Walk for peace: From Pharr to San Juan, dozens join 2nd annual Caminata de la Paz

Pilgrims pray while walking behind an image of the Virgin Mary from the St. Jude Catholic Church to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle during the Caminata de la Paz on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018, in Pharr. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

 

FRED RAMOS | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR

“And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.” — Genesis 15:15

Dozens of the faithful battled the chilly December wind Saturday to show their support for peace. They walked from St. Jude Catholic Church in Pharr to the Basilica in San Juan.

It was all part of the second annual Caminata de la Paz, or Walk for Peace. Myrta Tijerina, tourism manager for Pharr, organized the event. She said the goal was not to promote a political agenda, but fulfill God’s commandment.

“We want to be better human beings and we want to be conscious about peace,” said Tijerina “We want to be tolerant of other people and their beliefs. There’s nothing radical about the event. We just want to promote peace.”

Tijerina said the Christmas season is the appropriate time to conduct a walk for peace. “Yes, this is a time to do something good. It’s a good time,” Tijerina said.

Families gathered together and recited prayers as they prepared for the walk along the streets of Pharr to San Juan. They were tightly bundled in their winter clothes, and began their slow march behind a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Father Jorge Gomez acted as spiritual guide for the Walk for Peace. He said the message of peace is an eternal message.

“We need peace. And I think we should show our politicians that we support peace,” Gomez said. “Violence is all over, so we need to walk for justice so we can get peace.”

The word “peace” is mentioned 429 times in the King James version of the Holy Bible. Gomez says peace is a fundamental part of Christian worship.

“We begin Mass with the words, ‘Peace, may the Lord be with you,’ and then we end with, ‘go in peace.’ We are getting close to Christmas when the Prince of Peace was born, so this is a perfect time for a walk for peace.”

The walkers received a police escort as they crossed the back roads and grew closer to the San Juan Basilica. They clutched their hymnals in their hands as they sang the words to “Ave Maria.”

One of the walkers was Carlos Yat, a recent immigrant from Guatemala. He arrived in the United States 15 days ago. He was forced to leave his family behind while he seeks a better life in America. Speaking in Spanish, Yat said he hopes peace will arrive soon and suffering will come to an end.

“Those of us that are immigrants, we are grateful that we are here. God bless.” Yat said. “Also, thank you to the Virgin Mary because she is the mother of Jesus. My feet are tired from the walk but God helps us all, not just me.”

Sister Norma Pimentel offered a special prayer as walkers arrived near the steps of the San Juan Basilica. They gathered near her as they listened to her comforting message.

“Thank you to God for allowing us to complete this walk for peace. God help us to live in love and peace,” Pimental said. Parishoners applauded the prayer and shouted “Bravo, bravo!”

Walkers were all smiles as they took pictures and congratulated each other for completing the walk. Mission resident Letty Flores said she is grateful she could take part in the Walk for Peace.

“Peace is important for mankind,” said Flores. “We need a peaceful society, and a peaceful government so people can live in peace. But this is not about politics. This is about giving thanks to God, and asking for his support in many areas of our lives.”

Many of the children who took part in the walk ran and played while others sat and relaxed on park benches on the grounds of the Basilica. But their mission was not yet complete. Gomez would lead Mass shortly with an important sermon for the faithful — work for peace and pray for justice.