Day 1: Year of Faith Pilgrimage

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José Alfredo Martinez leads pilgrims through the Mexico City Airport.

José Alfredo Martinez leads pilgrims through the Mexico City Airport.

I bump into Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares and Fr. Ernesto Reynoso just through security at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The bishop is putting on his pectoral cross and Fr. Reynoso is in a great mood — he always is. Normally, during the 8 o’clock hour, the Mexican-born priest is hosting his show, “Essencia de Fe,” on 740 AM, Radio En Familia.

Mass at San Hipólito Church.

Mass at San Hipólito Church.

Bishop Nevares, Fr. Reynoso and I are joining Fr. Fred Adamson and 40-some other pilgrims from the Diocese of Phoenix on a Year of Faith pilgrimage to Mexico City, San Miguel de Ayende and Leon.

Bishop Nevares tells me, “We want the front page for this,” referring to the story I’ll write from the trip. “We don’t want to be buried in the back. Front page!” And he laughed his laugh that reminds me a bit of Count von Count from Sesame Street.

John, a retired volunteer at the airport, saw the Roman collars on Bishop Nevares and Fr. Reynoso and quipped, “Well that’ll be a safe flight. You guys are flying with God.” Fr. Reynoso stopped and chatted with him briefly, “God bless you,” he said.

Fr. Fred Adamson was already at the gate and chatting with other pilgrims when we arrived. Bishop Nevares made sure to greet all the pilgrims personally. I’m sure he greeted some non-pilgrims, too.

The general sentiment among the pilgrims at the gate was a quiet excitement.

While I ate my yogurt, Bishop Nevares walked by, “You need to get some quotes!” he said to me, with a wag of his finger and a smile. “Talk to people about how they’re feeling now, before we even get there. And then you can compare how they feel when we are there.”

So I grab my notebook and get to work. Deacon Ed Mirasol from Our Lady of the Valley and St. Raphael is joining us on the pilgrimage. He’s just back from a trip to Mount Everest, so I’d say the altitude in Mexico City won’t bother him.

“It’s supposed to be something to see,” he says of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which we will visit tomorrow. “I’m excited about it.”

Deacon Mirasol’s wife, Jessica, is excited too. “I’ve always wanted  to go. This is good.”

Theresa Johnsen and Liz Sanchez, parishioners at Sacred Heart in Prescott, are also on the pilgrimage. Johnsen has been to the basilica before and is looking forward to returning. Sanchez, who will visit the basilica for the first time, decided to come on the pilgrimage to keep up with her faith.

Mass will be celebrated every day and there will be time for prayer and reflection.

That included the first day. From the airport, we headed straight to the Church of San Hipólito, where Fr. Adamson, Fr. Reynoso and Bishop Nevares lead us in the celebration of Holy Mass. The Mass was offered for “all the good people in the Diocese of Phoenix.”

Bishop Nevares focuses his homily on the Blessed Mother, explaining the power of the rosary.

“She is the great intercessor. She has great compassion for each of us,” he says. “She says, come to me, all of you who are in need. I love you.”

J.D. Long-Garcia is the former editor of The Catholic Sun. He joined the staff in 2004. J.D., a lay Dominican, studied journalism and psychology at Arizona State University, philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and theology at the Graduate Theological Union. He's taught classes at the Kino Institute, worked as an outreach intern at All Saints Catholic Newman Center, led a deanery confirmation program in Berkeley, Calif., and served as a catechist for children of various ages. He was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

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