April 2015

Getting a haircut may seem like a simple thing to most of us but to the poor families we serve it is often a heavy burden. Haircuts run about $5 or $6 in Juarez, which is a day’s wage for many. The schools, both public and private, have very strict rules regarding boys’ hair. It has to be kept very short or else the child gets sent home. If a family has two or three boys in school, you can see how difficult it is to comply with the regulations.

Francisco, who helps us at the Lord’s Food Bank in Juarez, saw the great need in this area. He took a training class so that he could offer haircuts to the boys for free. Another volunteer, Rafaela, knows how to cut girls’ hair and wants to offer her services too. There are no school rules regarding the length of girls’ hair, but they are required to keep it neat and clean.

Francisco giving free haircuts to the boys.

At the moment we are borrowing a salon chair but we hope to buy our own for the Food Bank and make a little barbershop room, complete with a proper sink where we can wash the children’s hair. Head lice can be a real problem among the kids since families cannot afford to bathe or wash hair often, and sometimes the girls go a long time without getting a shampoo. 

Receiving an education is such a key to breaking the cycle of poverty and we want to do all we can to make sure these kids can stay in school — including getting them haircuts!

May God bless you with a happy Easter!

Dec 2014 - Christmas

“The elderly are those who carry history, that carry the faith, and give it to us as an inheritance.
They are like a good vintage wine who have this strength from within to give us a noble heritage.”
Pope Francis

Dear Friend,

Cande Basurto, age 90, is one of the treasures of our community. Cande grew up very poor as her widowed mother took in washing and cleaned houses to try to feed her children. “Often we only had a corn tortilla sprinkled with salt to eat for the whole day,” recalls Cande. “We ran around barefoot wearing hand-me-down clothes that were too big for us.” Cande got married at the age of 14 “to escape the poverty,” marrying Manny, who was 18 and worked as a mechanic. “But my life didn’t get any easier.” Manny was an alcoholic who drank away the money he earned and left Cande mostly on her own to raise the 13 children that they eventually had. However, Cande’s strong faith sustained her as she begged God for the conversion of her husband. After many years of fervent prayer, Manny had a complete change of heart and became one of our directors and active in ministry until his death.

Mary Ann Halloran visiting with Cande Basurto.

When we go to visit Cande we know we are going to be encouraged in our faith. She has witnessed many miracles and has great stories to share about her work with Father Thomas. Cande is a tremendous prayer warrior and spends her time interceding for us since she is now unable to walk very far and rarely leaves home. She recently told me that a few months ago, her next-door neighbor who was very sick with bone cancer, was not expected to live through the night. Cande hobbled over to see him, put her hand on his forehead and said a prayer. The man, who had been unresponsive for days, sat up in bed and started talking. “Glory to God!” she smiles.  

As we enter into this holy season of Advent and Christmas, we join Cande in praying for you and your loved ones. Thank you for your support this past year which enables us to keep reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need.

Merry Christmas! 

November 2014 - youth ministry

Fr. Rick Thomas spent most of his life ministering to and helping youth wherever he was — from teaching high school in Dallas and New Orleans in his earlier years as a Jesuit, to working in the impoverished garbage dump and slums of Juarez, Mexico. He always had a heart for young people and tried to equip them to face and overcome the needs and challenges in their lives.

Our goal is to continue that work with children, making it a priority in our ministry to the poor. Families living in the grip of poverty have to contend with almost insurmountable obstacles as they struggle to survive — unemployment, violence from the drug wars, gangs recruiting their children, human trafficking, etc. There is so much heartbreak and tragedy in the lives of those we reach out to, and many despair of things ever getting better.

But hope always bubbles up in the hearts of the young, and it is a joy and delight to teach them about God. They know that life is tough but they are quick to catch onto the message of the Gospel, that Jesus is their Good Shepherd and loves them tremendously. There is nothing that He can’t help them with, no matter what hardships they face. 

Confirmation retreat for teenagers
at the Food Bank.

The other day our Las Alitas center had flooded after a very heavy rain and mud was everywhere. Ramona, one of our catechists, had arrived first and needed help cleaning it up before the youth got their for their classes. “I was facing a mountain of mud and was wondering how we would ever get it cleared away in time. All of a sudden I was surrounded by little helpers, laughing and excited to sweep away the mess. They attacked the job with such joy and determination that we finished in plenty of time. It was a parable that God used to speak to me. What we adults might see as hopeless and impossible, the youth see as a challenge to conquer. We need to ask for that grace of hope and joy that flows so readily in them.” 

Ramona with her little helpers clearing away the mud that piled up 
in front of our center after a heavy rain.


Oct 2014 - Water to Las Alitas

In a very poor section in the outskirts of Juarez, Mexico, called Loma Blanca, we have a center for youth. Up until recently, everyone in the area received water by paying a delivery truck to fill up 55 gallon drums outside the houses. That water was used for everything — drinking, cooking, doing dishes, laundry, and flushing toilets. There was no running water available. For years now the city has been laying the necessary pipes to bring water to the area.

Finally this summer, the municipal water company finished with the pipes and started putting in water meters for each residence. We were first told that we had to go downtown and fill out a contract for our water service; but then we were told that we would receive our first month’s water bill and be charged for our contract then. Right after that however, the water company trucks came back and removed all of the water meters from all the houses because no one had gone to sign their contracts. So we still had no running water and had to keep using the water out of the plastic drums like we had been doing.

