LAREDO, TX – The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA) has selected outstanding community individuals to lead two of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration’s most traditional and time-honored events; the IBC Youth Parade Under the Stars and the Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade.
WBCA announced the Sisters of Mercy as the 2020 Parade Marshals for the Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade. Texas State Representative Tracy O. King also received the same honor for the IBC Youth Parade Under the Stars.
The IBC Youth Parade Under the Stars, takes place Thursday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. The Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade, will be held Saturday, Feb. 22, at 9 a.m., both follow a route South on San Bernardo Avenue, to the heart of Laredo’s historic downtown district.
“We are honored to be the Marshals for the 123rd Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade. In the name of the 118 Sisters of Mercy who have served in Laredo over the 125 years of continuous Mercy presence, we thank you for this special recognition. We thank all those who work so diligently to make the WBCA one-of-a-kind celebration in our country. And, finally, we thank the people of Laredo for all their love and support throughout the years. If we had another life to live, we would do all over again, right here in Laredo!” said Sister Maria Luisa Vera and Sister Rosemary Welsh.
The Sisters of Mercy have been serving the Laredo community for over 125 years. Today, the Sisters of Mercy run Mercy Ministries of Laredo. This community outreach ministry includes a primary care clinic, domestic violence shelter and education center. Community outreach workers – known in Spanish as “promotoras” – bring follow-up care to the community’s poorest citizens who live along the US-Mexico border and have little or no access to transportation.
In early 1875, the Sisters of Mercy came to the South Texas town of Indianola New Orleans. Only a few months later, a severe tropical storm destroyed the town, and the Sisters were forced to relocate to Refugio, Texas.
In 1894, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy of South Texas was moved from Refugio to Laredo, under the leadership of Mother Mary Clare O’Connell. Along with another Sister and a postulant, she established Laredo’s first hospital, a 12-bed facility, which Mercy managed until 2003. The Sisters also taught at many schools and established two nursing schools.
Representing the Sisters of Mercy is Sister Maria Luisa Vera and Sister Rosemary Welsh.
Sister María Luisa was born in Brownsville, Texas to the late Placido Vera and Manuela Soto Vera and into a family of four boys and two girls. She is a product of the public – school system and met the Sisters of Mercy when she enrolled in the Canales School of Vocational Nursing of Mercy Hospital in Brownsville. “Mary Lou” Vera joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1963, made her novitiate in St. Louis, Missouri and later returned to Brownsville as Sisters María Luisa, RSM (Religious Sister of Mercy), R.N.
As a nurse, Sister María Luisa served in what were the two Mercy Hospitals in Texas and in Ft. Scott, Kansas. In the early 1980s she served as vocation minister for the Sisters of Mercy and part-time parish ministry at San Martin De Porres Catholic Church under the leadership of the late Rev. Morgan Rowsome, Pastor. From 1985 to 2005 Sr. María Luisa served in congregational leadership roles including president of her religious community; various board memberships and committee work in the area of healthcare.
Sister María Luisa has served as President of Mercy Ministries of Laredo, with its two ministries, Casa de Misericordia and Mercy Clinic since 2006 to the present. She continues to be active in the Laredo community in a variety of ways including advocating for healthcare for the uninsured and attending to the Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy which include: Earth, Immigration, Women, Non-violence, and Anti-racism.
Sister Rosemary Welsh is a native of Springfield, Missouri; she is the youngest of four children born to the late Thomas and Mildred Welsh. In 1967, after becoming a Registered Nurse and attending to some personal family matters “Rosie Welsh” took a giant leap of faith and sought admission to the Sister of Mercy in St. Louis, Missouri. Sister Rosemary celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 2017. She is quick to say, “I love being a Sister of Mercy and could do it again in a heartbeat.”
Sister Rosemary is a nurse by education and professional choice and loves it. She has served in a variety of positions in various Mercy hospitals. She served as a missionary for 10 years in Guatemala and Southern Mexico in the early ‘80s and ‘90s. She worked very hard to master the Spanish language and when she got to Guatemala she soon realized it was back to the books; she needed to learn the Q’eqchi, the language of the people living throughout the Rio Dulce region in the Diocese of Izabal in Eastern Guatemala.
