Tag Archives: mexico

Easy rider – had everything but God


For one thing, Mudd learned he was only as good as the horse he was riding. The fact that he could win good prize money one weekend, and then go a month without winning anything else, also kept him humble.

But if anything, his two years of competing professionally in rodeos showed Mudd that he was going to have to work twice as hard as some of the bigger and stronger competitors who excelled in that physically demanding sport.

“People were saying, “Man, if you were bigger, you’d be winning a ton of money.” But I’m not, this is how God made me. Mudd, 54, grew up in Louisiana wanting to do nothing other than rodeo from the time his father put him on a horse at about four years old.

Mudd left the professional rodeo circuit after a couple of years and became a salesman. He used the insights he gained from his rodeo years to build a successful sales and business career, but he was angry at God.

Slipping downward

“I wasn’t winning, and rodeo was all I knew. It was my identity,” said Mudd, who grew up in a Catholic home where his mother taught him and his siblings their prayers, and always made sure the family went to Mass on Sundays.

Even as a teenager, Mudd said he felt a close relationship with God and enjoyed going to church. But over the years, as the rodeo trophies piled up and life’s responsibilities increased with marriage and a business career, Mudd said he lost sight of the big picture.

He woke up one afternoon, hung over from a party the night before. He walked to the bathroom to wash his face and saw his reflection in the mirror.

“‘I saw a man in the mirror I despised,” Mudd said. “I knew my momma raised me better than this.”

Alone before God

That low moment — hitting rock bottom as it’s known in recovery circles — led to Mudd realizing he was an alcoholic. He didn’t know it at the time, but it was the first step on a journey that would lead him to a conversion experience, spawned from spending time before the Blessed Sacrament. The path would lead Mudd to rededicate himself to the Catholic faith and to pour his energies into apostolic endeavors like leading retreats, speaking at parishes, and building chapels in Mexico. He joined Legatus and had become a founding member of its Lake Charles Chapter.

But ultimately, Mudd learned that as a husband and a father, God had given him a vocation and that becoming a loving, attentive husband and father was his true path to holiness and salvation. “The things I’ve been able to do are all because of God,” said Mudd, who has been married to his wife, Kelly, for 29 years. They have three daughters, two of whom are now married, and three grandchildren, including one on the way.

Mudd and Kelly were high school sweethearts back in the late 1980s growing up in Creole, located in Southwest Louisiana.

Hooked on rodeo

One of Mudd’s earliest memories is being about four years old on a horse, working cattle with his father until they made money. One day, his father put him in a horse show, where he won a few ribbons and buckles.

“I was hooked,” said Mudd, who grew up competing in rodeos. In high school, he was a state and national rodeo champion. So was Kelly, who in high school won a national all-around rodeo title.

“That’s how I started relating success, through the rodeo, that if you work hard at it, you’d win a prize,” Mudd said.

He and Kelly went on to college. She graduated with her degree, but he quit halfway through to pursue rodeo full-time. He turned professional when he was about 23. He competed as a steer wrestler, an event where he would ride alongside the steer, jump off his horse, grab the steer by the horns and slide before throwing it down.

Mudd was a good competitor, but not having the size or strength of top-level rodeo athletes led him to leave the professional world after a couple of years. It was a moment he did not expect.

Humbled and hungover

“Rodeo is a humbling sport,” Mudd said. “It’s not like football or basketball where you sign a multimillion-dollar contract. In rodeo, you get what you win, so if you’re not winning, you’re not eating.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do now? I had no college education. I had no trade,” Mudd said.

But what he did have was a rock-solid work ethic that he had developed through his father’s example and from his experiences in rodeo. He went into car sales, and started a waste management company in his late 20s that he later sold to a corporation. He bought a small oilfield heavy construction company and built it into a successful enterprise.

Along the way, however, Mudd said he developed a drinking problem. The nights partying in college and on the rodeo circuit grew to the point that he estimates he was drinking 16 to 20 nights a month.

“We’d drink and have a good ole’ time,” Mudd said.

The drinking led to that midafternoon where Mudd woke up with his wife not in bed; she had left the casino hotel where they were staying that weekend after he got pretty drunk the night before and passed out.

Lasso from the Lord

Deciding to become sober, Mudd said he was sleepless one night when he decided to drive to the church to pray, but found it was locked. He walked around the building until he found that the door to the parish Adoration chapel was open. He sat to the side of the Blessed Sacrament. He felt at peace when he left the chapel, and kept coming back.

