Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, poses for a group photo July 26, 2020, after confirmations at San Felipe de Jesus parish. A group of 13 Catholic youth received the sacrament of confirmation as parts of Texas were undergoing a hurricane threat amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/courtesy Bishop Daniel Flores, Diocese of Brownsville)
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WASHINGTON (CNS) - As far as stories of endurance and faith go, it's hard to top the dedication of a group of young Catholics from the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.
Under threat of a hurricane in the middle of a pandemic, the group of 13 went ahead with plans to receive the sacrament of confirmation July 26, an event that had already been set back because of the coronavirus.
Brownsville Bishop Daniel E. Flores said he had kept in constant communication with the pastor of San Felipe de Jesus Parish as parts of Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, were undergoing a threat from Hurricane Hanna, which made landfall along the Gulf Coast of southern Texas July 25, causing widespread damage.
"He said all was well (at the parish) and (the group) was still planning to participate so I said, 'I'll be there,'" said Bishop Flores in a July 27 telephone interview with Catholic News Service.
They advised the group to keep the number of those attending small, unusual in a culture used to showing up to religious milestones with extended family in tow, but they complied. There were fallen branches along the way and the electricity was out in many places, but they showed up.
"I spoke with the young people and their families, we took a group photo, distancing, and they were happy," Bishop Flores said. "They're teaching us something, about the help of God, how the Holy Spirit gives us strength and courage to keep going in the battles of life, to protect those who are most vulnerable."
Donning masks, they posed for the picture with their bishop, one he posted on his Twitter account the following day, saying how arriving to receive the sacrament in "a hurricane and in the midst of a pandemic" was "in itself is a sign of the strength of the Holy Spirit."
Like hundreds of others in the diocese -- and around the country -- they had been waiting months to receive the sacrament, but following guidelines of keeping events small has been a priority for the diocese to keep everyone safe during the pandemic, Bishop Flores said, even if it has made his schedule and that of Brownsville Auxiliary Bishop Mario A. Aviles busier than usual.
But perseverance for the people in the valley, like hurricanes, is not unusual, Bishop Flores said.
"They were calm, and, well, that's how life is, it has its obstacles, but you have to give it your all," he said. "That's the spirit I appreciate of many in the (Rio Grande) Valley: we are here and God is with us and we're going to give it our all. ... It's a grace of not giving up under the difficulties of a situation."