EL PASO, Texas -- The Catholic Diocese of El Paso on Thursday announced a project to restore Sacred Heart Church in the Segundo Barrio, along with the adjoining ex-Sacred Heart School building and the building housing the Jesuit residence and parish offices.
Officials unveiled their plans at a news conference at the Father Pinto Plaza, where they discussed the project's details.
Sacred Heart Church, the most iconic building in the Segundo Barrio, was established in 1893 by Father Carlos M. Pinto, a Jesuit missionary from Italy, in order to attend to the spiritual and educational needs of the primarily Mexican immigrant community.
Sacred Heart Church, along with Immaculate Conception Church, are the oldest Catholic parishes within the city of El Paso.
According to the diocese, thousands of El Pasoans have been baptized or married in Sacred Heart Church and tens of thousands from both sides of the border have participated in mass there or joined community events. Thousands have also attended Sacred Heart School, church leaders indicated.
The Jesuit parish has deep roots and connections in the Mexican/Mexican-American community and with the El Paso community at-large, and close ties to the many families who reside in Segundo Barrio, so much so that it has long been known as el corazón of the neighborhood, officials noted.
The buildings of the Sacred Heart Church complex are between 91 and 127 years old and in dire need of restoration and infrastructural upgrades but the limited financial resources of the barrio parish has made major improvements impossible, the diocese said.
An all-volunteer group has been formed to apply for the necessary grants and tax credits, raise funds from the community, and oversee the restoration, from the solicitation of architectural bids through the completion of all work.
The group includes Father Rafael Garcia, the parish’s pastor, local historian Max Grossman, Bishop Mark Seitz, along with other church leaders, elected officials, and professionals specializing in architectural history and historic preservation.
The group has launched a website at RestoreSacredHeartChurch.org to accept donations for the rehab work.
Organizers said the restoration of Sacred Heart Church will be the first project of its type in the Segundo Barrio National Historic District, which will be established in 2021 as a result of the efforts by the El Paso County Commissioners Court, Texas Historical Commission and National Park Service.
"It is our hope that many other historic preservation projects will follow and that Segundo Barrio will see an architectural Renaissance," the group said in a statement.
You can watch the entire announcement and news conference on the rehab plans in the video player below.