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Jesuit Outreach, Segundo Barrio

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Jesuit Outreach, Segundo Barrio
Established1892; 127 years ago (1892)
TypeSacred Heart Church outreach
PurposeOutreach to Hispanics
HeadquartersSacred Heart Church
Region served
El Paso & Juarez
Official language
Spanish & English
Parent organization
Jesuits Central & Southern[1]
AffiliationsJesuit, Catholic
Endowment$1,500,000 (for education)
RemarksThese are programs initiated by Jesuits from Sacred Heart

Jesuit Outreach, Segundo Barrio began with the founding of Sacred Heart parish in 1892. It has provided numerous programs initiated by Jesuits to respond to the human needs of Hispanics in the border area of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico.[2][3]

History[edit | edit source]

Beginnings[edit | edit source]

In the 1870s Jesuits from Naples, Italy, came to the El Paso area and established a string of more than 30 parishes, laying the foundation for the diocese of El Paso. Jesuit Fr. Anthony J. Schuler was consecrated the first Bishop in 1915. In 1892 these Jesuits had founded Sacred Heart parish in El Paso to respond to the needs of the people up and down the Rio Grande Valley and on both sides of the border.[4] An introduction to the people who characterize El Segundo Barrio was carried on PBS in 2010.[5] El Segundo has been described as one of Texas' most famous barrios.[6]

Modern Era[edit | edit source]

One Jesuit whose outreach to the neighborhood is well-remembered is Fr. Harold Rahm, a pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Parish from 1952 to 1964. In 1952 he formed Guadalupano Club which held parties, weekend retreats, picnics, and spiritual meetings, and the following year obtained and outfitted Our Lady's Youth Center for sports and other activities. He also opened Camp Juan Diego for a get-away. All these redirected the energies of gang members and at-risk youth in the area.[7] He also founded an employment office, a thrift store, a credit union, and homes for young people. The La Fe Family Health Center, which has continued to grow and prosper, was originally named Father Rahm Clinic in honor of his work.[8]

Rahm used his bicycle to deliver breakfast to the elderly, and found that with a bicycle he could get closer to where the youth hang out.[9] In El Paso he began his lifelong work of addressing drug addiction, before his religious superiors sent him to Brazil where he became prominent for his drug treatment and prevention initiatives. Thomas Browne, Director of the Narcotics Division of the US State Department, described Rahm as his "role model, ... prominently featured by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) in congressional field hearings across the nation. His book on working with gangs, "Office in the Alley" [in El Paso],[10] was mandatory reading in my university juvenile delinquency course."[11] In 2015, at 96, Rahm came back from Brazil to receive the first ever "Segundo Barrio Person of the Year" award.[12][13] In 2017 "El Paso's favorite native son" Nolan Richardson was recipient of this "Father Rahm" award.[14] On sending Rahm to Brazil, his religious superiors allowed him to choose his own replacement, and he chose Fr. Richard Thomas, a former student of his in Tampa.[7]

Extended outreach[edit | edit source]

Fr. Richard Thomas, S.J., remained in the job from 1964 until his death in 2006. He continued the work with the students at Public High School Bowie in the district and instituted a graduation Mass for them at Sacred Heart. He increased the outreach to the poor in Juarez, Mexico, by bringing donated food items from truck farms in west Texas and New Mexico. In 1975 he founded The Lord’s Ranch near Vado, New Mexico, 40 miles from Sacred Heart. Over the years the ranch has provided recreation and rehabilitation for needy youth, housed hundreds of visitors from all over the world, offered retreats for young and old, grown food stuffs which are shared with the poor in Juarez, and served as home to KJES International Shortwave Radio Station. Young adults in the charismatic movement still live and work at the ranch with the support of a Jesuit chaplain.[15][16] In 1997 Thomas acquired a more spacious building for the Youth Center and situated there Las Alas, the meeting and administrative center for The Lord's Ranch community, while he increased the emphasis on spiritual and charismatic programs at the Center. Three books have been written about Thomas and his works.[17]

Emphasis on education[edit | edit source]

In 1996 Jesuit Fr. Rafael Garcia expanded the educational offerings of the parish in the old school building under the name Pastoral Social Center, providing 46 semester hours of multi-leveled educational opportunities a week for over 250 adults. Courses include Adult Basic Education (ABE), high school equivalency (GED) in both English and Spanish,[18] and English as a second language (ESL), along with computer literacy and professional courses. Help with naturalization procedures and civic participation continues unabated. Expenses for the Pastoral Social Center exceed revenue by $5,000 a month but benefactors make up the difference. The Center recently received a $1.5 million gift to serve as an endowment for its education services.[9] The Center addresses other basic needs through La Despensa, the parish food bank, and by the St. Vincent de Paul program. Service extends to many who live in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, but work in El Paso.[19] Sr, Carmen Gomez, while assisting Garcia, wrote:

It was across the Rio Grande in Juarez that the cry of the poor was most demanding, where well over a million people lived in poverty worse than any experienced in El Paso. Many of the members of the community ... went "to see." ... Visiting the city’s municipal garbage dump, they found the poorest of the poor, feeding themselves and their children, sleeping in shelters made from trash, collecting whatever might be usable and salable on the streets. It reminded me of Lk 14.13: "When you have a banquet, invite the poor."[20]

Assisting in voter registration is among the contemporary programs of the center.[21] Garcia returned to Sacred Heart in August 2016 to assist immigrants and to advocate for them.[22][23][24][25]

