By Barb Arland-Fye
An Iowa Knights of Columbus pilgrimage featuring the relics of six Mexican priests martyred during religious persecution in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s will make its way through the Davenport Diocese next month.
The six priests, members of Knights of Columbus councils in Mexico, were martyred for their faith by the Mexican government and in 2000 were canonized along with 19 other martyrs.
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson received a silver reliquary in the shape of a cross containing relics of the six priest martyrs during his installation ceremony Feb. 3, 2001, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, according to the Iowa Knights of Columbus website. Anderson dedicated his administration and the entire organization to the maternal intercession and protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
A Mexico City pilgrimage of the reliquary began in September 2005 to mark the centennial of the founding of the KCs in Mexico. The reliquary traveled throughout Mexico before arriving in the United States.
“The relic pilgrimage seeks to make known in the United States the testimony of these Knights of Columbus priest martyrs and all those who sacrificed their lives for their faith during the time of religious persecution in Mexico,” an article on the website states.
Martyred Fathers Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Lucero, Miguel de la Mora de la Mora, Jose Maria Robles Hutado, Luis Batiz Sainz, Rodrigo Augilar Aleman and Mateo Correa Magallanes will be honored during the pilgrimage in the Davenport Diocese from Nov. 23-30. The diocese is the last stop on a month-long pilgrimage across Iowa, according to an Iowa Knights of Columbus news release.
“We, as Knights, believe this tremendous opportunity to bring communities together will also help us reflect upon what we have in common as Catholics regardless of race, color, national origin or language, and remind us how valuable our religious freedom is, especially in these challenging times for Catholics and all Christians in America,” wrote Joseph Ramirez, state deputy of the Iowa KCs in a letter to Bishop Martin Amos.
In the Davenport Diocese, pilgrimages are scheduled for Nov. 23 in Newton, Nov. 24 in Pella, Nov. 25 in Ottumwa, Nov. 26 in Burlington, Nov. 27 in Muscatine (to be confirmed), Nov. 28 in Iowa City and Nov. 30 in Davenport, said Antonio Banuelos, the Iowa KCs state program director.
“Here in this diocese we have very direct connections to some of these martyrs; here in Ottumwa, we know we have them,” said Father Bernie Weir, pastor of St. Mary of the Visitation Parish. Many of his parishioners are originally from Mexico and some of them came from the communities or states in which the six Mexican priests were martyred, Fr. Weir said.
Here are preliminary plans leading up to and including the Nov. 25 stop in Ottumwa:
• Between Nov. 1 and Nov. 25, biographies of each of the six martyred priests will be published in parish bulletins at St. Mary’s and at St. Patrick Parish in Ottumwa and perhaps other parishes. A program (date to be announced) will be held at St. Mary’s to explain the terms “martyr” and “saint” and the process to become a saint.
• The film “For Greater Glory” will be shown at separate times (to be announced) in the parish hall and at the Knights of Columbus Hall two blocks away. The movie “Romero” about martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador will be shown in the parish hall, followed by discussion about his martyrdom and that of religious workers also slain in El Salvador.
On Nov. 25:
• The reliquary containing the relics of the martyred priests will be received at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Ottumwa.
• A procession with the reliquary from the KC Hall to St. Mary’s will be led by Fourth Degree Knights and individuals who came from the communities where the priests lived or were martyred. It is “in remembrance of the six martyrs and all who have given their lives for the faith,” Fr. Weir said.
• A Holy Hour will precede a bilingual Mass at St. Mary’s.
• Bishop Martin Amos has been invited to preside at the Mass.
• A reception will be held after Mass at the KC Hall.
“In the United States, we’re not likely to be martyred for our faith, but we’re called to be witnesses to our faith,” Fr. Weir said. Even under persecution, faith was very much alive in Mexico. “Faith won,” Fr. Weir continued. “Faith in Christ is always going to win.”
Anyone who came from the towns where the priests lived or were martyred (see iowakofc.org for details) “is welcome to be in our procession,” Fr. Weir said.
For more information about the pilgrimage in the Davenport Diocese, call Antonio Banuelos at (515) 991-2791, or visit the Iowa KC website.