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CURRENT ISSUE:  May 23, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 10   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Holy Spirit heading for 125th birthday
Prejean adds voice against Oakland violence
Relic of Mexican martyr
coming to East Bay in June

A bone relic of St. Toribio Romo, one of the martyrs of the Mexican Cristero war between the government and supporters of the Catholic Church that took place from 1926 to 1929, will come to the Bay Area in June and July.

St. Toribio is considered a patron of immigrants. Father Ismael Gutierrez, parochial administrator at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Concord, and an Oakland seminarian, Adolfo Padilla, are from the area where Saint Toribio lived, Santa Ana de Guadalupe in the state of Jalisco.

“We are from the same hometown and were in ministry there,” Father Gutierrez said. It was their idea to bring the relic to the Bay Area.

St. Toribio was born in 1900 and became a priest in 1922. When the Cristero war began, St. Toribio was forbidden to pray or say Mass. Like many clergy and faithful, he was forced to practice his faith in secret.

His bishop asked him to take over a parish in the town of Tequila, and he began operating out of an abandoned tortilla factory, according to his biography, “The Martyrdom of Saint Toribio Romo: Patron of Immigrants,” by James Murphy (Liguori Publications). Despite the government crackdown, St. Toribio gave the sacraments and tended to his people. He was murdered by federal troops in 1928, and was canonized as a martyr by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Father Gutierrez offered this account of St. Toribio’s connection with immigrants:

Lost and dying of thirst in the Southwestern desert, an immigrant was aided by a man who gave him water and kept him hidden from authorities, and who later took the immigrant to Los Angeles. When the immigrant had some money from working, he went to pay the man for his help, but he couldn’t find him. The immigrant identified a photo of St. Toribio as the man who’d helped.

Other immigrants told similar stories of being helped; there have been so many of these stories that even the New York Times has chronicled tales of aid from St. Toribio.

“He has become more popular with immigrants,” Father Gutierrez said, “mostly in Mexico but also elsewhere in Latin America.”

There’s a chapel dedicated to St. Toribio in the main church of Tequila as well as a shrine in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There’s a relic of St. Toribio in the altar at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, and many of his relatives live in the Central Valley.

In early June a team will travel from the Oakland Diocese to Mexico to retrieve the relic and bring it here, where it will travel among select parishes, mostly in the East Bay.

When the visit is over, there will be a pilgrimage to take the relic back to Mexico, said Héctor D. Medina, coordinator of Latino ministry for the diocese. It will depart Oakland on the morning of July 4 for Guadalajara and visit several religious and historical sites.

For more information, contact Medina at (510) 496-7224.

Staff writer José Luis Aguirre contributed to this report.

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