Day Trips: Mission, Texas

Border wall to cut off sacred ground

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

La Lomita Mission sat for more than 100 years a short distance from the Rio Grande before it came to the nation's attention. Additions to the current federal budget exempted the mission and several other valley landmarks from the effects of the border wall, at least for now.

First erected in 1865 and then rebuilt in 1899 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the chapel has served generations of parishioners living in the rugged land outside of Mission. The Catholic order founded in France was a group of circuit-riding padres who visited the ranches along the Rio Grande between Brownsville and Roma beginning in 1849. The religious order was gifted a large ranch along the river that they intended to use to support their ministry. Most of the land was sold in 1907 to developers of the town of Mission. Only the chapel remains of the small settlement on the river.

Over the years, the plaster walls of the chapel – the size of a small one-car garage – have been maintained as a holy shrine. A small city park sits next to the building that gave the town its name. The meandering Rio Grande cuts a horseshoe bend a short walk from the chapel. The faithful still come to the small altar to light candles for loved ones.

The federal spending bill might exempt La Lomita Chapel, but neighboring homes and businesses on Levee Road will be affected. Other properties exempted are the National Butterfly Center and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, and land earmarked for Elon Musk's SpaceX commercial spaceport outside of Brownsville.

La Lomita Chapel is three miles south of Highway 83 in Mission, off FM 1016. Open to the public during daylight hours, admission is free.

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La Lomita Mission, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, National Butterfly Center, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park

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