DEMING — It’s a three-day journey of hope.
Victor “Chapo” Montano and his followers are prepared for an annual walk from Deming to San Lorenzo — some 58 miles over Sonoran Desert, lush valleys and jagged rocks.
“I do it for my Jenita (wife),” Montano said in a gravelly voice.
It has become a pilgrimage for Montano over the past 33 years. Members of his family and those seeking a closer connection in faith have taken the journey. They pray for hope along the way and arrive in the Mimbres village of San Lorenzo on Sunday just in time for Mass and to participate in the Fiesta de San Lorenzo.
“I have kept this promise for 33 years, and now its time to let somebody else carry the promise,” said Montano. At 79, he set off at 5 a.m. last Thursday morning on his journey with two sons and two friends.
In 1983, Montano’s wife Marci was diagnosed with cancer. He was told a risky operation would give Marci a second chance at life, but the procedure had a 20 percent success rate.
“I took the elevator in the Las Cruces hospital, but I pressed the wrong button and wound up on the top floor,” Montano recalled on that day in 1983. “I came to a big picture window and stared out at a clear blue sky.
“This small cloud appeared to the northwest and it caught my eyes. The more I looked into this cloud, the more I could see a shape… A shape of a saint. …Maybe the Virgen de Guadalupe, or Santa Nino de Atoche… No… It was San Lorenzo.”
Chapo said he prayed looking out that window and asked for his wife’s health, with a promise that he would visit San Lorenzo every year and honor the guardian saint of Holy Catholic treasures. San Lorenzo was a third-century, Spanish-born deacon who was put to death for his Christian faith in Rome. “It’s been 33 years, and Marci is cancer free,” Chapo said with tears welling up in his eyes.
Armed with walking sticks, sleeping bags and water, his four followers accompanied Chapo on what will be his last pilgrimage to San Lorenzo.
One stop along the way will be a camp site on the late Gene Simon’s Rio de Oro Ranch. It’s in Faywood, N.M., between Deming and San Lorenzo. “We stop there, make camp, eat and sleep,” Chapo said. “We thank Libby (Gene Simon’s wife) for letting us stay there. She has been so good to us and we pray for her.”
Chapo said he will pray for the sick and for friends in despair. “We pray for all so that light may be shed for those living in darkness,” he said.
Making this year’s walk are: sons, Victor “Li’l Big BoBo” and Ruben Montano, Rogelio Baeza and Charles Ruble. Ruben is making his 27th trip and BoBo is making his first after a long incarceration.
Information from: Headlight, http://www.demingheadlight.com