HOLTVILLE – Bishop Robert McElroy and his brother San Diego auxiliary bishops celebrated holy Masses across the Imperial Valley over the weekend to mark the Year of St. Joseph, days before the Feast of the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19.
“As we begin the Year of Joseph we come together as God’s people and we seek to follow Jesus Christ and his Gospel,” the Bishop said, celebrating Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church on March 13. “I can’t tell you what a joy and privilege it is to be here.”
The Bishop called on the faithful to reflect on St. Joseph’s role as patron of husbands, fathers, workers, and the head of the Holy Family.
A small number of Holtville’s Catholics attended the 3 p.m. Mass, sitting in every other wooden pew, separated by yellow caution tape to enable physical distancing. The Mass was concelebrated with the parish’s pastor, Father José Alfredo Moreno.
“The God of the cross understands this suffering that we’re going through, engages with us, and embraces us when we come to him in (our) suffering,” said Bishop McElroy during his homily.
He said the resurrection is the “central reality of our faith.”
St. Joseph’s Parish is located less than four miles from the site of one of the deadliest border crashes on record. On March 2, an SUV and semi-truck crashed, leaving 13 dead and 12 gravely injured. U.S. Customs said that those who lost their lives were suspected of having entered the country illegally.
The accident occurred just outside the small city of Holtville, with an estimated 6,500 residents, located about 10 miles from the border.
The Bishop said despite this “terrible tragedy” and “moment of great suffering,” he saw “great, unshaken faith” on the faces of the people gathered for the Mass.
“I thank you for all the faithfulness you have had during this time of pandemic, I know it’s been hard,” the Bishop told them.
“The faith of our people is a wonderful gift to all of us and it’s immensely present to me, as your Bishop, to see how people throughout the diocese have really kept going and kept faith during this time in which so many of the things in life that give us joy were stripped away from us,” he said.
On Saturday, Auxiliary Bishop John Dolan celebrated the 3 p.m. Mass at St. Patrick Parish in Calipatria; and the 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Anthony Parish in Imperial. And Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano celebrated the 5 p.m. Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Calexico.
On Sunday, Bishop McElroy celebrated the 8 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Parish, in Brawley, and the 10 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s in El Centro. And Auxiliary Bishop Bejarano celebrated the 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in El Centro.
In Holtville, Father Moreno thanked Bishop McElroy for his visit, his wisdom and his ministry. The Bishop spoke briefly with the faithful on their way out of Mass and gave blessings to those who asked for them.
“I hope and pray that this is a wonderful Easter this year for the community,” he said. “Remember: The Christ of the Cross stands with us in these particular moments of struggle.”