La Lomita Chapel
La Lomita Chapel
La Lomita Chapel in 2014
|Location||3 miles south of Expressway 83 on FM 1016, Mission, TX 78572|
|NRHP reference #||75002165|
La Lomita Chapel is a historic Catholic chapel in Mission, Texas. It was once an important site for the Cavalry of Christ, a group of priests who traveled long distances on horseback to minister to Catholics living on isolated ranches along the Rio Grande. In 2018 it became the subject of a dispute between the United States government and the Catholic Church due to its location in the path of President Donald Trump's proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
The site was first named La Lomita ("the hillock") by a rancher, José Antonio Cantu, who was granted the land by Spain in 1770. In 1851, a French merchant named René Guyard purchased the land. A devout Catholic, Guyard built the chapel in 1865, and in 1871 bequeathed it to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Located between the Brownsville and Roma missions, La Lomita became an important stop for the Cavalry of Christ; it served some 65 area ranches, and traveling missionaries often stopped there to rest.
The area developed into a village as the Oblate Fathers constructed a rectory, a guest house, a blacksmith shop, a buggy shed, and quarters for the lay brothers and laborers in what is now La Lomita Historic District. Following a flood in 1899, the chapel was rebuilt with stones from the surrounding hillside. When the city of Mission, Texas, was founded in 1908, it was named in honor of La Lomita. The chapel was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1964, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. In 2010, a team of consultants was hired to restore the building; the project won a TSA Design Award and was featured in Texas Architect magazine.
Professor Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov has suggested that La Lomita chapel, along with several other small, parapet-gabled buildings in the region, were designed by the noted French-American priest and architect Pierre Yves Kéralum: "Father Keralum had the expertise, background, and mobility to achieve a substantial implantation of the Atlantic European roof type. Moreover, some related features such as gable-end shed rooms and table or bed outshots are also known in Breton folk architecture." Today, according to a local guidebook, La Lomita stands "—small and humble, cared for and preserved—marking the important role it played in the history of the area."
Border wall dispute
In October 2018, the United States Border Patrol filed a federal lawsuit to seize the land surrounding the chapel and begin surveying for a border fence. The pastor, Roy Snipes, and his bishop, Daniel E. Flores, oppose the project, and the Brownsville diocese has tried to put a stop to it in court. In December 2018, the Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP) filed a brief in support of the diocese. The construction as planned would cut off access to the church, which would be on the Mexican side of the fence. Moreover, according to Flores, the entire border wall project is "contrary to Catholic principles of the universality of human relations."
Access by government surveyors
At a hearing in McAllen, Texas, on February 6, 2019, U.S. District Judge Randy Crane said that the diocese must allow surveyors onto the grounds. The diocese is hoping that once the survey is completed, the government will reconsider its plan to seize the land. If not, the diocese plans to assert its rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law that prohibits the government from placing a "substantial burden" on the practice of religion. According to Mary McCord, a Georgetown University ICAP attorney representing the diocese, "a physical barrier that cuts off access to the chapel, and not only to Father Roy and his parish but those who seek to worship there, is clearly a substantial burden on the exercise of religious freedom."
Federal appropriations bill
In February 2019, Congress amended an existing appropriations bill, adding language that specifically prohibits new funding from being used to build border barriers at La Lomita and several other properties, including the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, the National Butterfly Center, and the area "within or east of" the Vista del Mar Ranch tract of the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Soon afterwards, President Trump declared a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States, and the White House Counsel claimed that the restrictions contained within the annual appropriations law did not apply. As a result, the status of La Lomita and the other protected sites is still in question. On May 24, 2019, a federal judge temporarily blocked the Trump administration's plan to divert funds not explicitly appropriated by Congress. However, on June 3, another federal judge denied a request by the House of Representatives to temporarily block spending on the wall.
Locals have held several demonstrations in support of La Lomita. On Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019, over a thousand parishioners held a procession from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to the chapel. After the procession, Snipes was nominated for an award by Catholic Extension, a national fundraising organization that supports poor mission dioceses across the country.
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Hidalgo County, Texas
- Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks in Hidalgo County
- "La Lomita Chapel". City of Mission. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- "A cowboy priest battles to protect 153-year-old Texas chapel from a border fence". L.A. Times. January 30, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- "La Lomita Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- "Cavalry of Christ". Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- Mcilvain, Myra H. (May 4, 2012). "Oblate Fathers of the Rio Grande". MyraHMcIlvain.com. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- "Details for La Lomita Chapel (Atlas Number 5215002997)". Texas Historic Sites Atlas.
- "Asset Detail: La Lomita Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Allex, Michael E. (September 2010). "La Lomita Chapel" (PDF). Texas Architect: 48–51.
- Jordan, Terry G. (1988). "A Gabled Folk House Type of the Mexico-Texas Borderland". Yearbook (Conference of Latin Americanist Geographers). 14: 4–5. JSTOR 25765691.
- Christensen, Pixie (2016). Lone Star Steeples: Historic Places of Worship in Texas. Texas A&M University Press. p. 140. ISBN 9781623493936.
- "Georgetown Law helps Texas diocese fight border wall". Crux. January 30, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2019.
- "A tiny chapel — and a law beloved by evangelicals — might stand in the way of Trump's wall". Yahoo News. February 12, 2019.
- "Judge says Catholic Church must allow access to La Lomita Chapel property for border wall survey". Progress Times. February 6, 2019.
- "Butterfly Center, Chapel Spared in Bill Funding New Border Barrier in Rio Grande Valley". Rivard Report. February 14, 2019.
- "CONFERENCE REPORT [To accompany H.J. Res. 31]" (PDF). U.S. House of Representatives.
- Jeremy Raff (February 24, 2019). "Trump's Border Wall Threatens the La Lomita Chapel". The Atlantic.
- Kendall, Brent; Radnofsky, Louise (May 25, 2019). "Federal Judge Blocks Trump's Border-Wall Plans" – via www.wsj.com.
- Thomsen, Jacqueline (June 3, 2019). "Judge rejects House Democrats' attempt to block Trump use of military funds for border wall". The Hill. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
- "Procession shows support for Texas chapel at center of border wall plan". Crux. Catholic News Service. April 18, 2019.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to La Lomita Chapel.|
- "South Texas priest saves chapel, works to help immigrants". Longview News-Journal. May 25, 2019.
- "La Lomita in the shadows: A photo story". The Monitor. February 10, 2019.
- on YouTube