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Obituary - February 1, 2014

Melchor Saucedo Mendoza, retired Episcopal/Anglican Bishop Emeritus of the diocese of Western Mexico, died peacefully after months of declining health, on January 23, a few days after his 94th birthday, at his home in San Juan Cosalá, near Lake Chapala.

Saucedo, who attended seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, and was a bilingual man of letters, was known affectionately among the local, foreign community as Bishop Mel. He is mourned by his family and many others, both Mexican and foreign. They knew him as a beloved advisor, an excellent preacher and administrator, and an exceptionally honest and “phenomenal” person who, coming from a humble background, became an outstanding Episcopal leader and a tireless missionary.

Saucedo saw himself nurturing seeds planted by others before him and helped create the current wave of growth among Mexicans in the Episcopal Church. That process, remarkably, included working to establish English-speaking congregations in the Guadalajara area, Saint Andrew’s and Saint Mark’s, while still traveling and living in areas of the United States such as San Antonio, Texas, and throughout Latin America. His missionary calls abroad included Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala and Ecuador, where he was sent to provide Episcopal leadership in critical times. 

His intelligence and authenticity inspired many Mexicans to convert to Episcopalianism, and to make statements such as, “I think I’ve always been Episcopal, but I wasn’t aware of it until Melchor explained it to me.”

Saucedo was born January 15, 1920, in Tlacotepec, a tiny town in Michoacan. An uncle who was a presbyter in an Episcopal church interested three of his nephews in the church, and encouraged Melchor to attend an Episcopal school-farm in Colonia Seattle in the Guadalajara area. The young Saucedo earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Guadalajara and from there went to Alexandria, Virginia, where he received a master’s of divinity from Virginia Theological Seminary. He was awarded a doctorate in 1964, and, in 1947, met and married Catherine Weadon. The seminary, with its missionary focus, had a profound effect on Saucedo.

Associates call his ministry a team effort with his wife and, although she sometimes stayed behind to raise their children while he travelled, she helped create the caring and available style that became his hallmark.

“He was the kind of priest who made house calls,” one friend remarked, while another noted that the couple constantly invited people to their home. Saucedo was also known for his staunch support of women and their role in the church.

In addition, he was a close advisor to many and a friend to pastors of all denominations and active in forging ecumenical ties. He was invited to participate in Roman Catholic worship. One good friend, a Roman Catholic priest, gave instructions before he died that his personal chalice should go to Saucedo.

Saucedo strengthened theological education in Mexico as dean of the San Andres Seminary in Mexico City. He was elected suffragan bishop of the diocese of Mexico in 1963.  He was then elected diocesan bishop of the newly formed diocese of Western Mexico in 1973. In this post, his missionary orientation led him to conceive a master plan for growth in Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja California, reflected today in the existence of 12 Anglican churches in the region.

He was also elected to international positions — two terms as president of the Episcopal Church’s Ninth Province, which includes much of Latin America, and chair of the Coalition of Overseas Bishops.

Saucedo is survived by Catherine, his wife for 67 years, his brother Cipriano of Cuernavaca, Mexico and his children: Tomas Saucedo of Alexandria, Virginia; Barbara Davis of Seattle, Washington; James Saucedo of Guadalajara, Mexico; and The Rev. Susan Sica of Parsippany, New Jersey; his daughters- and sons-in-law; and his seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His son Steven preceded him in death.

A viewing and funeral liturgy were celebrated January 26 at San Pablo cathedral in the Metro area.

An upcoming memorial service is Saturday, February 1, 3 p.m. at St. Andrews Anglican Church in Riberas del Pilar (Calle San Lucas, one block south of the Chapala-Ajijic highway). Ashes will be interred at the Peace Garden at Saint Mark’s in Guadalajara, where his son is also interred.