|Updated: 3/19/2012 8:29 am
||Published: 3/18/2012 7:27 pm
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Sunday, in his final mass before his six day trip to Mexico and Cuba, Pope Benedict the XVI asked for prayers for the visit. It is a trip a Little Rock priest will also make thanks to a surprise donation from the parishioners at Saint Edward Catholic Church. Father Jason Tyler told FOX16 on Sunday why his church members really feel it's important for him to go to Mexico.
"In early January, I found out that Pope Benedict was not only going to Mexico, but actually was going to the State of Guanajuato which is where a lot of our immigrants from Mexico have come from. And, since I'm the pastor of church that has a large hispanic population, I was interested in this possibility of going to see the pope," says Father Jason Tyler.
So, Father Tyler started asking parishioners about Mexico.
"Many of them were saying things like oh, it's really nice, you ought to go. We wish we could go but we can't because of work or because of our document status or whatever else. We would love for you to go," he recalls.
But, Father Tyler couldn't find a place to stay and the flights were too expensive. Little did he know, a secret collection was already underway. When parishioners found out Pope Benedict was making the trip to Mexico, they started collecting money right away.
At the end of a mass, parishioners presented Tyler with two-thousand dollars for a flight to Mexico.
"What's going through your mind as this is all happening? I mean, it must have been hard to control your emotions," said FOX16's Kelly Dudzik.
"Sure. It was. I mean, going through my mind, first and foremost, surprise. Total surprise of saying how is this happening? What the heck is going on here? Beyond that, just an overwhelming sense of gratitude," says Tyler.
"Normal working people saving their money up, to, you know, give a trip to our favorite, like he's my favorite priest, and it's something really special," says parishioner Celina Reyes-Vasquez.
"It was all the more moving to have a gift like that come, knowing that is came a little bit from a large number of people and meant something significant to them personally," says Tyler.
Three-million people are expected to see the pope in Mexico.
Father Tyler will keep his parish posted during his trip online, and he will also do a big presentation when he gets back. And forget trying to get a hotel, Tyler will stay with the relatives of families from Little Rock.