My April Rocky Point Times article on the church in Cholla Bay produced an unanticipated response – did I have any pictures of the little sanctuary before the recent restoration project?
I knew I did, but it would require some research into my discombobulated photo archive. Fortunately, after an hour or so, I located the camera media card containing the older photos. I’m not exactly certain when the pictures were taken, but I believe it was about five or six years ago.
As the pictures indicate, the building was in a state of advanced deterioration; no windows or doors, dilapidated roof, missing gables and weather beaten wood trim.  The interior was equally in shambles; graffitied walls, unpainted trusses, sand and dirt covered rough cement floors, and obvious signs of animal infestation. Since the chapel wasn’t fit for any semblance of conducting worship services, the San Jose Mission continued to decline from years of neglect.
In spite of being physically beaten down, the spirit was still alive, awaiting resurrection by concerned citizens. A few attempts to revive interest in the church were unsuccessful, compelling Catholic Cholla Bay area residents, or anyone else, to drive into town to attend Mass.
Then about a year and a half ago, local congregants began in earnest to clean and repair the building.  Slow going initially, their determined efforts began to show signs of progress until finally in November of 2014, Padres from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Rocky Point conducted a bi-lingual Mass. The first in many years. Maybe, the first ever. Mass has been conducted ever since.
Interest continued to grow, with Cholla homeowners and visitors contributing whatever they could to the restoration project. Doors and windows have been installed, as has a new coat of interior and exterior latex. Decaying wood trim and roof shingles have been repaired or replaced. New pews, complements of Willie and Janet Fenderson of Pinetop, Arizona were recently installed, replacing folding chairs, buckets and cinder blocks. A refurbished altar, with appropriate religious icons, now adorns a previously vacant and vandalized area. Unpainted ceiling trusses are now painted. A single strand of electrical wire provides energy to a small cluster of overhead light bulbs. Not much, but a start on what may eventually be a total wiring of the facility.
While significant progress has been made, there is always more to do. Funds are presently being collected to provide new ceramic floor tiles to cover existing and difficult to clean concrete surfaces.
Finally, after 25 years – the church’s foundations were constructed in 1991 – the San Jose Mission now resembles its originally intended purpose. Thanks, in large part, to the tireless efforts of area volunteers, financial contributors and the local Catholic community.
San Jose Mission in Cholla Bay about 2010.