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Worship, catechesis continue unabated at St. Ann’s-Mud Lake

The following story appeared in the April 8 Idaho Catholic Register.

During the early morning hours of July 1, 2021, a fire nearly destroyed the tiny church of Saint Ann’s at Mud Lake in eastern Idaho. Almost one year later, the community made up of families of farmers and migrant workers continues strong in their faith, fighting to rebuild their chapel. (Photo courtesy of Father Ron Wekerle)

By Vero Gutierrez

Staff Writer

Mud Lake – Almost a year after a fire destroyed St. Ann’s in Mud Lake, a mission church of Saint John Paul II Parish based in Idaho Falls, the Hispanic Catholic community remains vibrant and united. But, above all, committed, not missing celebrating the Eucharist a single Sunday since the July 1, 2021 fire, as they work on gathering the resources to rebuild their beloved chapel.

Very little was recovered from the fire, except for an image of Christ on the altar, the Paschal candle, and a statue of the Divine Child Jesus, which is currently on pilgrimage with families in the community.

This is how the crucifix looked above the tabernacle in St. Ann’s chapel after the fire consumed most of the interior. (Photo/Father Ron Wekerle)

After the fire, Father Ronald Wekerle, who was then pastor of the parish, appointed a couple from Mud Lake, Jaime, and Lina (Coco) Renova, as “godparents” to organize the community when the priest could not be present.

The first Sunday Eucharist after the fire was celebrated at the Senior Citizens Center in Mud Lake, Jaime Renova said. Firefighters from the area were invited and thanked for their service.

With the kind assistance of Shane Williams, superintendent of the West Jefferson School District, the remaining Masses and catechism classes have been held at the West Jefferson High School campus. The parish’s current pastor, Father Francisco Flores, and parochial vicar, Father Germán Ruíz, make sure Mass is celebrated there every week.

Jaime and Coco Renova say the community, made of about 40 Hispanic families, has been responding well to efforts at getting a new chapel built.

The community has put its creativity to work planning everything possible to raise money. They have sold tamales, tacos, donuts, flowers, candy, and auctioned a romantic night for two and organized a rodeo.

The community of Roberts, about 23 miles southeast of Mud Lake, has joined this work of the Catholic community of St. Ann’s, offering their support and financial resources. Roberts is a small farming community with many of its residents belonging to St. John Paul II Parish.

Coco Renova is grateful for the help St. Ann’s is receiving not only from fellow Catholics but also from other churches. Mormons and Baptists, in particular, have donated toward the restoration of the Mud Lake church.

The St. Ann’s community is still waiting to hear what they will receive from the insurance company. In the meantime, they will continue to raise funds, Jaime Renova said.

Jaime and Coco’s work to help the parish recover from the fire has had its own unique set of complications. A month ago, they had to suspend their activities due to COVID-19. During this time, they received the help of another couple who are also committed to working with the community, Nazario and Claudia Figueroa.

At left, Claudia and Nazario Figueroa, their son, Anthony, Father Germán Ruíz, parochial vicar at Saint John Paul II Parish, and Jaime and Coco Renova. (Photo/Ian Renova)

Despite those challenges, Jaime Renova said the pastoral work at St. Ann’s continues. He and Coco are currently preparing a group of 13 young men who will receive Confirmation on April 21.

The Renovas took Bible studies from the Missionaries Servants of the Word based at the Monastery of the Ascension in Jerome. “Coco and I are now transmitting this knowledge to the young people in our parish. It is wonderful to see how well they know how to handle the Bible by themselves.”

Jaime Renova arrived in the United States when he was 13 years old, which is also how old Coco was when she arrived. Both are originally from México, he from Chihuahua, and she from San Luis Potosí.

Coco is a manager at the Bank of Commerce in Mud Lake and Jaime works for a communications company. They are parents to 22-year-old twins, Ian and Evan.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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