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Sep 28, 2011 | Carol E. Barnwell

San Mateo Celebrates Name Day with Diverse Congregation

San Mateo Church
San Mateo parishioners represent many nations
San Mateo Alejandro
Montes was presented with a certificate of appreciation
San Mateo Dance
San Mateo parishioners danced in the parish hall

Banderas from a dozen countries fly in front of San Mateo in Southwest Houston, marking the international flavor of the Spanish-speaking congregation whose members come from Mexico and many countries in Central and South America. This was especially apparent on September 25, the church’s patron saint day when, during worship, small groups stood to sing their national anthems. When all had finished, the entire congregation rose to sing the Star Spangled Banner.


Ushers rushed to put up extra chairs as people flooded into the church and spilled over into the aisles throughout the first part of the service. Cooks, who had been in the kitchen making Salvadoran pupusas since 4:30 a.m., untied aprons as they slipped into the packed pews to worship with families carrying toddlers and babies, teens wearing their blue and white “Salvador” shirts, and abuelas (grandmothers) who kept a close eye on their children and grandchildren.


A band played original music written by Sondra Montes, the rector’s daughter, and kept the congregation engaged and joyful throughout the service. At one point, the Rev. Alejandro Montes asked anyone celebrating an anniversary or a birthday to come forward for a blessing. He walked along the full altar rail dispensing blessings for the seven year marriage of one couple, birthdays of many children and adults. He came to an elegant elderly lady surrounded by her family who said it was her birthday. “Ah,” Montes said, “Another quinceañera!”  (A quinceañera is the celebration of a 15th birthday in the Latino culture.)


The spirit of celebration spilled into the parish hall and patio after worship where tables had been set with ceviche from Peru, pupusas from Salvador, tamales from Columbia and hot dogs from the U.S.  The hot dogs did have the option of jalapeños. Dancing ensued in the parish hall as the gala lasted into midafternoon.


Click here to see a photo gallery.


San Mateo is the first Spanish-speaking congregation in the diocese (and perhaps the Episcopal Church) to become a self-supporting parish. The congregation does outreach into their community, working against gang-violence with the local police and offering Christian formation classes to their members and neighbors. Montes’s son Alex is a priest who is planting a new parish in the Manor area, east of Austin. Learn more about their ministries at:


San Mateo Pupusa
Women of San Mateo making pupusa

Pupusa Recipe



Mix the masa harina, cumin, salt and water into a dough which is soft but not sticky. Be prepared to add more flour if necessary. If it is too dry, add more water.

To make a 3 inch round papusa, take about half a cup of dough and roll it into a ball. flatten with your hand.

Put the filling in the center [in this case, cheese, cilantro, salt and pepper].

Work the edges up over the filling and again form a ball, completely enclosing the filling.

Flatten each ball to about 1/4 inch or less and cook the papusas on a hot, lightly oiled griddle for about 3 minutes per side, or until both sides are lightly browned.

Serve warm.

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