The Catholic Church
About The Catholic Church
Among the first ranchers in the New World were the Franciscan Fathers. While they came to save souls, they first had to feed bodies. They brought livestock and taught their Indian converts to handle and tend the horses, cattle, sheep and goats, and to use modern techniques to raise crops.
In 1849 the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate came to the Rio Grande from France to spread the word of God to Catholics on the scattered ranches and in little towns throughout South Texas and Northern Mexico. The priests traveled vast distances on horseback with only what they could carry in their saddlebags. They became known as the Cavalry of Christ, hearing confessions, performing marriages and baptisms, ministering to the sick and dying, and officiating at funerals before heading on to the next destination.
The generosity of the Kenedy family to the church and community began with Petra Vela and Mifflin, and continued uninterrupted through three generations. In her will, Sarita Kenedy East left the main house at La Parra and 1,100 surrounding acres to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Today, the ranch house belongs to the Missionary Oblates. Renamed Lebh Shomea, which is Hebrew for ‘Listening Heart’, it offers guests a contemplative lifestyle with no predetermined structure and no imposed schedule. Sarita’s sister-in-law, Elena Suess Kenedy, left the plantation-style ranch house where she and Johnny lived, to the Sisters of Mercy of the Incarnate Word for their use as a retreat.