Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
On a pilgrimage of faith, the members of a local family take a long walk to the Basilica of San Juan, Texas. Even though this is about an eight-mile journey from their starting point, this activity was not an effort or something to look good before society. This is their answer to a calling of faith and a genuine commitment with humility to express their gratitude for the blessings they have received.
Recently, I left my office one afternoon and headed north when I saw a group of people walking fast as they were headed south on Bicentennial Blvd. They were visible even at a distance because of their bright pink t-shirts. Then, I recognized a familiar face, Roy Rodriguez, the McAllen City manager.
It is not unusual to see people walking in groups with coordinated t-shirts; I see it all the time. But this time, it was a city official. As a reporter, I had to find out what was going on.
I followed and by the time I caught up with them, they had made their way to Old Highway 83 and Main Street. Pretty fast walking, I might say.
The group continued walking as I asked Roy to take a moment to talk about this event. He left the group and gave me a few minutes.
Roy, what is going on here?
“Well, this is my wife, her brother, my sister-in-law, and my daughter.” He said, “We make a monthly pilgrimage.” On this walk, Roy walked with Noelia, his wife, and Briana, Gracie, Susie, Mary, Ramon and Ana.
He said that the ladies have been doing it every month for many years. “My wife is a cancer survivor. So, that’s the reason why we go monthly. She goes monthly, I should say. I go as often as I can.”
Roy told Texas Border Business in exclusivity that the number of people varies. “Usually, Noelia’s family members or members from my family participate.”
According to Roy, there are many reasons they celebrate this pilgrimage, but their devotion to Jesus Christ and His Holy Mother Mary is the main reason.
Is this a way of saying Thank You, God?
“Yes, it is a pilgrimage to give thanks for all of the blessings that come to all of us. It is a small sacrifice that reminds us, among other things, of the stations of the cross,” he said.
The pilgrimage starts on Pecan and 24th street, near where his in-laws lived, both deceased. According to Roy, the property is still owned by the Mancha family, and is a place where faith is put into action by love in a special way.
Roy’s job as city manager is full of responsibilities. Sometimes, there is not even a small window of time during the day for personal matters. He has meeting after meeting with the teams of professionals implementing the city fathers’ directives.
Managing a thriving city’s daily operation is hard work. From coordinating the city’s programs, preparing budgets, and supervising personnel to working on recommendations for improving operations; it is all part of the challenge that he faces every day.
But for Roy, having a spiritual life on good terms with his God comes first; it is essential. “I married into a very religious family, that has helped me in my spiritual life. My mother-in-law, Juanita Mancha, was one of the most faithful people I have ever met. She started this walk of spirituality, devotion, and prayer.” He continued, “As far as we can tell, the Mancha family, my wife’s family has been walking to the San Juan Shrine for about 60 years. Back then, the walk was two or three times per year.” He said, “I did my first walk in December of 1988, one month after I proposed marriage to my spouse.”
Aside from your wife, has anyone else in the group participating been affected by cancer?
“Yes, two of my wife’s five sisters are cancer survivors. While we concentrate on their healing, we continue to walk for the love of Jesus Christ and His Mother Mary; and we pray for healing of all women with the discovery of a cure for breast cancer.”
When she was diagnosed cancer, what was your reaction?
“It was hard, but I never showed emotion. I knew I had to be strong. Most of all, I knew Noelia would be very strong because that is who she has always been. It was harder for my two daughters and my son.”
This type of ordeal bends anyone, Noelia survived by the Grace and favor of God, and Roy is grateful and humble for Noelia’s health restoration. They have been married for 31 years.
Was faith important for both of you?
“Yes, it was the very cornerstone that kept us going; Noelia never complained. She told me soon after her diagnosis that this was the path Jesus wanted her to take. So, she was at peace with the suffering. She knew that no matter what the outcome would be, Jesus Christ and Mother Mary wanted her to show her faith to the world.”
Is the group committed to continuing the pilgrimage? How long do you hope to continue this pilgrimage?
“There is no end to this walk,” he said. After Noelia’s last chemotherapy and clearance from her doctors, she promised to walk once a month. Roy, Noelia, his wife, and their family want to thank God for the strength he gave them to endure.
“We will always walk to the San Juan Shrine, and this journey of faith will never end. I hope my children continue this tradition and they reach 100 years and beyond,” Roy finalized.