April 30, 2020
Friar José Alfredo Ramírez Devora, the pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish known as Padre Alfredo, is moving the community to be closer to God. Beloved by parishioners and staff alike, Friar Alfredo posts regular inspirational and educational YouTube videos and, before the pandemic, celebrated standing-room only Masses, serving 3,000-4,000 parishioners every weekend. More than 100 St. Francis of Assisi parishioners have been certified by the Tepeyac Institute as ministers of the Eucharist, Hospitality, and Liturgy of the Hours. Friar Alfredo is a Catholic Extension 2020-2021 Lumen Christi (Light of Christ) Award nominee. The award is accompanied by a $50,000 grant, with the honoree and nominating diocese each receiving $25,000 to enhance a specific area of his or her ministry.
Friar Alfredo, originally from Ciudad Juárez, received the call to the Priesthood at the age of 17 after reading a book about the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He couldn’t be at peace until his life mirrored the virtues of the saint. It was providential that a couple of Franciscan friars would knock on his door and invite him to learn more about Franciscan vocations. He entered St. Anthony's Seminary in El Paso and, after 10 years of formation, he was ordained to the Priesthood in 1999.
Friar Alfredo's ultimate goal for his parishioners is to get them into heaven. “There is no parishioner that will not feel listened or attended to by Father Alfredo,” parish secretary, Esmeralda Sánchez says. “It’s incredible how he makes time for every parishioner in need of spiritual advice. People leave the office in peace after speaking with him.” Friar Alfredo shepherds his parish by offering his full presence for their spiritual and emotional needs. In addition to being fully present for the community, he encourages his parishioners to focus on Christ, not on him as pastor, through daily masses, spiritual retreats and formation classes throughout the year. He meets with every ministry leader on a monthly basis and participates in ministry group chats through WhatsApp where he shares encouragement every morning. Dolores Holguin, the parish accountant, says, “He makes sure that his parishioners have everything they need and if they are in times of necessity, he asks that they seek him out for help.”
Friar Alfredo is a member of the priest formation team at St. Anthony's Seminary and is currently giving classes for 30 incoming seminarians on topics including Sacred Liturgy and Theology. He's also a faculty member at the Tepeyac Institute where he initiated a Liturgy of the Hours certification course for ministers in the Diocese of El Paso.
What makes Friar Alfredo’s ministry so special is that he serves the Hispanic community that has migrated from cities like Juárez and Chihuahua, Mexico searching for better life conditions in the United States following the aftermath of the drug cartel wars. It is a community that he himself was born to and can relate to so well. During this time of COVID-19, Friar Alfredo has been working to provide a sense of safety for the community, one that already felt displaced and lost before the pandemic. Many of the St. Francis of Assisi parishioners are low income wage earners. Some live off the grid and will not see stimulus checks. They have lost their jobs and their financial security, but because of Friar Alfredo, they have not lost their faith.
Consider a gift to St. Anthony's Seminary. When you give to this fund, you create more opportunities for men to become Franciscan friars and serve the Church. St. Anthony's Seminary was founded in 1936 by Fray Buenaventura Nava during a time when religious schools were being persecuted in Mexico. Nava was living in Tularosa, New Mexico and moved to El Paso to open a seminary for young men from Mexico who wanted to study to become Franciscan priests.