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Mexico: A Handbook on the Missions of the Episcopal Church.

By Frank Whittington Creighton, S.T.D.
Suffragan Bishop of Long Island
Sometime Missionary Bishop of Mexico

New York: The National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1936.

Chapter III. Signs of Promise.

A BRIEF survey of the Mexican field reveals many signs of promise to the watchman who knows that dawn follows darkness and that sooner or later every shadow is dissolved in light. It takes courage to believe it sometimes, and confidence to look for it. And patience is sorely tried when night falls and things in which we have believed seem no longer to deserve our love and care and interest. What of the night? Are there signs of promise? Are there permanent values only hidden for a time? Are there untried solutions for human ills emerging from centuries of pain and travail? Are there sweetened and ennobled lives gathered together in little groups whose confidence in themselves and the great Church which received them never wavers? Are there deeds of heroism for Christ's sake and the Gospel's? And heroes of the Faith? And sacrifices and privations and martyrdom? Let us see. A glance at the whole field, the institutions and churches and missions and clergymen and teachers and lay people who give it life and character may reveal the signs.


Christ Church, Mexico City, was the pro-cathedral of Bishop Aves and Bishop Creighton. Bishop Salinas y Velasco will naturally want his seat in a Mexican church with services in Spanish. Christ Church parish continues to minister to its British-American congregation and the constantly increasing number of English-speaking visitors to the city. In 1935, having completed his six-year period, the Rev. F. W. Golden-Howes, who was the chaplain of the American colony, retired to the United States and the Rev. Charles W. Hinton, of the Diocese of Long Island, was elected rector and duly authorized by the Government to minister to the British Colony for a period of six years.

[94] At St. George's, Pachuca, the Rev. Ellsworth B. Collier was effectively ministering to the English-speaking colony. Under his direction the women of the church served a midday meal each Sunday to hundreds of undernourished who formed a seemingly endless, pathetic queue before the entrance gate.

The Rev. William Watson, whose long missionary experience fitted ]rim to advise and direct in difficult situations, was nominally in charge of Christ Church, Tampico, ably assisted by Mr. James Bradbury, lay reader, who rendered such services as were necessary under the religious restrictions which prevail in the State of Tamaulipas.


Federal District. The Church of San Jose de Gracia, one of the oldest in Mexico, was built less than a century after the Conquest. It was an unused structure at the time it was turned over to La Iglesia de Jesus by the Juarez Government and became the center of the new evangelistic catholic movement. It was nearly lost during Bishop Riley's time but Mrs. Hooker came to the rescue and saved it. Many of the older Mexican priests have served it. Earthquakes have injured it from time to time and extensive repairs have had to be made. For many years the Dean Gray School was carried on at one end of the nave. The Rev. William Watson, with the help of generous American friends reconstructed and renovated the interior, revealing its lovely lines and making it a beautiful and usable structure. In 1935, the priest-in-charge was the Rev. Francisco Aragon, a graduate of St. Andrew's School and the Philadelphia Divinity School. Mr. Aragon is an Indian. He was a boy in Tlalchimulco at the time of the persecution and showed marked bravery during that critical period. Bishop Creighton sent him to St. Andrew's where he was an honor pupil. He also graduated from the Philadelphia Divinity School with honor.

[95] San Marcos, a congregation in the suburbs of Popotla, was in 1935 without a church. The members were largely Government school teachers, educational officials, and students from the university. This group was gathering a fund to build a church. Twice a month the Rev. Ruben Salinas made an eighty-mile trip to minister to them.

San Juan Evangelista, San Pedro Martir, is also in the Federal District on the new road to Cuernavaca. San Pedro Martir is an Aztec Indian village, a majority of whose residents attended the church. Until recently, in order to reach the village it was necessary to take horses and burros at Tlalpan three miles away, at the foot of the mountain, and ride over a colorful trail through the lava beds. Now one may ride into the village in an automobile. The people are all agriculturalists who labor under the disadvantage of lack of water which has to be carried from Tlalpan. [95/96] The Church was twice destroyed during the revolutions and each time rebuilt. At one time the entire belfry was shot away. The members are very intense in their religion. They broke away from the Church at the time of Bishop Riley's resignation but returned during Bishop Aves's episcopate. A fiesta following an episcopal visitation in San Pedro is an event long to be remembered. Bishop Salinas y Velasco held the Twentieth Convocation in the new parish house. In 1935, the Rev. Jose F. Gomez was priest-in-charge.

State of Mexico. The congregation in Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico, in 1935 was ministered to by the Rev. J. L. Perez, the oldest priest in Mexico. There was a substantial church and rectory the patio of which served as a parish house. Mr. Perez, incapacitated, his voice a whisper, was inclined to dwell upon the past. And the past for him was but one thing, viz., the history of the Church in Mexico. He visualized all the old heroes of the Faith and remembered how he shared their sacrifices and privations; and there was no institution on earth so important, so demanding of loyalty gladly given as this Church of which he was priest. For many years he was editor of the diocesan paper, La Buena Lid (The Good Fight).

