La Lomita Chapel

The small white chapel stands on La Lomita or “the little hill” located just a few miles south of the town of Mission. The restored chapel is a reminder of earlier days when the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) traveled by horseback up and down the Rio Grande Valley. These circuit-riding padres baptized babies, performed marriage ceremonies, gave last rights, and listened to confessions.
The land on which the mission stands was originally part of a Spanish land grant awarded in 1767. John Davis Bradburn purchased the property in 1842 and died two months later. His Mexican widow sold the property to a French merchant named René Guyard in 1845. Guyard died in 1861 and left the La Lomita grant to two Oblate priests “for the propagation of the faith among the barbarians.”
La Lomita played an instrumental role in the spread of Catholicism in South Texas. Located between mission centers in Brownsville and Roma, La Lomita became a strategic mission center for what became known as the Cavalry of Christ. These circuit-riding Oblates were some kind of tough. They faced all kinds of challenges and dangers in their efforts to spread their faith throughout South Texas.
The original chapel, built at a campsite along the Brownsville-Roma Trail, suffered flood damage more than once because of its proximity to the Rio Grande River. That original chapel was washed away by flood waters in 1865 and was rebuilt in 1899 at its present site at La Lomita. Over the years this chapel has sustained hurricane damage and suffered the normal deterioration caused by age. Today, thanks to restoration initiatives, the chapel is in good repair and continues to attract both the faithful and the curious.
When my hometown of Mission was founded in 1908, the town was named Mission in honor of the wide-ranging ministry of the Oblates. In 1975, La Lomita was added to the National Register of Historic Places, the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. In 1976, the city of Mission added visitor amenities to make the historic La Lomita a family friendly municipal park.
Places like La Lomita absolutely stir my imagination. As I walked the grounds I reflected on the hardy ranchers who tamed this southernmost part of the Lone Star State. I also thought about the tough cowboy-priests who rode from ranch to ranch to care for their flock. And, of course, I wondered about all who came (and still some) to this little place of worship with their burdens, anxieties, dreams and prayers — who lit their candles as an earnest expression of their hopes for answers and miracles.
La Lomita, like the Painted Churches and other historical places of worship, is a great road trip destination. Places like this remind us of an important part of our Texas history — the role of faith in the lives of those who settled the Lone Star State.

The Small Town Post Office

One of the fondest of my childhood memories is of the post office in my small hometown of Mission, Texas. Every morning, my grandfather would stop by the post office on his way to work. From the time I could walk he started taking me on his daily visit to get the mail. He and I would ascend the seven steps hand in hand, enter through the glass door, turn right, and go to Box 507.
Mission Post Office StepsJust thinking about my visits to the post office with my grandfather reminds me of the peculiar but not unpleasant smell of the place. Those were the days before e-mail and junk mail, so every item in Box 507 was important. Sometimes my grandfather would open and read a letter while standing in the post office. I knew that it had to be something important.

Over the years my grandfather also encouraged me to write letters and helped me to mail them. He taught me how to approach the man at the window to buy a stamp, where to place the stamp on a letter, and explained the journey my letter would take.

As I got a little older, my grandfather encouraged me to write letters to those in public office. I still have a copy of a reply I received from United States Senator John Tower when I was twelve years-old. I mailed my letter to Senator Tower from the post office in Mission.

When my grandfather told me that my cousins in Michigan wanted to see a real, live Texas horny toad (a horned lizard), he asked me to go out and catch one so that we could mail it to them. So, I did. We put the horny toad in a shoe box, punched holes in the side, included some bugs for a snack, and then headed for the post office.

I still remember the sound of the horny toad scratching the inside of the box as we walked up the steps to the post office. We took the box to the window, the fellow there calculated the postage, and off went the Texas horny toad on his great adventure to Michigan. I am happy to report that the little critter arrived there safely, to the delight of my cousins.
Family LettersGoing to the post office daily with my grandfather gave me an appreciation for writing and receiving letters. It was just as fun for me to mail a letter as it was to receive one. Over the years I managed to hold on to several letters that are, today, worth more to me than gold. They are irreplaceable because they keep me connected to the people and the places that shaped me.
Mission Post Office SignAs much as I enjoy the convenience and speed of email, there will always be a part of me that misses going to the post office and the excitement of receiving a handwritten letter with an interesting stamp affixed to the upper right corner. Today, Mission has a new and modern post office. The old post office building was converted to a Museum Store a few years ago.

I know the day is coming when post offices and handwritten letters will be a thing of the past, but I’m going to continue to do my part to postpone that day by writing letters. I miss standing in front of P.O. Box 507 with my grandfather, but I am grateful for the things I learned from him at the post office in our small town.