I recently heard about a new Catholic mission being built somewhere outside Pahrump. It caught my interest, as this mission was rumored to have relics of a saint, as well as an impressive new cemetery. I looked into it and had the opportunity to meet with Randy Dizon, whose family owns and operates the St. Therese Mission of Old Spanish Trail.
As it turns out, the mission has an office in Henderson, which is where I met Randy, the president of the Dizon family owned Magnificat Ventures Corporation. (Both Magnificant Ventures and the non-profit mission are owned and operated by the Dizon family.) The mission itself lies just over the California border on the Tecopa turnoff from the SR 160 (it is about eight miles from the intersection.) While I would like to see the mission, I thought it best to meet up with Randy at his office and get the background information before making the pilgrimage.
Randy says that the mission’s aim is to make it into a place that is as much for the living as for the dead. While St. Therese Mission is the only Catholic cemetery in the Las Vegas area, it is much more than just a graveyard. A visitor center is planned for the complex that will host everything from art exhibits to concerts. A playground for the children and a dog run are also in the works.
St. Therese was chosen as the patron saint of the mission because of the deep connection the Dizon family feels with her. It all began when the family matriarch prayed to St. Therese to help her choose her husband. It was revealed to her that the sign to look for was white roses. Soon after, she received her sign when one of her suitors stopped to get her flowers on his way to meet her. However, the flower shop had already run out of red roses. They had only white, so her future husband Rafael bought them and gave them to her. The rest is history.
Later, the father had colon cancer and had a section of his colon removed. He had complications and almost died, but survived.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux was a French Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church, who is known for her philosophy of the “Little Flowers.” Her emphasis was on small works instead of great deeds. It is this simplicity that makes her one of the most popular and relatable Catholic saints in the world. She is also one of the most recent, having lived in the late 19th century.
The mission is planning to have a relic of St. Therese installed once the diocese approves it. The parents of the saint are also in the process of being canonized, and the mission will have some of their relics installed as well.
Being on the Old Spanish Trail, the Dizons feel that St. Therese Mission has a connection to the Spanish missions of the southwest. The architect, Dr. Bob Fielden, modelled the mission off of the Mission San Xavier del Bac in Arizona. The Dizons are planning to have a café on site, O! Bistro, that will serve Spanish colonial dishes made from produce grown at the mission. The chapel at St. Therese Mission holds regular services every Sunday morning. They also have special services for holidays and are available for special events such as weddings and funerals. They are under the Diocese of Fresno.
In lieu of the traditional model, the St. Therese Mission cemetery is actually a series of columbaria, or small alcoves for the permanent internment of cinerary urns. They have both indoor and outdoor options and offer family plots for up to 25 people. The family plots are outdoors in a garden setting and surround a beautiful statue of Saint Therese. The indoor mausoleum features an ornate statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are two additional buildings and more outdoor plots planned for the future, to be opened as the current spaces fill up. They are also one of the only family owned cemeteries in Southern Nevada. Although it is a Catholic cemetery, anyone can choose to be interned there regardless of their religious affiliations.
There are three entities involved in the operation of the complex—the diocese which operates the chapel; the cemetery which is owned by a separate company (Magnificat Ventures Corporation); and the non-profit organization St. Therese Mission that operates the rest of the complex. Essentially, the sales from the cemetery fund the rest of the mission.
The entire mission complex aims to be as environmentally friendly as possible. All of the trees and shrubbery are desert-friendly and use minimal water. Solar paneling is planned to be installed on the roof of the chapel.
The mission has a sister church, The Shrine of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, in Manila in the Philippines, where the organization began. The Shrine is one of the largest buildings in Manila and one of the first buildings you will see when landing in the airport due to their close proximity.
The location of the mission is an interesting coincidence. When driving to the mission from Las Vegas or Pahrump, one must pass by the site of the now forgotten Cathedral Canyon (of which I have written about before). The St. Therese Mission is only about three miles away from the canyon, in fact.
The wild, desolate landscape inspires introversion and self-reflection. It gives one the feeling of kinship with the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers of the Egyptian deserts in the early years of Christianity. The biblical prophets and Jesus himself spent extended periods in deserts just like this one. Even the Islamic visitor may feel a sense of connection with the desert of which their Prophet was born to. If nothing else, there is an undeniable sacredness to this part of the desert.
I have not made the journey out to see the mission yet, but I do plan to do so in the near future. I will undoubtedly write a follow up with pictures once I do. Even though I am not a Christian, I do have a penchant for religious imagery, and I feel that the Dizon family is doing something special out there.
The mission's exact location can be found HERE
The mission's official webpage is: sttheresemission.com
The official webpage for the location in the Philipines is: therese.ph
***There is an HIV center in Las Vegas that also bears St. Therese’s name. They are not affiliated with the mission. St. Therese is the patron saint of HIV/AIDS, so it is not surprising that she would be the saint the HIV center would take their name from.***