Toluca is a center from which a group of interesting and colorful missions may be reached. A short train ride to Tenango del Valle and a thrilling horseback ride up a mountain road through flocks of sheep and goats and countless burro trains brings one to Joquicingo, one of the early centers of preaching and teaching. Here powerful Indian families hold allegiance to the Church: it was from this village that the Rev. Fausto Oriheula came. During the revolutions the church was destroyed. The stone front of a contemplated new one and the gathering of a fund to complete it testify to the hold this Church has upon the people. Mr. Perez was priest-in-charge, making the difficult [96/97] journey, the hazards and physical strain of which would deter many a one less aged and incapacitated than he.

The State of Mexico almost surrounds the Federal District. It was quite natural that the early missionaries of La Iglesia de Jesus should have pushed out into its mountains with the Gospel which had gripped them. On the eastern side and almost under the shadow of the great volcanoes, Popocateptl and Ixtacihuatl, are three small missions, Amecameca, Ayapango, and Tecalco. Bishop Salinas y Velasco recently repaired the building at Amecameca. The Methodists had built a church and school at Ayapango but they were not successful as most of the people are Episcopalians. At the request of the Methodist Bishop the Government turned the church and work over to us. As soon as necessary repairs were made it was used. Meanwhile the missionary visited the village regularly.

In Tecalco for many years a congregation worshiped in a private dwelling. When the Government prohibited this it was necessary to build a church. This was done to the great joy of the people who contributed to it. They are Indian agriculturists, a sturdy group whose ancestry is unknown to them. There are a few educated people in the village; most of them, however, are totally illiterate and poverty-stricken. The Rev. Daniel Romero, himself an Indian and a graduate of the Dean Gray School, served these three missions.

Toluca is also a convenient point of departure for Santa Maria Tlalmimilopan, a little Indian village on the top of a mountain reached from the railway by horse or burro. The deacon, Samuel Andrade, was in charge. Mr. Perez and Archdeacon Salinas made visitations for the administration of the sacraments. From this congregation came Hermelinda Reyes to serve Hooker so splendidly and to become head of La Casa.

A hard ride over an intervening mountain range and along dangerous ridges of hardened volcanic ash with deep [97/98] gorges on either side brings one to Mimiapan, a long straggling Indian village. During the march of Zapata to the Capitol the people of Mimiapan had to flee and the houses of the principal men were partially burned or entirely destroyed. When our people returned they rebuilt their church, San Miguel, before they reconstructed their homes. The church was small but a member gave a plot of ground for a new and larger one which, in 1935, was being built. Our principal layman, Señor Rosas, has finished a beneficial term as president of the municipality which extends over a large area and includes many villages.

East of Mexico City, in the State of Mexico, there is our mission of La Epifania in Xochitengo, a village nestling under protecting mountains with a climate so balmy that figs, oranges and semitropical fruits abound. This also was an early preaching station. So anxious were the people to become acquainted with the Good News that they carried [98/99] a lamb all the way to Mexico City to exchange for a Bible. In 1935, the church was being entirely reconstructed. The Rev. Lorenzo Saucedo, a graduate of St. Andrew's and the General Theological Seminary, was in charge.

North of Mexico City and half way to Pachuca is Xolox-Reyes where organo cacti abound and form all the fences. For years the congregation met in a private house. Recently one member, Senor Melendez, gave a third of his small farm as the site for a church. Under the direction of Mr. Carrion. an aged priest, a beautiful and commodious temple was erected and consecrated, San Pablo, by Bishop Salinas y Velasco.

Near Xoloz, which was the capital of an ancient Indian kingdom. and just over the border, in the Stale of Hidalgo, is a preaching station at Huitzila, also under Mr. Carrion. The Rev. Lorenzo Saucedo adds to his duties by assisting the aged priest-in-charge at both these points.

[100] At the extreme northern end of the State and reached from Dañu by horse or burro, is the mission of San Pablo in Encinillas. The Rev. Ruben Salinas ministered to this important congregation who have their own well-appointed church. He also visited the preaching station of San Francisco about twelve miles away.

State of Hidalgo. All the Mexican work of the Episcopal Church in the State of Hidalgo in 1935 was done by one energetic and indefatigable missionary priest--the Rev. Samuel Salinas, the elder brother of the Bishop. He, too, was essentially an educator. Through his initiative the school, La Fraternidad, was organized. For years he began his day by conducting classes in higher mathematics at six in the morning for teachers in rural Government schools. He spent long and arduous hours in the saddle, for his missions were far apart and some were reached only over difficult trails. He lived at Nopala in the old hospital building. Adjoining it is the church of Santa Fe, high above the surrounding villages and a landmark for the countryside.

