(Emily Jocson, ICM; Carolyn Kosub, ICM; Fatima Santiago, ICM)
DIOCESE OF BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS
A Radical Commitment to the Poor Leads to a New Parish
In 2003, a rare tornado struck a poor area populated by Mexican immigrants in Penitas, Texas. When three Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary visited this devastated community, they were shocked not only by the destruction, but also by the poverty. They also were moved by the richness of faith there. The sisters saw this as a sign, so they moved into the community and established Proyecto Desarrollo Humano, an outreach center created to address four main areas of concern: health, social services, education and evangelization. The center, which is abuzz with activity day and night, includes classrooms, a kitchen, space for large assemblies, a computer lab, a medical and dental clinic, and an organic garden.
The people who are served by the center are typically families of five living at or below the federal poverty level in substandard housing. They rely on irregular income, which the men earn from day labor jobs in agriculture and construction. Most of the women are stay-at-home mothers, who learn English, and receive wellness education and leadership training at the center.
As Proyecto Desarollo Humano took hold in Penitas, the sisters began to understand that regular religious education and sacramental and liturgical celebrations in a dedicated space were critically necessary to cement the bonds of community that were developing. In 2009, in order to provide a true Church home for this poor, yet devout population, the sisters secured land and launched construction of a new parish. Today, St. Anne Church, which was dedicated in 2013, stands as a beacon of hope for the community and a visible reminder of the transformative power of faith.