BERYL JUNCTION — Catholics in Beryl Junction have easy access to the Eucharist only on Sunday morning, when a priest undertakes the 50-mile drive over the mountains north from St. George to celebrate the 9 a.m. Mass at San Pablo Mission.
For Janet Riquelme, who lives in Beryl Junction, being able to get to Sunday Mass in only a few minutes is a blessing, although “It would be nice if it was every day,” she said.
But the remoteness of the mission, one of the few buildings scattered amid the acres of farmland and desert along Highway 18, means a priest comes just once a week. The closest Catholic church is in Cedar City, 40 miles east along a desolate highway.
The 2010 census put the population of Beryl Junction at 197, but on Oct. 27, at least half that many people, including guests from St. George and American Fork, filled the mission for the celebration of the Eucharist. Men, women and children crowded into the four rows of chairs placed before the altar in the front room. They overflowed into the kitchen and squeezed into the side room. Quarters were so tight that those seated in the front row had merely to stretch out a hand to touch the altar.
All had come to celebrate the month of October as Extraordinary Missionary Month, which was called for by Pope Francis in 2017. “For the month of October 2019, I ask the whole Church to live an extraordinary time of missionary activity,” the Holy Father said.
In response to that call, Father Sébastien Sasa, parochial vicar of St. George Catholic Church, organized several events throughout the month for his parishioners to pray, reflect and take concrete action. San Pablo Mission is one of the parish’s missions, so the day before the Oct. 27 Mass, each Catholic family in the area was visited and received a personal invitation to attend. In addition, the Mass was followed a social gathering organized by members of the Missionaries of Jesus and Mary.
The Missionaries of Jesus and Mary meet weekly in St. George for a rosary, and each Friday they gather for formation that includes reading the Bible and other books, said Angie Gomez, a St. George parishioner who has been involved with the group for more than a year.
In her remarks at the end of the Mass at San Pablo Mission, Gomez said, “We are here to share with you the joys of living in Christ. So let’s join together this day to celebrate and praise the Lord for all the graces and blessings that he gives us day by day.”
She invited each of those present to be a missionary in their community, saying, “You don’t have to go very far to serve the Lord. You can simply pray in your home with your family, read the Bible with them, or even invite a friend to Mass.”
She exhorted them to gather as a community to pray, read the Bible, and “to encourage one another so that together you can persevere in your faith.”
Afterward, in an interview, Gomez said members of the missionary group hope to continue to visit Beryl Junction and work with Fr. Sasa to meet the community’s needs.
During his homily, Fr. Sasa said that he was 9 years old when he first began to tell his parents that perhaps one day he would serve God. Addressing the children and teenagers present, he said, “It’s the occasion for you to think about this: ‘Maybe one day I can serve the Church.’”
Jesus commanded his followers to love each other, he said, and “It’s important to love one another, but we need to put Jesus in the center of our life and our love.”
This is especially critical for married couples, he said. “If you put Jesus in the center you will see Jesus in your husband, in your wife. And you will love your wife, your husband, like Jesus loves you.”
Mentioning the members of the Missionaries of Jesus and Mary, he said that with the presence of Jesus in the boat of those gathered, “together we will go to fish other brothers and sisters here in San Pablo to save.”
While the congregation for the Oct. 27 Mass was unusually large, San Pablo Mission nevertheless is a special place, said John Cordova, who with his wife, Cherryl, volunteers for many of the ministries. “The culture is very holy,” he said.
For Margarita Morales, the mission offers a way “to hold onto our faith,” she said. “Here where we live, life is really hard. We work every day of the week, and on Sundays we take advantage [of the time off] and go and buy groceries for all week.”
Until recently, the weekly Mass was celebrated at the Saturday vigil, “but many people work on Saturday; for me it is better to have the Mass on Sundays,” she said. “Saturday afternoon sometimes people have to go to work. On Sunday [morning] you can go to Mass and then continue working.”