By Fr. Edwin L. Gros, S.J., Pastor, Sacred Heart Parish, El Paso, Texas
In my three years as Pastor of Sacred Heart, last year, 2009, was especially challenging, both because of the acute economic crisis felt around the globe, as well as the horrible violence which has exploded in our sister city across the border, Ciudad Juárez, where the major Mexican drug cartels are caught up in a bloody turf war that results in 10 to 15 violent deaths each day. Juárez is now one of the most dangerous cities in the world, much more so than Baghdad. And our parish is located three blocks from the major pedestrian bridge linking us together.
El Paso has increased in population by an estimated 30,000 people in the past 12 months– many fleeing the violence, and many looking for better employment than that offered by the super abundant maquilas or sweatshops in Juárez. As a result, we have seen increased numbers here at Sacred Heart, both in church attendance as well as in visits to our Pastoral Center, where we receive countless requests for financial aid to pay utilities and rent, or just to buy food. We have two Jesuit Volunteers who work in our Pastoral Center, along with three paid staff and a handful of very generous volunteers from the city. Because of the increased number of requests for financial assistance, our pastoral office, especially through the work of our Jesuit Volunteers, has secured some new grant money so as to make more funds available to help families.
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