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Pastor strengthen connections with parishioners on Mexico visit

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Building connections is important for pastors.

That was one of the reasons Father Doug Klein visited Mexico a few years ago and did so again in February.

Four years ago Father Klein went to Mexico at the invitation of parishioners.

“I went to several areas where my parishioners were from and discovered it was really helpful that connection and understanding where people came from,” he said. “This was another opportunity to visit additional places where a large portion of my parishioners come from.”

Knowing how valuable that trip was, Father Klein said he had been looking for another opportunity to go Mexico and this time he did so with the hopes of visiting the state of Hidalgo, where many parishioners from Christ the King Parish in Sioux Center come from.

“When you are pastoring a people and you are preaching, everything you do – you are able to do better when you know your people and have a connection,” Father Klein said.

Last fall, a Sioux Center parishioner mentioned they were going to Mexico in February for a cousin’s quinceanera – 15th birthday party.

“They mentioned, ‘Father you should go with us.’ And I said that might be possible,” Father Klein said. “It makes it easier when I have people that I know from here to connect with.”

As he spoke about going to Mexico, a young couple from his parish in Hawarden told him they would be there at same time in the Guadalajara area.

“I was able to add another three days so I could go there as well,” he said. “After arriving in Guadalajara, the next day we went way up into the mountains – Sierra Madres – where large portions of the people from Hawarden come from. This is a rather remote area. We were probably an hour’s drive from the nearest gas station.”

That helped him understand the life experience of his people.

“Even though it was remote, it was a beautiful, gorgeous area,” Father Klein said. “The people were very welcoming and excited to have me visiting.”
Usually the first question they asked him was: When are you coming back again?

Our Lady of Guadalupe

From there, he flew from Guadalajara to Mexico City to meet up with other parishioners. Their first stop was to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“That was one of the highlights of the trip,” Father Klein said. “I knew it was important to me and really important to my people. In fact, when I announced it at Mass that I was going to Mexico and then I added I was going to the basilica - they all broke out in applause. It means so much to them.”

He visited the basilica on a Thursday, Feb. 20, so the priest didn’t expect much a crowd as it was far removed from Our Lady’s feast day on Dec. 12, but to his surprise, it was filled with thousands of people.

“It was overwhelming to see that devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. Before I left, I had asked people if they had special petitions they wanted me to take so I could pray for them there,” said Father Klein, who was able to concelebrate Mass at the basilica. “I had sheets of paper along, offering prayers for the intercession of Our Lady. It was a very powerful experience to visit there.”

He also celebrated Mass for the quinceanera.

“The next day I went to a smaller village to go to Sunday Mass. I thought it would be interesting to observe and see what happens. But of course after I walked in the door they knew who I was and the pastor asked me to come up and vest and be the celebrant,” noted Father Klein, who said he also celebrated the second Mass.

Following the services about 30-40 people came up and told him how he had celebrated weddings and baptisms of family members. A young mother with two children told him he had baptized the two. Another woman said she had a video of Father Klein celebrating the marriage of her daughter.

Connections

During Mass, he asked how many people had family living in Iowa and of the 400, about 50-60 raised their hands. Then he asked how many had relatives living in the United States and almost all went up.

Father Klein learned they have some common joys and struggles, but back in Iowa he said there are also other challenges.

“At any parish here, we are dealing with groups of Hispanics from many different places in Mexico who all have somewhat different experiences of church there,” he noted. “They are also dealing with the issue of long hours of work, challenges with transportation and all other kinds of challenges.”

While visiting these communities does not provide the same connection as having lived there, Father Klein said it helps. He has a better idea of their circumstances, their culture and language.

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