Upon returning to the United States in 1992, Sister Rosemary was invited by Ernesto “Buddy” Flores, then Administrator of Mercy Medical Center, to return to Laredo and re-establish herself in ministry in Laredo.
Sister Rosemary has been in Laredo, Texas for 27 consecutive years serving in various roles and advocating for some of Laredo’s most needy and vulnerable persons. Currently Sister serves as Director of Outreach Services at Mercy Clinic and Executive Director of Casa de Misericordia. These two positions are supposed to each be part-time but everyone who knows her will tell you that is not the case. She also visits detainees at the local detention centers, makes home visits, hospital visits and responds to invitations for public speaking. She serves on multiple boards and committees and still manages to keep up her obligations to the religious community.
“I am grateful to the people of Laredo for helping me feel like a “native-daughter” and to the WBCA for honoring us, the Sisters of Mercy, for 125 years of a life of service in a generous and caring community,” said Sister María Luisa Vera.
“I have loved Laredo and its people for a very long time. Thank you for helping me be a good missionary and a better Sister of Mercy. This honor is not for me alone, it is for all the women of Mercy who have come before me,” said Sister Rosemary Welsh.
Texas State Representative Tracy O. King will lead the IBC Youth Parade Under the Stars, which serves as a prelude to the Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade.
Tracy O. King graduated from Carrizo Springs High School, attended Southwest Texas Junior College and Texas A&M University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering. In 1983 Representative King took a job with the Beltone Hearing Aid Center in San Antonio and soon after moved to Uvalde to open a branch office there. He later purchased the Beltone Hearing Aid Center and owned and operated it until 2008 when he sold the business to spend more time with his family.
Representative King has always been active in public service, a former member of the Board of Trustees for the First United Methodist Church and a past president of both the Kiwanis Club and the Texas Hearing Aid Association. He is the Chairman of the powerful House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, and a member of the Natural Resources Committee. He also serves as a member of the Edwards Aquifer Legislative Oversight Committee and the Energy Council.
During his tenure in the Texas House of Representatives he has served on committees such as Appropriations, Ways & Means, Calendars, Environmental Regulation, Land and Resource Management, Agriculture and Livestock, Border and International Affairs, and Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
Representative King is married to the former Cheryl Baker of Hondo and they are the proud parents of two children, Katelyn Marie King and Clayton Baker King.
“It is an honor to be asked to serve as the Parade Marshal for the 2020 IBC Youth Parade. We work tirelessly to acknowledge and promote the youth of our community. This parade is a perfect opportunity to recognize them for all their efforts and achievements,” said Representative Tracy O. King.
Both parades will be sharing the same unifying theme this year: “Tradition’s Glow.”
Energy pulsates through the streets of Laredo with this year’s parade theme — Tradition’s Glow. Spark your imagination and take the time to light up the Celebration with your most creative and colorful designs. We want to highlight what makes the Celebration an integral part of the history of our great city and show why it has become a beacon of entertainment to Laredoans and visitors alike. The Celebration’s glow and positive atmosphere brings out the best that Laredo has to offer and we hope you can capture some of that magic with your incredible and elaborate creations.
The IBC Youth Parade Under the Stars is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 20, 2020. This illuminated evening parade highlights talented youth as they promenade over the streets of Downtown Laredo and entertain the crowds with their dance routines, marching units and fully decorated floats.
The Anheuser-Busch Washington’s Birthday Parade will take place on Saturday, February 22, 2020. Referred to as the “crown jewel” of the Celebration, this international parade is led by the ever-popular Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales and features dazzling floats from all over South Texas. During this parade, Princess Pocahontas is presented with a key to the City by the Mayor of Laredo; the Society of Martha Washington debutantes display their beautifully beaded, glittering gowns; and bands, marching units, clowns and dance teams perform for the crowds making this a truly unforgettable event.
Throughout the years, the Celebration has grown to be over a month long and consists of parades, dazzling pageants, fireworks, a carnival, an air show, a sizzling jalapeño festival and much more. Combined, WBCA events attract nearly 500,000 residents and visitors, and contributes an estimated $14 million every year to the local economy.
The 123rd Washington’s Birthday Celebration takes place January 23 – February 29, 2020. Tickets for events may be purchased at the WBCA Kiosk inside Mall Del Norte (at Macy’s Center Court) starting February 10th.