Annual blessing of the animals done in drive-by fashion due to pandemic in South Texas

Texas

Aside from his love for four-legged critters, 'Father Roy' is best known for giving migrants a voice and speaking out against the border wall

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been corrected to reflect that Father Roy Snipes believes animals, not people, are sometimes easier to get along with.

MISSION, Texas (Border Report) — Rosalie Romero was having a hard time steering her mega-ton pickup as she waited in a procession of vehicles for a drive-through blessing of the animals on Sunday afternoon Our Lady of Catholic Church in Mission.

Her two yapping Chihuahuas,”Tostada” and “Lee,” who sported thimble-sized Cowboy hats, excitedly barked out of her driver’s window, while she delicately held a baby turtle, and watched after a fuzzy, white 10-week-old puppy “Purque.” In the back of the truck, two of her children sat with a Great Dane, “Tina,” two turtles, “Pancho” and “Pancha,” and a quiet black pig who was taking the scene all in.

At the front of the church, Father Roy Snipes blessed the pups and other animals with holy water as they drove past. The blessing of the animals is one of the popular annual Masses, but due to the record cases of coronavirus in South Texas this year, it was done on the street and from a distance.

Nevertheless, Snipes couldn’t help but approach many of the vehicles and give his furry parishioners a pat on the head, or, in some cases, rub their slimy scales.

Father Roy Snipes led a processional from a nearby park to the front of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mission, Texas, where he blessed animals as they drove by on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. Due to the coronavirus, the annual Blessing of the Animals Mass was held outdoors on the street. (Border Report Photos/Sandra Sanchez)

He is one of the most well-known priests in the South Texas border region and has been an outspoken advocate for migrants rights and against construction of a border wall.

Three years ago, he garnered national attention when he led a procession of thousands of marchers from this church to the historic La Lomita Historic Chapel, about 4 miles away. That event, which is credited with the birth of the No Border Wall Coalition in South Texas, ultimately drew the attention of so many congressional lawmakers, that they voted to exempt the historic chapel from any border wall construction.

Last November, he took Border Report on a boat tour of the Rio Grande to spot the first images of a newly cleared section of private land, where a private-wall builder ultimately built a three-mile-long private border wall.

On Sunday, he told Border Report that he is still adamantly opposed to the border wall. And he says sometimes he prefers animals to people because they’re more loyal and easier to get along with.

“God speaks to us and lifts up our hearts and teaches us about life and love and loyalty and delighting in the gift of life. He teaches us through all these critters,” he said as he sprinkled holy water on “Arya” the husky. “Sometimes, animals are a little bit more faithful to you than people sometimes, especially dogs. Dogs are really something.”

Father Roy Snipes blesses the Romero family’s animals on Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, in Mission, Texas, including “Lee” the Cowboy-hat wearing Chihuahua, and “Purque” the 10-week-old puppy. In the back of the truck were two turtles, a Great Dane and a black pig. (Border Report Photo/Sandra Sanchez)

Snipes is known for celebrating Mass with his five dogs on stage, sometimes dressed in alter garb. On Sunday, his dogs, Bendito, Charlotte and Wiglette, were on hand to greet all the tail-wagging newcomers, and to point out the droppings left on the street.

Snipes began the service by driving his vehicle adorned with flags and the Virgin of Guadalupe from a nearby park a few blocks to the church where he has pastored for decades. He then got out and sprinkled holy water as the other vehicles drove by.

On hand were a menagerie of other animals to greet the procession, including a riled llama, a hungry goat, and two stubborn donkeys whose handler had trouble getting to stay put.

The chaos and commotion caused Romero and her clan to wait for about 30 minutes, but she took that in stride.

“It’s very important to get the blessing,” she said as she held “Tostada” and “Lee” and steered with one hand. “So they can be with God, and they can be healthy. They’re part of the family. That’s why we’re here.”

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com.

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