History of Missions
Missionary outreach was part of the life of St. Francis and also of the Order he founded. Francis realized that the best way to preach the gospel was not from the pulpit nor by the sword but by living the message of Christ. Francis endeavored to live a Christ-like life and shared this legacy with his followers.
His zeal for mission is part of our heritage as the Irish Province of Capuchin Franciscans. From the very beginning, the Irish friars left their homeland to follow in the footsteps of St. Patrick, St. Columban, and other great Irish missionaries to be the hands and feet of Christ.
In 1910, the Irish Capuchins were invited to come to the Western United States. Although the U.S. was no longer officially a “mission field,” the need for missionaries to preach the gospel was widespread, especially in the West. The hard work of the Irish friars eventually attracted native vocations and led to the establishment of a separate province. In 1979, Our Lady of Angels Western America Province was established and dedicated to serving the people of God in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona.
In 1985, the minister provincial and a committee of friars visited various dioceses in México. During the visit, the friars identified an intense need for missionaries in the Northern Mexican State of Sonora, in the diocese of Ciudad Obregón. The bishop suggested the town of Yecora, high in the Sierra that had no resident clergy or religious. Inspired by the need of the people, the provincial and committee recommended that the friars of Western America send their first missionaries to Yecora.
In November 1985, four friars drove from California to Ciudad Obregón to meet the bishop and receive their commission to serve in Yécora. As they drove from the city to the new mission, they came to a better understanding of the friars who had made difficult journeys in the past. The road between Obregón and Yécora was so bad that it took them nine hours to make the journey of 120 or so miles. Often the “road” was nothing more than a creek bed, and as darkness fell they had to use searchlights to make sure they did not drive over a cliff.
On their arrival they came to the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the small parish residence nearby and settled in to carry on the missionary tradition of the Franciscan Order and the Irish Capuchin Province. The new mission was dedicated on December 12, 1985 (Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe) by Fr. Gerald Barron and has been a part of Western Capuchin life ever since.
As we continue to grow in our service in Northern Mexico, our goal remains true: to live the Gospel life of St. Francis and serve the people of God, inviting along the way young men to carry on our tradition. We are grateful to God for this opportunity and to our many benefactors who enable us to continue the Capuchin Franciscan tradition in Northern México. As our Order grows there, who knows where the young men who are now in formation may end up being sent as missionaries.