Twenty-first century[edit | edit source]

The Pastoral Social Center, with Jesuit Fr. Ron Gonzales at the helm, continues its outreach, along with other programs initiated by the three Jesuits above and by other Jesuits in the parish. Sacred Heart Parish remains a busy place,[26] with its office open seven days a week to serve a neighborhood which in 2010 had a 62.8% poverty rate, median household income of just $13,600.[27] and 83% with no high school diploma.[28][29]

A parish center with multi-purpose gym has been a busy place since it was built in 1949. It serves as an event center for the neighborhood, a hub of activities like parish festivals, ventas (flea market), health screenings, and ministry fairs.[30] Fr. Rahm had tried to run an inexpensive restaurant in it, which went under. But currently it hosts La Tilma Mexican Restaurant and Catering creating employment and training opportunities for community members, serving approximately 12,000 people annually.[31] Until 2015 La Tilma served a free thanksgiving dinner to as many as 2000, but since then Thanksgiving food baskets are being distributed to the poorest. Wall art is popular in El Paso, and the front of the center has "one of the most famous murals in all of Texas," telling the story of El Paso, including Rahm on his bicycle.[32][33] This "Sacred Heart Mural" is also described as one of the "5 Best Street Art Locations in El Segundo Barrio", an area of "astounding street art".[34] It celebrates in part the neighborhood's resistance to downtown expansion.[35]

Outreach doesn't stop at the border town. Jesuit Brother Pete Zagone, former director of Social and Youth Ministry at Sacred Heart, was a part of the extended Jesuit outreach, welcoming Jesuit novices[20] and students from Jesuit high schools and universities for extended visits and acquainting them with the situation of Hispanic immigrants.[36]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "What We Do - Finding God in All Things".
  2. M. Rozbicki and G. Ndege, eds. Cultural History and the Domestication of Otherness New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, 89. ISBN 978-0-230-33997-2.
  3. "History of Sagrado Corazon".
  4. S.J., RYAN, STEVEN P., (2010-06-15). "JESUITS". tshaonline.org. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  5. "One Square Mile".
  6. "El Segundo Barrio". Mountain Trail Region. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Ellen Hogarty. "Our Lady's Youth Center". Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  8. La Fe. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Rochford, SJ, Thomas (2016). Sacred Heart: A Parish on the Border. Yearbook of the Society of Jesus: 2017. Rome: General Curia of the Society of Jesus. pp. 86–89.
  10. Harold J. Rahm and J. Robert Weber. Office in the Alley. Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, 1958.
  11. "Browne's efforts alter view of drug addiction treatment, prevention worldwide". FederalNewsRadio. June 2, 2014.
  12. "News Detail - El Paso Honors "Bicycle Priest" Jesuit Father Harold Rahm".
  13. Sinclair Broadcast Group. "Segundo Barrio community welcomes Father Rahm back to El Paso". KFOX.
  14. "Nolan Richardson to be Awarded Father Rahm Segundo Barrio Person of the Year Award | El Paso Herald-Post". elpasoheraldpost.com. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  15. "Fr. Rick Thomas, S.J." Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  16. "The Lord's Ranch". Archived from the original on 2016-04-03. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  17. Rene Laurentin. Miracles in El Paso? Servant Publications, 1982. ISBN 9780892831500. Also, Le Miracle Continue. Desclee de Brouwer, 1988. ISBN 978-2220026855. Richard Dunstan The Bible on the Border. New Mexico: The Lord's Ranch, 2009. ISBN 9780982117019.
  18. "Sacred Heart Centro Pastoral Social". Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  19. El Paso city government, Feb. 9, 2010. Archived 2015-06-19 at the Wayback Machine
  20. 20.0 20.1 Carmen Aurora Gomez. Camino de Fe y Esperanza El Paso: Paper Chase, 2014, 97-138.
  21. Chavez, Julio-Cesar (2016-10-03). "Local church helps parishioners register to vote". KVIA. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  22. "Garcia: Build on EP's real identity". El Paso Times. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  23. "Rafael García, S.J." America Magazine. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  24. "2016-2017 JSRI Advisory Board | Jesuit Social Research Institute | Loyola University New Orleans". www.loyno.edu. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  25. "Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ | Ignatian Solidarity Network". Ignatian Solidarity Network. Retrieved 2018-06-16.
  26. "Parish Center Detail Page". jesuits.org. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  27. "Household Income in Chihuahuita, El Paso, Texas (Neighborhood) - Statistical Atlas". statisticalatlas.com. Retrieved 2017-10-24.
  28. "Chihuahuita, El Paso, TX Overview". Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  29. "Segundo Barrio neighborhood in El Paso, TX, subdivision profile - jobs, income, 2010".
  30. Leyva, Yolanda Chavez. "El Segundo Barrio: A Community's Fight to Recover Its History".
  31. "La Tilma Grill, 2016".
  32. "Mural tells Segundo Barrio neighborhood's history, priest says". El Paso Times. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  33. Scott Ronson on KLAQ FM. July 12, 2012.
  34. "5 Best Street Art Locations in El Segundo Barrio". www.foxacuraofelpaso.com. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  35. "On the Border". www.companymagazine.org. Retrieved 2018-06-14.
  36. "Border Immersion Program in El Paso, TX // The Roundup". The Roundup. 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2017-10-24.

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