Ramona (on left) with some of the teachers and kids of Las Alitas.

Ramona and Mando, who head up our  ministry of Las Alitas, went downtown to fill out the contract so that we could receive running water. The initial set-up fee was $140 and although they had the money, they did not have all the paperwork that the water company was requiring. “You need the deed proving your ownership of the property. You can go down the street and get that document.” When they got to the other building it was already closed for the day. Frustrated, they left downtown. “All this red tape!” complained Ramona. “Why do they make it so complicated? The poor need the water service. Lord, forgive me. Please bless those in charge and take care of your people.” 

Arriving back at Las Alitas, one of the little boys ran up to her excitedly crying out, “Ramona, Ramona, the water company came while you were gone. They put your water meter back in.” Ramona shook her head, “No, we just came from there and they wouldn’t give us the contract.” He said, “No, they came and you already have water!” Ramona persisted, “I don’t think so.” But he opened the metal cover in the ground and pointed, “Look, there is the meter.” We went over to the tap, turned it on, and water came flowing out. We have two separate buildings, and she asked, “What about the other building?” All the kids took off running to see if it had running water too. Out gushed clear water when they turned on the faucet. 

We don’t know what happened. No one else in the neighborhood was given their water meter that day — not until they got the paperwork taken care of. But we have running water at our center and it has been flowing ever since. We pay our water bill each month, but the Lord must have taken care of the contract. Thanks be to God!

September 2014 - Fr. Nathan's Ordination

Several of us had the great joy of attending the ordination of a young man who grew up in our community — Nathan O’Halloran S.J., the eldest son of Mike and Mary Ann Halloran. Nathan grew up on The Lord’s Ranch and felt called to become a Jesuit priest largely due to the inspiration and example of Father Thomas.

After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Nathan entered the Jesuits in 2003 — the same seminary in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, that Father Thomas had entered back in 1945. Nathan took his first vows as a Jesuit in 2005 and Father Thomas was able to be there for the event. “He cried during my vows,” Nathan recalled. “He told me that he saw a light coming down as I made my vows. That was so encouraging for me to hear.” Then 9 months later Father Thomas passed away. 
Father Rick Thomas at Nathan's 1st vows.

Nathan completed 11 years of formation and was ordained a priest, along with four fellow seminarians, on June 14th. Before going to his first assignment, Fr. Nathan came to El Paso to celebrate Mass for us. He shared this during his homily:

“Right before Father Thomas died, he asked for Isaiah 35 to be read, which says: Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to the fearful of heart: Be strong, do not fear!  This was the garment that Father passed onto us, this spirit of courage and strength that he had, which came from the power of the Holy Spirit. He is praying for us right now.”

We feel sure that Father Thomas is praying for us, and for all of you who are such an important part of the ministries that he started. May we not be afraid to do all the Lord is asking us to do in His service!

Fr. Nathan celebrating Mass at our prayer meeting.

Please pray for Fr. Nathan as he begins his priesthood. His vocation is one of the beautiful fruits of Father Thomas’s life of holiness. 

August 2014 - Beans multiplied

The parish priest in the area around The Lord’s Food Bank in Juarez, Mexico, is in charge of the 5 churches closest to us. He planned a party to honor all the volunteers who help him with the ministries of those churches. The Food Bank is under his pastoral care, and we were invited to attend the festivities. We were asked to bring two huge stock pots of beans to share with everyone. Misunderstanding the request, the cooks put 4 two-pound bags of pinto beans to boil, which ended up making only half of one of the stock pots. When one of the organizers entered the kitchen, she exclaimed to Ramona (the Food Bank director), "That's only half a pot of beans. It’s not going to be enough! They are expecting 300 people at the party." Ramona said, "Well, let's quickly cut up some hot dogs and chorizo sausage and throw that in to make it more.” With the added meat, the one big pot was now full. Saying a fervent prayer over the beans, they headed to the party. 

Bringing the chili beans to the food table, the parish organizers were dismayed, saying, "We asked you to bring two stock pots, not just one. There will never be enough to feed everyone! The only other food we have are tacos and the fixings (guacamole, salsa, lettuce, etc.) But Ramona assured them, "The Lord will provide. Don’t worry."

Knowing that’s all they could do, our volunteers joined in the fiesta and fun. Soon it was time to eat, but no one told the servers to go easy on the beans, and they filled 14 ounce paper cups full of the bean/sausage mix, handing them to person after person in the long lines.

After the party was over and things were winding down, Ramona asked Conchita to go get the stock pot so they could take it back to the Food Bank. When Conchita went to get it, the parish ladies told her, "Come and look. The pot is still more than halfway full! We can’t believe it!" Going back to Ramona, Conchita told her, "They won't give me back the pot because it still has beans in it."

The next day some of the parish volunteers brought back our pot. “We are witnesses ourselves now of what God can do.” They shared that all the party organizers divided up the remaining chili beans to take home, and only then was the pot empty.

That's the story of the Lord’s Food Bank. God always provides!

Conchita with the pot from which
the beans never ran out.