Francisco Valencia Saucedo is turning to faith and community in the face of unfathomable tragedy.

On Feb. 20, Francisco, 21, his father, Pedro Valencia, 58, mother, Rosa Valencia Saucedo, 59, and brother Jose Angel Valencia Saucedo, 22, were involved in a suspected DUI car crash that resulted in the death of his father, mother and only sibling. The close-knit family were well known in their Barstow community and were faithful parishioners of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Lenwood.

“None of us know when it’s our last day, none of us know when it’s our time… but I also felt like my family knew it was their time… my duty is to just console… like I said at the end of Mass in the Eulogy, ‘to keep your head up high, to pray for my family, cry for them, but also to remember them as they were. To never forget them,’” Francisco says.

The family typically attended the Saturday evening Mass at St. Philip Neri. Pedro and Rosa served as sacristans and often made themselves available to help with other parish ministries. Veronica Saiz, the parish secretary, remembers Pedro would call the parish every week to offer his help with anything that the parish might need.

The last Mass Francisco attended with his family was Ash Wednesday on Feb. 14.

“Me and my mother sat toward the front,” Francisco recalls. “My mother read part of the readings that day, my dad always helped with the altar servers but also helped to the best of his ability that everything went accordingly. They both offered to minister the ashes to everyone. It just felt like their duty to do that, it brought them joy.”

Pedro was born in May 1965 in Mexico City, Mexico. Rosa was born in January 1965 in Pénjamo, Guanajuato, Mexico. The two met at a party in Mexico City when they were in their mid-30s.
“They knew that they were meant for each other,” Francisco says. “They instantly hit it off, close to one year after [they met] they got married.”

Francisco says his parents were soulmates because they were almost opposites of each other, which brought and kept them together.

“My dad was the calm one, and my mom had so much energy. You know, it’s like when you try to find your soulmate, a lot of people even say that opposites attract, and I feel like that is true.”

Soon after Pedro and Rosa got married, they had their first-born, Jose, in November 2001. Francisco came next, in January 2003. The family moved to the United States in 2006, first in Arizona before settling permanently in Barstow, where a majority of their family also lived.

Growing up in Barstow, Jose and Francisco attended the local schools and in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Jose graduated from Barstow High School. In 2021, Francisco took a job at a local restaurant and convinced his brother to apply for another open position there. Jose got the job and threw himself into it, getting promoted to a cook.

Francisco says his bond with his brother was very close.

“I considered him my best friend because I could talk to him, he understood more than when I talked to my parents. He was that person that you always wanted to be around, that person you never wanted to leave.”

No matter what the family was going through, they always had two things to keep them together, Francisco says, the love they had for each other and their faith.

In the wake of his parents’ death, Francisco said he felt a desire to attend Mass as a way to honor the faith that was so strong in them. While still in the hospital recovering from his major injuries, Francisco says a priest came to speak with him.

“I talked to him about it, not that it was my duty but it’s what my father and mother would have wanted me to do to continue in their name and in their honor to serve my parish, to serve to the best of my capability,” Francisco said he told the priest, who responded that the desire to serve the church must come from within one’s self.

Francisco gave the eulogy at his family’s Memorial Mass on March 13 at St, Joseph Catholic Church, Barstow. Despite the tragedy of their death, Francisco urged the congregants to be joyful in their memory.

“Every time I think of them it brings me tears of joy, not tears of sadness, because my family, you never saw them sad, you never saw them angry, you always saw them smiling and having fun and that’s another way I honor them,” he said. “By being strong, being happy, because some way, I don’t know how, their message to me would be, ‘Do not be sad, do not be depressed,’ to smile and be happy for them but also for ourselves, all our family that is suffering from this major loss. It’s my duty to console them because I feel like it’s not only a challenge but a test of my faith.”

From Inland Catholic Byte