Oasis Mission Program
St. Joseph Catholic Church
Mission is the key to ministry. A church that does not go out of itself, sooner or later, sickens from the stale air of closed rooms. - Pope Francis
In 2013, Fr. Scott Boeckman began a two-year visioning process to define the future direction of St. Joseph Parish. That process identified three parish priorities: New Evangelization, Hispanic Ministry, and Missionary Outreach. After a period of evaluation and prayer, Fr. Boeckman and the steering committee developed and initiated the Oasis Mission Program to address the third priority.
The Oasis Mission Program
The Archdiocese of Saltillo, Mexico and St. Joseph Parish envisioned an evangelical program to build both parish and individual relationships. Given the large number of members in our parish who have roots in Mexico and other Latin American countries, St. Josephs can offer a multi-cultural/multi-lingual approach that facilitates communication and expands personal connections. Oasis has a “relational” mission approach rather than a “fix-it” project approach. The cultivation of a missionary spirit through seeing the face of Jesus in the people is its focus. Oasis does not go to Saltillo to rescue people but to share the fruit of a relationship with Christ by being there and walking with the people.
St. Joseph Missionary Outreach
“The future is built on the foundation of the past” is an adage that describes the evolution of Oasis from concept to program. In the 1990s, a young parishioner began her novitiate with the Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas, a religious order from Mexico which had a presence in Oklahoma. This was the seed of a developing relationship between St. Joseph and the Guadalupanas congregation. St. Josephs supported the novitiate and her congregation which in turn supported our parish by organizing and conducting retreats for our youth. This relationship grew when the Hermanas Catequistas Guadalupanas helped organize a novena in preparation for the feast day celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fr. Eduardo Rodriguez and Fr. Fernando Liñan from the Diocese of Saltillo came to Oklahoma to facilitate retreats and lead novenas. They spoke of the missionary character of their diocese which blended perfectly with St. Joseph’s vision in our priority plan. From that visit, St. Josephs developed a parish-to-parish relationship with the Archdiocese of Saltillo to foster encounters with Christ through mutual support and service.
Saltillo is the capital of the State of Coahuila which borders Texas. A high desert and mountainous region, it has a semi-arid, moderate climate. Its long history of cultural richness dates to 1577 and abounds in colonial architecture, museums and educational institutions. With a population of 800,000 and a thriving economy, Saltillo is a major center of commerce, manufacturing, and communication. There are, however, smaller towns and villages surrounding Saltillo which do not share in or have access to this prosperity. The Oasis Mission Program is working with people in these areas, especially those centered on the city of Arteaga. In line with what Pope Francis has said, Oasis missionaries want to help “enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, … (by allowing) them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.”
The Mission Trips
In July 2015, Fr. Boeckman, Lisa Todd, Michele Rodriguez-Pico, Annie Lombardo and Deacon Angelo Lombardo traveled to Saltillo to meet with Rodrigo Montelongo Suarez and local organizers of the Saltillo Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Saltillo has 50-year pastoral plan. The focus of the first twenty years is to help everyone recognize that they have dignity in the eyes of God. To support that goal, the missionaries work under the direction of local priests who determine areas for service and allocation of funds. The diocese arranges dormitory lodging and meals as well as organizing transportation although each missionary pays individually for these services so there is no cost to the local parish or diocese.
Fifteen missionaries made the trip in July 2016 and worked in four parishes in the area of General Cepeda in Coahuila and provided $3,500 to repair roofs in three locations: Noria de la Sabina, Santa Rosa, and Kilometro 64.
Then in July 2017, 16 missionaries traveled to Arteaga Coahuila and provided $2,950 to purchase building materials for the community center in Huachichil, to repair the bell tower in the parish of San Isidro, and to furnish the retreat center at San Isidro with 30 mattresses, pillows, blankets, and towels. The center connects directly to the church where there is a daily mass.
The 2017 missionary work centered in Arteaga and will again in 2018. This year the funds raised for the program also went to repair water damage to the San Isidro Catholic Church bell tower in Huachichil and building materials for the community center. The St. Joseph missionaries worked and developed evangelical relationships with the people of Juguey de Ferniza, Huachichil, and Poleo. This work enriched all participants as they visited, exchanged stories of family and faith, and shared their cultures. The Mexican custom of hospitality brought many diverse people together in true communion with one another. Over the week, special events included a talk by a cultural anthropology professor sharing tribal art and history, and local people displayed handmade crafts and evenings of dancing and music.
The Mission Experience
A person who goes on a mission is following the example of Jesus and seeks to find Christ in everyone by sharing their faith. The missionary experiences encounters with Christ, with others, and with Christ in each other.
There are multiple goals related to the mission work: personal goals; parish goals; and spiritual goals. Each person will experience these in a unique way. Together these individual experiences will create a team bound together as witnesses to Christ. That spirit, embedded in the culture of St. Joseph, will enliven the parish as well as those parishes in Saltillo.
The Oasis Team works throughout the year creating various projects to raise funds for the program. All these funds go directly to the diocese coordinator and local priests who use them to meet specific needs of the parishes. In addition to private donations from individuals and local businesses, the team has raised over $3,000 each year through tamale sales and additional monies from a dedicated bingo night, a donor dinner as well as T-shirt sales. These activities and others will continue so that Oasis can continue to offer financial as well as spiritual support to the villages around Arteaga.
For more information on Oasis or to sign up for the next mission, contact the parish office at 405-321-8080.