Dozens of parishioners from Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church gave the church’s two priests an emotional sendoff Thursday.

Unable to host a farewell gathering for Father Martin Alonso Bustos Gonzalez and Father Carlos Oscar Velazquez, because of the restrictions against social gathering, the parishioners instead organized a parade of vehicles that slowly drove by the priests’ home.

Vehicles carrying parishioners formed a line at Brown Plaza about 6 p.m. Thursday, then proceeded to Cuellar Street and turned east, allowing them to pass behind the house where the priests lived, adjacent to the church.

The two priests waved at those passing by, and many parishioners slowed their vehicles to hand the two men cards and gift bags and to call out a personal farewell.

Karla Torres, coordinator of the children’s choir at the church, was one of the organizers of the event.

“Our priests are getting ready to say goodbye to us. The tradition is that we say goodbye through a Mass at the church and a gathering at the church gym afterward, but since we can’t gather because of the pandemic, we just decided to do a little parade to pass by their house to let them know they are loved and will be greatly missed,” Torres said.

“They’re missionaries, so they get changed fairly often, and whenever they are called, they have to go and follow the call, so in this case, they’re done here, and they did a great job, and if they’re no longer needed here, that means that they did an excellent job, but they will be missed,” she added.

Torres said she has been an active member of the Our Lady of Guadalupe congregation for 12 years and credits the church and the departing priests with bringing her closer to God and a more active spirituality.

“The church, the congregation, I was just a Sunday kind of person, and through them, I learned to get a little bit more involved, to the extent of helping coordinate activities throughout the year, such as the Jamaica and Christmas activities, a party for the Maria Nina congregation the priests represent in Guanajuato, Mexico.

“My kids grew up in the church. My baby was there before she was born; she’s 11 now, almost 12. All my kids did their sacraments there. I got married through the church there. The priests put the spirit back into our lives, and it’s the same for many families I know,” Torres said.

Ana Briones, the church’s youth coordinator, who has been a member of the Our Lady of Guadalupe community for 15 years, agreed.

“Letting go of our priests is something really hard, especially during this very hard time. They’ve been with is for almost six years, and we’ve grown very close to them because of the sincere love that they give us, as well as the support, and they’ve done so much for our community,” Briones said.

“I have six children, and they have baptized every single one of them. They have done their sacraments with them, and we have been blessed to have a close relationship with them as friends,” Briones said.

“They’re great men, with great hearts, so humble. I am very sorry to see them go, especially this way, when not everyone will be able to say their goodbyes,” she added.

Briones said a priest has been selected to succeed the two departing priests.

“He should be here at the parish next week,” she said.

Briones added the new priest will be assisted by Father Jaime Paniagua, of St. Joseph Catholic Church.

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