Borderland Treasures: Exploring Sacred Heart Church in South El Paso

El Paso News

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Sagrado Corazon, or Sacred Heart Church, is a treasure in the Segundo Barrio in South El Paso.

Founded in 1893, Sacred Heart Church was gifted to the Diocese of El Paso by Father Carlos Pinto, a Jesuit from Italy who traveled to the border to tend to the spiritual and educational needs of the barrio.

“Right away he noticed there was a need for a school,” said Father Rafael Garcia, pastor of Sacred Heart.

Pinto is now commemorated in a plaza adjacent to the church. He built Sacred Heart Church for Spanish-speaking Catholics, as it is situated next to the Mexico border.

“This church was also for the people of Juarez,” Garcia said.

Sacred Heart Church has changed shape through the decades. The current church replaced the original building in 1923 to accommodate the influx of Mexican refugees.

The church cost $120,000 to build and was paid off by parishioners in seven years in nickels and pennies, according to a report in the El Paso Herald-Post.

Sacred Heart Church stands proudly in the heart of the barrio. Its large, pointed arches and stained-glass windows showcase its English Gothic style.

The brickwork of the church tells a story, as different shades of red brick show additions to the original structure. Architect Morris Brown said as is typically seen in Europe. Read the walls, and read the history of the building.

The altars are front and center inside the sanctuary.

“These are the original altars,” Garcia said. “We have pictures and these (altars) are all the same.”

The altars exhibit Italian features.

“When I see this church,” Brown said, “it’s like walking into the Vatican for the first time.”

Brown says the architecture in the sanctuary seems to lift one up into the heavens.

“You feel like your body is soaring,” Brown said. “It is just spectacular.”

As for Pinto’s mission to create Sacred Heart School, it is still attached to the church.

“You can imagine children learning in this classroom,” Garcia said.

The spirit of the church stays strong, with Garcia now leading an effort to restore the building. He said the effort will bring new life to the barrio.

Many in El Paso have been married at Sacred Heart Church and have celebrated life’s sacraments.

The heart of the Segundo Barrio continues to beat strong and lives on.

To donate toward the restoration of Sacred Heart Church visit restoresacredheartchurch.org.

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