September 18, 2023
Throughout our lives, the Lord challenges us with different paths to follow. We often do not understand “the why” behind His plans, but one thing is clear. He does not make mistakes! He knows better than we know what we need and when we need it.
That said, I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with so many exceptional individuals daily. By the Grace of God, He has given me the gift of continuing His mission of spreading His Gospel through the work of the Catholic Foundation in collaboration with the 15 ministries and the 71 parishes and missions throughout the Diocese of El Paso that we serve.
Each month, I take an opportunity to focus on a different ministry and highlight their good works. In support of these ministries, when you give to the Progress Catholic Ministry Appeal, you support operational and program needs for 15 diocesan ministries and charities that help those in need, inspire youth, minister to families, and help spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This month, the Progress: Catholic Ministry Appeal highlights the UTEP Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM). The Catholic Campus Ministry in the Diocese of El Paso ministers to over 3,000 students in El Paso and at Sul Ross State University.
The University students established the Newman Club in 1927 on the University of Texas El Paso campus. The Newman Club was founded at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy, the predecessor of the University of Texas at El Paso. The University Ministry Centers, also known as Newman or Campus Ministry Centers, are dedicated to the faith life of university students, staff, and faculty and are located near non-Catholic universities worldwide. What was once the Newman Club, Newman Center, and UTEP Catholic Campus Ministry is now the San Romero University Ministry Student Center.
By God’s will, I could sit and have an in-depth conversation with Friar Rijo Polachan, Director of Catholic Campus Ministry, and Kristy Marroquin, Administrative Assistant. I asked them to tell me a little more about their backgrounds, experience, and vision for CCM.
Upon arriving at CCM and walking through the front door, the atmosphere is warm, welcoming, and feels like home. The sitting area was full of students gathered in the community, laughing, breaking bread, and sharing the Word. Then Kristy came out to meet me with her warm, welcoming smile and cheerful demeanor, making me feel immediately and genuinely at home.
Friar Rijo and Kristy have an “open door” policy, making themselves readily available to students whenever they need an alternate opinion, get a fresh perspective, vent, or just want to converse.
Kristy begins by telling me how "blessed she feels to be a part of this Ministry and how the Diocese of El Paso has been extremely supportive especially the Finance Office staff." Kristy then says, "The ministry welcomes, on average, 20 – 30 students daily. The students gather in the community, do homework, have Mass, (recently adding an additional Mass to the schedule), break bread (enjoying a free lunch), participate in Adoration, and even enjoy playing video games. Students understand they have a pertinent role by building a solid foundation today for tomorrow's future youth. Here, they have a positive atmosphere and know they are not alone in their faith. By the student's word of mouth, this ministry is growing substantially," said Kristy.
Friar Rijo added, “Students want to learn and are very engaged, and I am open to their ideas and opinions. The students here know that you can live your faith and still have fun, which is what this beautiful ministry does. I am always looking for creative ways to grow and give access to the students, growing ministry teams, and recently creating a Student Council and several mini Ministry Committees. For example, an Evangelization Committee, Social Recreation Committee, a Music Liturgy Committee, and most recently a Stewardship and Development Committee, after attending a Catholic Foundation lead Stewardship Conference held at San Antonio de Padua earlier this year,” said Friar Rijo. “We see different faces every day, and I want to promote and reach out to more students. When I came to El Paso, Bishop Mark Seitz spoke to me about the ministry of presence and spiritual guidance for the students; this was his vision. To be with them in continuity and consistency, which I will continue to do.” Friar Rijo said, “The youth have many ideas; they bring many creative ideas to the table. How can we incorporate our spirituality into those ideas, keeping tradition and creating something that appeals to them? Bishop Mark Seitz has entrusted me to continue this vision,” said Friar.
Through accompaniment, university students are empowered to become leaders in their faith and lead other university students to an encounter with the Gospel. The Mission Statement speaks for itself: We want to shepherd students by creating a space of Encounter, belonging, and Mission through the Church’s sacred traditions, prayer, and fellowship. I left feeling inspired (as usual), wanting to spread the Good News of this Ministry.
God definitely had big plans when He brought Frir Rijo to El Paso!
We are truly blessed to house a variety of abundant precious gems in the Diocese of El Paso. Please take some time to visit the UTEP Catholic Campus Ministry located at 2230 N. Oregon, El Paso, TX 79902. This Ministry is open to all college students!
Mass Times: Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
Adoration Times: Tuesday, 7 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m.
Confession Times: Tuesday-Friday 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. (Walk-in or by Appointment)
Center Hours: Mon-Fri 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
When you give to the Progress Catholic Ministry Appeal, your gift makes a huge difference. Be that inspiration today! For more information or to donate, don't hesitate to get in touch with Tina Edwards-Milam, Annual Appeal Director, at 915-872-8412, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit 2023progress-cma.org.