God used that Adoration chapel like a lasso to bring Mudd deeper into the life of the Church and his calling as a Catholic man. He went on retreats, and built churches and chapels in Mexico. He went on a pilgrimage to Italy in 2010, where in Assisi he met Tom Monaghan, who told him about Legatus.

As his faith journey progressed, Mudd’s understanding of his vocation also deepened. Growing up, his father was a hard worker and good provider, but left the family spiritual guidance to his wife. That was Mudd’s approach early on in his own marriage.

“I wasn’t much of a spiritual leader at all,” said Mudd. Misplaced priorities, even in the early years of his renewed faith journey, led him to miss out on his daughter winning a beauty pageant, because he was on a retreat.

Today, Mudd still takes part in activities like church-building projects in Mexico, but he makes sure they do not interfere with family life at home. He retired from his business career last year and is thinking about opening a horse ranch to help men in recovery from substance abuse addiction.

Regardless of what he does next, Mudd said God and his family will always come first.

“You can’t give what you don’t have. That’s what I’ve learned on this whole journey,” Mudd said. “I’m just blessed.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Autumn faith journeys

Last fall’s two pilgrimages, to Mexico in September and Italy in October, took Legates on intimate faith-intensifying tours of Marian apparition sites, miraculous images, renowned cathedrals, saints’ hometowns and modern-day families, Vatican treasures, and a private audience with Pope Francis.

Legatus’ spiritual expeditions are an unparalleled immersion for enhancing appreciation for the greatest ambassadors for Christ, and the extraordinary “meetings” of heaven and earth throughout salvation history.

The September 22-25 Mexico pilgrimage featured visits to the world-famous Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe – the most visited shrine in Christendom – and the correlating site of the Virgin Mary’s 16th-century apparitions to St. Juan Diego in Guadalupe (whose tilma displaying her miraculous image is prominently displayed in the Shrine). Also included was a tour of Mexico City, and visit to the Sisters of Mary’s Girlstown for underprivileged girls.

Legatus executive director Stephen Henley was overcome by the experience.

“The pilgrimage to Mexico City is one like I have never had. At the beginning of the trip, we saw the tilma of Juan Diego, the world’s only apparition-result we can still see. We see the faith and love of the people of Mexico. Then we see the fruits of the apparition when we visit Girlstown (Chalco, MX) where we see the joy and love of the Virgin Mary exuded by 3,500 girls. It is breathtaking and such an emotionally uplifting experience.”

Sharon and Steve Booma of the Jacksonville Chapter were captivated and penned this note of thanks to Tom Sullivan, one of the pilgrimage’s group leaders.

“We’ve been thinking about our Mexico trip and thank you for encouraging us to go. The expression of faith that we felt at the cathedral, the basilica — everywhere — was at times overwhelming. The purity and innocence we saw on the girls’ faces at Mass in Girlstown was so sincere — it was obvious that they love God. What a gift to be there! Our Lord and Our Blessed Mother were/are indeed present.”

Monsignor Robert J. Panke, rector of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, D.C. and among the pilgrimage’s accompanying priests, said, “It was such a wonderful and grace-filled experience to celebrate Mass at Girlstown and see the extraordinary work begun by Father Al [Girlstown founder, the late Venerable Fr. Aloysius Schwartz] and continued by the sisters. It had a profound effect on me and the others.”

A late-October, 10-day sacred-art-and sites pilgrimage to Italy, during the most enjoyable season to visit, was divided between the country’s spectacular northern areas beginning in Milan, and finalizing in Rome. Premier hotels – such as Milan’s Excelsior Hotel Gallia, and Rome’s Westin Excelsior – offered unparalleled respite and meals for Legates in each locale, as did renowned restaurants and exclusive al fresco dining. The group also enjoyed carefree, authentic shopping intervals.

Launching with a visit to Leonardo DaVinci’s “Last Supper” painting at the Santa Maria della Grazie convent in Milan, the Legatus tour group also ventured to the nearby Basilica of St. Ambrose and Milan Cathedral (dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity). St. Ambrose’s relics were exposed for veneration and his basilica – one of Milan’s most ancient churches – was consecrated by Ambrose himself in the late 4th century. Noted art-historian Liz Lev primed the group beforehand with a presentation on the Last Supper as part of an overview of DaVinci’s art and its meaning. A trip to Magenta and Mesero, where St. Gianna Beretta Molla was born and raised, featured a personalized tour by her daughter, Gianna Emanuela (also a physician, like her mother). Included were churches and schools that St. Gianna attended regularly, as well as the house where she was born, and the one where she lived while married to her husband, Pietro.

