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Safford couple donates icons to N.M., Solomon, churches

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SOLOMON — Local Safford couple Mike and Eilene Bibb recently constructed and donated two religious icons to Catholic churches in Arizona and New Mexico.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Shrine in Solomon received an Our Lady of Guadalupe wall niche. A Catholic church in Bayard, N.M., Our Lady of Fatima, was given a large floor pedestal with angel statue.

The Bibbs have been building and providing dozens of similar articles to various churches, cemeteries, children’s and senior citizen’s homes in Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico since Mike’s retirement from UPS more than 15 years ago.

Perhaps the most unusual donation was an exterior cross and bell to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Byzantine Catholic Church in the old gold and silver mining ghost town of Mogollon, N.M. The little chapel, now inactive since the death of its custodian Fred Wey, still stands as a testimony to the once lively and prosperous community.

Another special contribution was made in 2015 to the San Peregrino Cancer Hospice Center in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico. The center asked the Bibbs if they could construct and donate an interior wall cross to complement its worship room. After hearing the center’s request, Mike designed and fabricated a cross featuring small statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Peregrine Laziosi (1260-1345), the patron saint for people suffering from cancer and other illnesses.

“With the exception of one particular local incident, every one of our donations have been welcomed and immensely appreciated by those receiving them,” Mike said. “Several organizations have requested additional icons — and I do what I can to fulfill their wishes — but sometimes the proposed project is more than I could adequately handle.”

The Bibbs are never sure when or where the next request will come from, or from what organization.

“Part of the fun in building these things” Mike said, “is not knowing exactly who is in need of one until they make an inquiry or someone tells us about a possible prospect.”

An unexpected benefit from their effort is traveling and meeting new people whose lives are often quite different from what is normally expected. The Bibbs have encountered extreme poverty in Mexico and met Catholic priests from Africa. Each has a story to tell but all share a common theme — they sincerely express their gratitude for the donation and are eager to welcome the Bibbs into their circle of friends.

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