The Archdiocese of San Antonio has begun preparations for the latest project of the On the Way – ¡Ándale! capital campaign … El Camino de San Antonio Missions Pilgrimage Center.
To mark the occasion, on Feb. 28 attendees at a press conference at Mission Concepción got a first look at the former chapel of St. John’s Seminary before construction begins there. The building will eventually serve as the Pilgrimage Center headquarters. In addition, the newly-hired director of El Camino de San Antonio Missions, Hon. Rebecca Simmons, was introduced.
To position itself to meet the many pressing pastoral needs because of growth, the Archdiocese of San Antonio launched On the Way -¡Ándale!, its first capital campaign in more than 60 years in the fall of 2017. To date, almost $50 million has been raised toward the $60 million goal.
At the press conference, Father Larry Christian, episcopal vicar, said, “What a tremendous time in the life of our Archdiocese of San Antonio! We are blessed to live in this city which was founded more than 300 years ago. This area – our archdiocese – is still as vibrant, diverse, compassionate, welcoming and rooted in the Christian faith as it was in its humble beginnings.”
Joan Martinez, director of the archdiocesan Department of Pastoral Ministries, introduced Simmons, saying, “We are so happy to begin this journey of offering pilgrimages and days of reflection to highlight our beautiful missions. Her (Simmons) commitment to evangelization is evident and we are pleased to welcome her as the first director of El Camino de Antonio Missions.”
Simmons is a former Bexar County Judge and Justice on the Fourth Court of Appeals. She is well-known in the community, having served as president of the Local Bar Association, a director of the State Bar Association, and chair of the Texas Bar Foundation. She has also received the archdiocesan Lumen Gentium Award for volunteer work at her long-time parish, Our Lady of Grace. Simmons has served as a religious education teacher and pilgrimage leader for more than 20 years. She began bicycle pilgrimages to the missions with her religious education classes, and eventually began an annual parish pilgrimage with more than a hundred participants. In addition, she was instrumental in developing the Mission Possible Espada Program at Our Lady of Grace, which refurbished the youth building at Mission Espada while also creating a community relationship between the two churches.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, remarked that the archdiocese serves almost 1 million Catholics among the 2.6 million people living in the 19 counties of the archdiocese across South Central Texas, and that the number of Catholics in the region is growing rapidly with this population growth. “Our growth as a faith community is beautiful, however, with such substantial growth comes many pressing pastoral concerns.”
Also speaking at the press conference were Father David Garcia, director of the Old Spanish Missions, and Bryan Grundhoefer, president of WellMed Medical Management and the WellMed Charitable Foundation as well as general chair of the On the Way – ¡Ándale! capital campaign.
In his closing comments, Auxiliary Bishop Michael Boulette expressed his gratitude to attendees. “The On the Way – ¡Ándale! capital campaign is a huge project. I thank you for your support of the archdiocese by supporting the mission of the church. God bless you.”
More information about the On the Way – ¡Andale! can be found at www.ontheway-andale.org.
Photos: Veronica Markland for Today’s Catholic Newspaper