A private cruise and wine-tasting lunch on Lake Como, nestled along the foothills of the Alps, featured a visit to the town of Bellagio with its formal lakeside villas and landscapes, narrow shop-lined cobblestone streets, Mass at St. James Church in Como, and a visit to the Cathedral of Como.

The group headed south for its final five days in Rome, which featured visits to St. Peter’s Basilica with guided tours by Liz Lev; private tours of Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, and of ancient Christian Rome; the papal gardens; a special Italian cooking class; and a driving excursion to Castel Gondolfo at Lake Albano – the summer lakeside residence of the pope. The finale of the trip was a private meeting with Pope Francis.

And the Legate-pilgrims’ endorsements for the trip say even more.

Steve and Liz Crawford, San Antonio Chapter, said, “There were so many special moments, it is hard to name one. We saw fantastic behind the scenes things and had amazing guides give context to it …it made all the difference in the world. We highly recommend everyone do this at least once!”

“This was a first-class experience,” said Bill and Nancy Stemper of the Philadelphia Chapter. “We had outstanding care, and such a passionate and knowledgeable chaplain in Fr. Joe Fox to enrich our learning. Experiencing Catholic-Italian sites with a small group of like-minded Catholics … made this a pilgrimage, not a sightseeing tour. And we never could have imagined experiencing Pope Francis ‘up close and personal.’”

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s managing editor.

Legates Trek to México

Even though it’s been nearly 500 years since Our Lady appeared to St. Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill, her appeal — and her message — have not diminished with time. For that matter, neither has the miraculous image she left on Juan Diego’s cloak in December of 1531.

Tom and Glory Sullivan of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter pose with students from Girlstown

Tom and Glory Sullivan of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter pose with students from Girlstown

For the 56 pilgrims on the fourth annual Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to México, the two-day experience also left an indelible mark on their hearts and souls.

“I’m seeing the same image that they saw nearly 500 years ago, and that can’t be said for any other apparition,” Troy King, a member of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter who made the pilgrimage with his wife Christy and three of their children, said of the Oct. 21-24 pilgrimage.


The pilgrimage was the brainchild of Tom and Glory Sullivan, members of Legatus’ Jacksonville Chapter. The couple has been traveling to México for decades to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and a remarkable girls’ school called Villa de los Niñas. Legatus teamed up with The Papal Foundation to launch the pilgrimage in 2013.

Legates’ first stop was the México City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, one of the oldest and largest Catholic cathedrals in the Americas. The cathedral was built in sections from 1573 to 1813, and consecrated in 1656.

Next on the itinerary was an entire afternoon at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. After viewing Juan Diego’s tilma, which bears the miraculous image of Our Lady, pilgrims climbed Tepeyac Hill where a chapel marks the first of four Marian apparitions. The group attended a special Mass on the hill celebrated by Fr. Edward Filardi; Fr. Bill Byrne, chaplain of Legatus’ DC Chapter, concelebrated. Also joining the pilgrims were Legatus’ executive director Stephen Henley and his wife Krista; Legatus’ pilgrimage director Laura Sacha; Fr. Stephen Parkes, chaplain of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter; and Jim Coffey, vice president of advancement for The Papal Foundation.


Legatus pilgrims pose for a group photo at Girlstown on Oct. 23

Legatus pilgrims pose for a group photo at Girlstown on Oct. 23

On the final day, pilgrims journeyed to Chalco, east of México City, to visit Villa de los Niñas. The Sisters of Mary operate 15 boarding schools in eight countries around the world, all known as “Boystown” and “Girlstown” in English.

The schools award scholarships to students from the poorest areas of the country, based on academic performance and need. The schools’ U.S.-born founder, Monsignor Aloysius “Al” Schwartz, has been declared venerable.

Pilgrims joined the school’s 3,000 students for Sunday Mass before enjoying lunch with the sisters. The rest of the day was spent touring the campus and interacting with students.

