Papal visit to San Antonio remembered 25 years later

Memories live on among those who saw Pope John Paul II

SAN ANTONIO - For Hermina Alvarado, the historic visit by Pope John Paul II in San Antonio on Sept. 13, 1987, seems like yesterday.


"Oh, gosh, I don't know, I felt like crying," Alvardo said Thursday.

Alvarado was among thousands of people who lined Culebra Road to get a glimpse of the pontiff.

"He was throwing holy water at the people, blessing us," Alvarado recalls.

Alvarado believes those precious moments saved her life a few weeks later.

"I was caught in a hostage incident. I was almost killed, but I survived," she said.

Unwilling to talk about the details, Alvarado said she believes it was a miracle rooted in the pope's brief blessing.

Also on Culebra Road that day was Ernestina Gomez and her 3-year-old daughter.

"It was a great feeling. I told him to throw a kiss to me. He just waved to us," Gomez said.

Gomez said as far as she's concerned, "there will never be another pope like him."

Julia Amesquita said she remembers the bus rides, followed by the long walk to the papal mass site in Westover Hills, now home to John Paul Stevens High School.

"It was beautiful. My sister was very glad," Amesquita said.

She said her sister told her then, "It makes me feel like I'm seeing Jesus."

Robert Galvan said he was at Plaza Guadalupe where Pope John Paul II also celebrated Mass on the city's West Side.

"You will never forget that feeling of seeing His Holiness," Galvan said. "For me, for the very first time, it was tremendous."

Galvan, a deacon at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church across the street from the plaza, said he was in charge of the highly sought 3,000 tickets for the event.

"It was the only place that he spoke in Spanish," Galvan said.

By doing so, Galvan said, Pope John Paul II reached beyond to Mexico and Latin America.

Galvan said he believes the pope chose to come to one of the city's poorest areas because he also was devoted to La Virgen de Guadalupe.

"Our Lady of Guadalupe has that power," Galvan said.

Galvan said he is still overcome by the thought.

"A holy man coming to San Antonio, our parish, I mean, what can you say about that?" he asked.

San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia Siller said he wishes he had been here then. At the time, Siller was in California as a young priest of his first parish, but did see Pope John Paul II when he wrapped up his U.S. tour in San Francisco.

Siller said the papal message then endures even now.

"Bilding community, the poor and social justice," Siller said.

The archbishop celebrated Mass Thursday at San Fernando Cathedral where the pope also came that day.

Siller said a statue of Pope John Paul will be erected at the Cathedral on Nov. 1, the anniversary of the pope's ordination as a priest.

To view a list of recent stories Jessie Degollado has done, click here.



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