Letter to Bishop Kicanas regarding disrespect for veteran during funeral mass

This letter was sent to Bishop Kicanas on
To: Ask a Mexican!

Dear Ask a Mexican,

I was wondering if what I experienced happens everywhere in the South West.

Barrio Hollywood, by La Corua.

Last week, Friday, November 20th, I attended a funeral mass for my Tio (Uncle), who passed away. Throughout the mass I was thinking about the Church we were all sitting in; St. Margaret’s Catholic Church in Tucson Arizona.

St. Margaret’s is located in the Heart of “Barrio Hollywood” one of the oldest Mexican American communities in Tucson – just like many other Barrios scattered throughout the southwest. Faces of the old and young, generation after generation; gathered to say our last good byes.

I was thinking that this was not only where my Uncle married my Tia (Aunt), but that this was also where my parents were married. I was also thinking about the fact that this is the same neighborhood where my Father was raised almost 75 years ago. I could picture the old neighborhood with children playing barefoot in the streets; the families and friends gathered together for different occasions, my Grandparents driving a model –T, the schools that these children attended and so on. The respect that our people had for each other back in the day and of all the cultural history just found in this one Church.

The ”highlight” of the funeral was when the eulogy was over and the priest said, “This is why we do not have eulogies….they take up time… we are running late… they are waiting at the cemetery”.

Let me mention that there was not going to be a eulogy in the first place until one of the nephews asked the priest about having one!

I ask myself now, did the priest think there was no one who had anything to say about my Tio, who was now resting? The priest was not only arrogant when asked this question, but also looked surprised. Was it not important to talk about and pay respects to a man who had served in WWII, Korea and during the Vietnam era? Was it not important to know about what a special person he was and what he meant to his family? Besides rolling his eyes when the Mariachi was playing and making an insulting and culturally disparaging comment in front of everyone including my parents, my sisters, my cousins, my Aunts and Uncles and the other hundreds who filled the church and who came to pay their last respects.

Is this the way the Catholic Church operates these days? I guess the priest was more worried about running late, and that the cemetery was going to have to pay extra for its workers? Or was this just an ignorant and brainless priest? Does he need some sensitivity training?

Had this funeral taken place during the extreme summer heat of the desert, where would the eulogy have taken place?

I ask this one question – does the church belong to the people? I thought the people made the church.

In addition, if we as Native Mexican American/Chicano people want to play Mexican American music at the church, what business is it of the priest or Bishop which Mexican songs we play for our dead relative? The reason I ask if this is the type of service we get from the Catholic Church is because of the fact that the Spanish entered the South West in 1545 – over four hundred and fifty years ago! Therefore, we posses our own linguistic, cultural and historical integrity as a result of the miscegenation between the Spaniards and different Native American Nations – and this is how we are treated? No wonder people change religion!

Finally, I would like to know what actions the Bishop will take after reading this letter. I hope that it will not be similar to the inept response I received this past June that did not answer my question on the position of the Catholic Church in regards to the Senate Bill 1108 attack on ethnic studies which would have removed Mexican American Studies from the Arizona School curriculum? Had I found my large mariachi sombrero and a saguaro to have leaned up upon; I guess I would not have had the time to write this letter.

Ask a Mexican! What do you think?

Happy Holidays,

Enrique J. Vega
Graduate – Salpointe Catholic High School
Veteran – United States Marine Corps
Graduate – University of Arizona