“We’re motivated by the fact that Fr. Schwartz is a saint,” explained Glory Sullivan, who has been a Girlstown and Boystown supporter with her husband Tom for nearly 25 years. “We truly believe that the graduates of the Sisters of Mary — all 130,000 of them — are the fruits of the tilma. They are changing the world.”

Pilgrims watch Girlstown’s 3,000 students sing for them on Oct. 23

Pilgrims watch Girlstown’s 3,000 students sing for them on Oct. 23

Jim Longon, a Philadelphia Legate, was astounded by his experience. “These girls are learning how to go back and help their families and their communities. The nuns here are making leaders. Without a doubt, we’re coming back again. My wife Anne and I are already thinking, ‘Who do we bring back with us next time?’ This far exceeded our expectations.”

Additionally, a dozen pilgrims attended a pre-trip to an orphanage in Cuernavaca, México, called Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH), Spanish for “Our little brothers and sisters.” Pilgrims spent a day at the orphanage, 60 miles south of México City. NPH cares for more than 3,400 orphans — most of them desperately poor — in nine countries in Central and South America. None of NPH’s children are adopted out. They’re raised and educated onsite before being sent to college or university if they have the desire and aptitude.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.

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Junipero Serra (1713-1784 AD)

Junipero Serra

Junipero Serra

Feast Day: July 1
Beatified: September 25, 1988
Canonized: September 23, 2015

Born Miguel Jose Serra on the Spanish island of Majorca, this future saint attended a Franciscan school where his intellectual abilities caught the attention of his teachers. In 1730, he entered the Franciscan order and took the name Junipero. Ordained in 1737, Serra taught philosophy and theology until he decided in 1749 to travel to the Americas and join his fellow

Franciscans at the missionary College of San Fernando in Mexico. Upon arriving at Vera Cruz, he walked more than 200 miles to Mexico City. On the journey, he suffered a mosquito bite that left one leg swollen. He suffered difficulty walking for the rest of his life. Beginning in 1769, Serra founded 21 missions in California from San Diego to San Francisco. He baptized and confirmed thousands of Native Americans and taught them European methods of agriculture, cattle, husbandry and crafts. He died at Monterey, Calif., at the age of 70.

Serra is the patron of Serra International, a group dedicated to promoting vocations. Serra’s statue, representing the state of California, is in the U.S. Capitol Building’s National Statuary Hall. Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 and canonized by Pope Francis in 2015 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

BRIAN FRAGA is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Rafael Guizar y Valencia (1878-1938)

This heroic priest was hunted in Mexico during the persecution of the Church . . .

Rafael Guizar y Valencia

Rafael Guizar y Valencia

Feast Day: June 6
Canonized: October 15, 2006

A bold defender of the Church, Rafael Guizar y Valencia became a top target of anti-Catholic zealots when the Mexican Revolution began in 1910. To escape arrest, he took to donning different disguises, including junk dealer, doctor, and musician.

When the government ordered he be shot on sight, he escaped to the U.S. in 1915. He then served in Guatemala and Cuba, and was consecrated bishop of Veracruz, Mexico. After the Revolution, he returned in 1920 and joined the Knights of Columbus Council in Veracruz. Friendships with U.S. Knights proved beneficial to the Church in Mexico.

The regime was still anti-Church, so he founded a clandestine seminary, noting: “A bishop can do without a mitre, a crosier, and even a cathedral, but never without a seminary, because the future of his diocese depends on the seminary.”

Forced to flee Mexico again in 1927, he returned in 1929 after the Church and government reached an accord encouraged by the U.S. due to Knights’ lobbying efforts. He served as bishop until his death of natural causes. For his special attention to the material and spiritual poverty of his flock, he is called “bishop of the poor.”

MATTHEW A RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

José Luis Sánchez del Río (1913-1928)

del Río is one of the heroes of the Cristo Rey movement in the early 20th century . . .

Jose Luis Sanchez delRio

Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio

Feast Day: February 10
Beatified: November 20, 2005

“In order to go to heaven, we have to go to war,” José Luis Sánchez del Río told his parents as he joined the Cristeros, members of the Mexican church militant who fought to overthrow their country’s atheistic, Masonic government — a regime that converted churches into chicken coops and murdered priests.

When a Cristero general’s horse was killed in battle, José, a flag-bearer, insisted the man take his horse to avoid capture. He barely escaped, but José was taken. There were two ways out of prison: Deny Christ and go free — or stand faithful and die. To break his resolve, soldiers made him watch a comrade hang for the faith. Instead José encouraged the fellow, saying he would meet him in heaven.