Six miles to the northeast of Nopala, the little white Church of El Calvario, Humini, stands out a beacon on the mountain side. When the bell, Santa Ana, rings out the Indians come over the trails on foot or on burros. Many bring brazeros and food for they are prepared to stay all day.

Due west of Nopala about nine miles away is La Santisima Trinidad, Maravillas. This lovely church was built by a member of the Guerrero family. Guerrero means warrior and all the members of this family have fought for the Faith since the early days of religious liberty when the head of the house became a member of the Church.

Twenty-three miles south over trails is the hill of St. James-Santiago Lonna. On the crest is a village whose principal feature is our new church, Santiago. The land on which it is erected was given by Señora Serapia Pina--and it was her all. The initiative in the building program and [100/101] much financial and manual assistance came from the principal layman of the place, Juan Benitez, a product of the Guerrero family and one time municipal president. Over a thousand people came for the consecration in 1931 and a new "road" was made from Chapantongo so that the Bishop could get through by camion with a six-hundred pound bell which was hung and blessed the same day.

On an adjoining hill, six miles away, is the village of San Bartolo where we have San Bartolomé, one of the most attractive and romantic churches. Here members of the Guerrero family are active and from this village came Abel Cruz to be confirmed at Pachuca and later to be elected president of the municipality in times which demanded a clear head and Christian character.

Nine miles further north is Chapantango, the seat of the municipality. Our work here has always been supported and directed by members of the Guerrero family. For years the church was in their spacious garden. Later they gave a building facing the thoroughfare which was consecrated El Salvador by Bishop Creighton in 1929.

State of Jalisco. Guadalajara, the capital of the State of Jalisco, is a day's journey by train from Mexico City. Here Bishop Aves resided for many years. Our church, Cristo, is located in the French colony. There is a rectory and parish house and a loyal congregation. While their church was closed by State Government order the members traveled long distances to worship in one of the out-missions. The Rev. Jose M. Robredo, a product of Encinillas and a graduate of St. Andrew's, is in charge.

San Martin de las Flores is an Indian village nearly all of whose two thousand population hold allegiance to Templo de Jesus. The Rev. Josue Diaz, who is an Indian graduate of St. Andrew's, has very strict views on many subjects. He permits no smoking in the village and records as communicants only those who measure up to his own high conception of full membership in the Church. He [101/102] speaks the Indian dialects and not only ministered to the souls of his people but was their unpaid physician and self-sacrificing pastor. He literally has given away the shirt from his back. His two sisters were his wise and able assistants.

The congregation of San Sebastian has felt the full force of fanatical religious persecution. Somehow or other they survived and kept together. Bishop Creighton consecrated the new church of San Esteban, which represents the efforts of the entire membership, on March 25, 1930. One man gave eight thousand bricks for the construction. Here Bishop Salinas y Velasco held the first convocation of Jalisco in 1935. Mr. Robredo built the church. In 1935, the Rev. Jose Martinet, a graduate of St. Andrew's, was in charge.

In 1931, after the election of Bishop Salinas y Velasco as Suffragan Bishop, he with Bishop Creighton visited the village of San Sebastianito where the boys from St. Andrew's [102/103] had been doting propaganda work. While there, they inspected a roofless colonial ruin which was later turned over to the congregation by the Government. Rebuilding made a beautiful and commodious church in which a rapidly growing congregation now worshiped with Mr. Martinez as priest-in-charge.

Just a mile and a hall: from St. Andrew's School is the village of Zoquipan, easily readied by the students in their missionary journeys. A congregation, whose members have felt the fires of persecution, worship in the Church of St. Francisco de Asis. The priest, the Rev. J. N. Robredo, acts as general missionary in the region.

State of Michoacan. A half day's journey from Toluca over a narrow gauge railway and a horseback ride into the mountains, brings one to the village of San Miguel el Alto. Really it is not a village. "Estamos muy separados, señor," a polite Indian will tell you. And they are indeed very [103/104] widely separated. Scattered over a valley and on the sides of two mountains. from a half to a mile and a half apart, are the little houses in which the members of the Church of El Divino Pastor dwell. Bishop Salinas y Velasco consecrated the church whose priest-in-charge was the Rev. Samuel Rameriz, a graduate of St. Andrew's. In addition, he assisted the aged Mr. Perez at Toluca and in his out-missions.

State of Morelos. At one time there was a beautiful church, St. Michael, in Cuernavaca, built by a member of Christ Church, Mexico City. During the Revolution the congregation was scattered and then the State Government tore down the church which was located on the site chosen for a new market. The rectory was in a ruinous condition. A few people met to worship under the leadership of the Rev. Miguel Camara, but with little spirit. Before his death Mr. Camara rebuilt and renovated the property. In 1935, a well-appointed church was served by the Rev. Samuel Cespedes. When he and his young bride arrived to take charge there was none of the congregation left. Undeterred they procured an organ and with the church door open sang hymns to attract worshipers. They came, so did the children. There began a growing work and a good Church school of eager and receptive children.

