Sacred Heart Church serves a border community with roots both in Mexico and in El Paso’s “Segundo Barrio.” The parish, founded and staffed by Jesuits, is the oldest in El Paso. The church’s community is made up mostly of immigrants who have a host of needs and challenges.
Fr. Carlos M. Pinto, S.J., a native of Salerno, Italy, arrived on the border in 1892 at a time when El Paso was trying to take its place among the growing communities of the West. Fr. Pinto, known as the “Apostle of El Paso,” soon determined that the bonds of faith between the English-speaking Catholics and the Spanish-speaking Catholics were not strong enough to fuse into one church.
Fr. Pinto founded Sacred Heart School in South El Paso in 1892 and then set about establishing two churches to meet the language, culture and customs needs of English and Spanish speakers. Land was purchased for both churches, and the cornerstones were laid in 1892. Sacred Heart was dedicated on June 9, 1893.
In addition to a very vibrant sacramental life, Sacred Heart also has an adult education program, which offers courses in citizenship, English as a second language (ESL), computer literacy classes and GED programs. The parish also has a Pastoral Services Center, which sponsors a job seeking office, a food pantry and a chapter of the St. Vincent De Paul Society.
The parish also operates La Tilma, a food preparation project that serves the community by preparing and serving food after weekend ministries and Masses, for distribution through the food pantry program and catering for events. The operation also provides employment for people in the community.
A fundraising campaign is currently underway to restore Sacred Heart Church, the adjoining building, (formerly the school, now serving as the pastoral center), and the building housing the Jesuit residence/parish offices. To learn more, visit the project’s website.