Sacred Heart Church, the most iconic building in the historic Segundo Barrio of El Paso, Texas, was established by Jesuits in 1893 in order to attend to the spiritual and educational needs of the primarily Mexican immigrant community. Today, Sacred Heart Parish is the oldest parish in El Paso and continues to serve a community made up mostly of immigrants who have a host of particular needs and challenges.
Father Carlos M. Pinto, SJ, a native of Salerno, Italy, arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border in 1892. Father Pinto, known as the “Apostle of El Paso,” founded Sacred Heart School in El Paso in 1892; Sacred Heart Church was dedicated on June 9, 1893.
Today, the parish is this province’s closest ministry to the Mexican border. Pedestrians on the bridge over the Rio Grande that divides the U.S. and Mexico can see the Sacred Heart tower as soon as they exit customs, only a few blocks away. Sacred Heart has a long and trusted relationship with parishioners who are undocumented. It welcomes newly arrived migrants and reaches out to unaccompanied minors in detention.
In addition to a vibrant sacramental life, Sacred Heart also has very active social ministries, including an adult education program, which offers courses in citizenship, English as a second language (ESL), computer literacy classes and GED programs. The parish, especially during the pandemic, has been serving impoverished families in the barrio via the food pantry and a chapter of the St. Vincent De Paul Society to assist with rent and utilities.
The parish’s social ministries also operate 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 (“to-go meals” for families and individuals) as well as for vulnerable people in the area streets and neighboring shelters, and catering for events. The operation also provides employment for people in the community.
A fundraising campaign is currently underway to rehabilitate 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.