand the sermons she hears in Minnesota!
MT: That’s amazing! I’d never really thought of that angle—that you’re actually ministering to Hispanic people in the U.S. as well.
Father H: Yeah, little by little!
Help Fr. Heenan keep carrying the Cross in Mexico! Remember, our Mexican mission parish church needs about $23,000 to restore the altar in its main chapel and about $25,000 to beautify the sanctuary of the chapel. In addition, it will take $3,200 to hire someone to translate homeschooling resources into Spanish so that more Mexican families can be freed from the clutches of government schools. Every gift you send will bring us closer to reaching these goals.