A South Texas priest and his church are joining the fight against President Trump’s border wall plans as there's a looming possibility that one of the oldest chapels on the Texas border may end up south of the wall in "no man’s land."
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade, and yet the menace of the years, finds and shall find me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul,” said Father Roy Snipes, a pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe and La Lomita.
The peom that Father Snipes recited is "Invictus" by Willian Ernest Henley. The title comes from a Latin word meaning "unconquered," and it reflects the spirit that Father Snipes embodies as he fights for the church and the people that need his help.
If the church's walls could speak, Father Snipes says that the 150-year-old La Lomita chapel would have a lot to teach us.
“People come here to pray all the time,” he said. “I come here to pray, often at sunset. I come down with the dogs and say a prayer.”
To father Snipes and his parishioners, La Lomita (Spanish for "the little hill") is more than a place of worship or a tourist attraction. It’s a symbol representing the long friendship between communities on each side of the border, a symbol, the priest says, that could be overshadowed by a big wall.
“This old chapel is so beautiful and it means so much to so many people over so many hundreds of years," said Father Snipes when considering the prospect of his church being affected by the wall. "That's just obscene."
La Lomita sits between a levee and the Rio Grande River, just south of where Border Patrol is considering erecting Trump’s border wall.
The area is heavily monitored by agents because it’s a place where many undocumented immigrants are smuggled through.
West from La Lomita, up the levee road, is a Catholic camp ground, another location Father Snipes fears will end up in "no man’s land."
Father Snipes says that he understands if people who share his faith disagree with his views. He wants to be clear that he’s not advocating for crime.
“I don’t think people should be able to rape and steal and sell drugs to our kids. But I do think that a poor guy who needs food should get it from me,” he said. “And if I can help him work and make a little money, sure, we ought to figure out a way to do that legally.”
The 72-year-old pastor considers his values to be as strong and enduring as the chapel, a lesson taught by the good Samaritan in the Bible.
“There is a law, a higher law, that if my neighbor comes to me and needs something, and I have it, I should help him,” he said.
Father Snipes says that if the federal government ends up walling off La Lomita, the Catholic church will put up a fight and consider taking legal action.