José was ordered to the cemetery for execution. As he made a bloody trail through town — the soles of his feet had been cut off — his executioners offered to end the death march if would deny Jesus. José shouted back, “¡Viva Cristo Rey! [Long live Christ the King].”

After he forgave them and prayed for their repentance, the soldiers bayoneted the boy and the commander shot him dead.

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

Miguel Pro (1891-1927)

This heroic Cristo Rey priest gave his life for his faith during government persecution . . .

miguelproFeast Day: November 23
Beatified: September 25, 1988

Many of us often act as though we are afraid of sharing the Gospel. Miguel Pro had reason to fear, but he spread the Word anyway. Miguel was the third of 11 children born to a Mexican business executive and his wife. The family was happy and devout in its faith. However, they paid for their devotion because it came at a time of governmental persecution.

Miguel discerned a priestly vocation and was ordained in Belgium. Upon his return, he had to practice his ministry in secret. He held a retreat for mechanics dressed as a driver to avoid attention. He dressed as a street cleaner or beggar in order to visit homes incognito and administer the sacraments. He even dressed as a policeman to administer Last Rites to some condemned men.

All of this made him the government’s Public Enemy No. 1. Authorities arrested him on trumped up charges and after a kangaroo trial, sentenced him to death. That morning, he bravely walked to the place of execution, blessed his executioners, prayed, stretched out his arms like Christ on the cross, and having shouted his last words, “Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!),” received the bullets that ended his life.

BRIAN O’NEEL is a writer, husband and father of six living in southeast Pennsylvania. His latest book is “39 New Saints You Should Know.”

The value of one life

John Hunt writes about the successful Legatus-Papal Foundation pilgrimage to Mexico . . .

John Hunt

John Hunt

Our Catholic faith never fails to remind us that every life is sacred. In a country where 3,300 unborn babies are killed daily by abortion, it can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of this assault on humanity. Yet it’s important to remind ourselves of the value of one life, of every life.

The Blessed Virgin Mary made this eminently clear on Dec. 9, 1531, when she appeared to a humble Aztec Indian, St. Juan Diego, on a hill outside México City. Her message in those five apparitions was one of love and unity with all peoples whatever their state in life.

On an extraordinary weekend in September, members of Legatus and The Papal Foundation experienced this most tangible miracle at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As we moved past the miraculous tilma (cloak), my initial reaction was: “I’ve seen this image many times.” But as I returned again and again to view the image, I found myself not just looking at the image but seeing it.

This gift to one poor and simple man was also a gift to mankind for all eternity. So, while many treat the gift of life rather cavalierly, Our Blessed Mother reminds us of her enduring love for the Juan Diegos of the world — for you and me and for every human being. (Click here for a full report on the pilgrimage.)

Our pilgrimage weekend continued as we visited Villa De Los Niñas (Girlstown), a school in Chalco, outside México City. This impressive school was founded by Monsignor Aloysius “Al” Schwartz, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. His schools have prospered in the Philippines, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras, and México. Father Al died in 1992, and the Church has proclaimed him a Servant of God, and his cause for canonization progresses.

Father Al’s life clearly shows the value of “one life,” but the beauty of his ministry resides in the persons of the thousands of girls (in Girlstowns) and boys (in Boystowns) around the world. During our visit, pilgrims met 3,000 beautiful young ladies drawn from the heart of poverty in México. Under the tutelage of the Sisters of Mary, they’re invited to grow in their faith and prepare to change the culture through their education and formation.

Father Al’s vision for the elevation of the poor and his recognition of the value of one life, of every life is certainly the fulfillment of the message of Guadalupe. As Our Lady said to Juan Diego, “My little child, the smallest of all, let nothing afflict you.”

JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.

The Perfect Game

Here’s a new baseball film that comes with a faith-filled Catholic message . . .

perfectThe Perfect Game
Starring Cheech Marin, Clifton Collins Jr., Moises Arias
On DVD now.
Rated PG, 118 min.

In 1957, a barefooted, rag-tag team of boys from poverty-stricken Monterrey, Mexico, defied extraordinary odds to become the first foreign team to win a Little League World Series — doing so in a perfect game, the only one in championship history.

In fact, the team refused to play unless a priest blessed them first! Based on their true story, this film tells how their miracle changed not only their lives, but an entire city’s destiny.

Order: Amazon