The sun is inescapable, beating down on the brown, dry earth. Pointed shrubs dot the landscape alongside squat houses and barns that share plots with crumbling buildings and rusted debris. Against the endless landscape, a sister smiles.
“There is a lot of spirit here,” she says. Sister Silvia Chacón, ASC, is the only staff member at Santa Teresa Parish in Fort Hancock, a small border town in Texas.
Catholic Extension donors have funded Sister Silvia’s salary for 10 years, and also helped build the church in 1937.
Since the parish has no pastor, Sister Silvia fulfills every role required to run a church, including catechetical leader, parish life coordinator, confirmation coordinator, choir director and ministry trainer. When needed, she even becomes a handyman, repairing items such as church pews.
Fort Hancock has seen no shortage of difficulty in the lives of its residents. Roughly half of the population lives below the poverty line. Unemployment is high; most of the people in the town do not have a high school education. There are only two employers in the town: the high school and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Many of the households do not have running, drinkable water.
Families in Fort Hancock struggle against more than poverty. Many have lost loved ones to violence related to drugs and gangs. Additionally, it is not uncommon for migrants to die in the desert across the border.
The emotional trauma and stress leaves people in desperate need of spiritual guidance and peace.
Sister Silvia offers healing ministries to help residents deal with the anxieties of poverty and makes home visits to keep people close to the faith, especially during illnesses. Recently, she visited and comforted a woman diagnosed with cancer.
“We do what we need to do to do what is God’s work here. To console ourselves and to work together, and to build up different things. To be what we need to be,” Sister Silvia said.
Recently, as a Lenten giving project, St. Cecilia Church in Mt. Prospect, IL, raised more than $8,000 for her ministry. The funds are essential to helping her bring peace, faith, and God to people in Fort Hancock. She says that locals are grateful to donors — that the support is like contributing to the spirit of the community.
Financial support is vital to continuing Sister Silvia’s ministry. The Diocese of El Paso said that because of Catholic Extension donors, she is “able to continue her mission of evangelization, serving the poor, bringing them hope and joy and most importantly the works of mercy.”
Your donation to Catholic Extension can help her ministry and others like it keep going strong.