We have had a congregation at Jojutla for many years, and an out-mission at San Nicolas Obispo. The climate is enervating and the water almost undrinkable. This is the region from which Zapata came with an idea of agrarian reform which centered in immediate destruction of existing haciendas and sugar centrals. When he left his State to march on Mexico City, destroying our churches at Joquicingo and San Pedro Martir on the way, he left chaos and poverty behind. Our congregation in Jojutla suffered, too, and the church fell into partial ruin. In 1932, a communicant in California gave money for the new memorial Church of Santa Catalina which was consecrated by Bishop Salinas [104/105] y Velasco in 1934. The Rev. J. Miranda was priest-in-charge and in addition to San Nicolas Obispo he ministered to outstations in Chisco and Telelpa.

State of Guerrero. Before the days of Bishop Aves there were members of La Iglesia de Jesus in the mountainous State of Guerrero. Little groups have met for service from time to time all through the years. Eventually they came to know and use the Book of Common Prayer. They interested others and when it was possible they worshiped in one of our mission churches. Bishop Salinas y Velasco believes they should be encouraged and that the time has come to propagate in this State. Accordingly he has sent the Rev. Fausto Orihuela, and the Rev. Luis Y Caballero, veteran missionaries, to evangelize the area. Mr. Orihuela made his headquarters in Tuxpan and Mr. Caballero worked from Iguala as a center.

With the institutions which have been fully described these churches, missions and preaching stations constitute our work in our neighboring republic. Some of the latter are as old as religious liberty in Mexico. They have survived despite dangers and difficulties. Others are of recent development and have been organized during the period of stress and in conformity with the severe restrictions and regulations which govern relations between Church and State. They are all a credit to the Church in the United States and an evidence of the determination of Bishops, priests, and people in revolutionary Mexico tenaciously to fulfill their mission to the Mexican people, to hold on despite discouragement and to go forward in the face of difficulties.

During an episcopal visitation to one of our congregations an Indian poet ended a tribute to his nation and this Church with the stirring cry, "Viva Mexico, Viva La Iglesia Episcopal." And that was more than mere sentiment. It was prophecy born of conviction held by a constantly increasing number of people--not only loyal Indians, whose [105/106] words are few and whose knowledge is limited, but young, talented and patriotic Mexicans whose love of tradition and the beauty of holiness and ordered, intelligent worship draws them to this Church. Long live Mexico to be guided by God out of the shadows of illiteracy and exploitation into freedom and truth, into the light of developing bodies, minds and spirits. And long live the Episcopal Church to serve her God through Christ in Mexico. to preach the liberty which is in Him, freely to administer His Sacraments of love: and so to do it that the religion of Christ is revealed to be the very basis and center of enduring national life.


Beautiful Mexico by Vernon Quinn. (New York, Stokes, 1924, $4.)

The Conflict Between the Civil Power and the Clergy by Emilio Portes Gil. (Mexican White Book)

Conquest of Mexico by William H. Prescott. (New York, Harpers)

A Diplomat's Wife in Mexico by Edith O.Shaughnessy. (New York. Harpers, 1916)

The Mexican People in the Church by Arturo M. Elias.

Life in Mexico by F. E. I. Calderon de la Barca. (New York, Dutton, 1931, $3.)

Lupita: A Story of Mexico in Revolution by Alberto Rembao. (New York. Friendship Press. 1935. $1.)

Mexico by Carleton Beals. (New York, Viking Press, 1923, $2.50)

Mexico by Stuart Chase. (New York, Macmillan. 1931, $3.)

Mexico and Its Heritage by Ernest Gruening. (New York. Century-Appleton, 1928. $6))

Mexico and Its Reconstruction by Chester Lloyd Jones. (New York. Century-Appleton. 1921, $3.50)

Mexico Before the World by Plutarco Elias Galles. (New York, Academy Press. 1927)

Mexico Today and Tomorrow by E. D. Trowbridge. (New York, Macmillan. 1920, $2.)

The Other Spanish Christ by John A. Mackay. (New York, Macmillan, 1933. $2.)

The People of Mexico by Wallace Thompson. (New York, Harpers, 1921. $3.)

Prologue to Mexico by Marian Storm. (New York. Knopf, 1931, $3.50)

The United States and Mexico by J. Fred Rippy. (New York, Knopf, 1926, $5.)

Viva Mexico by C. M. Flandrau. (New York. Century Appleton, 1908, $2.)

A White Umbrella in Mexico by F. Hopkinson Smith. (Boston, Houghton, Mifflin, $2.)

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