Year Joined MKLM: 2013
Country: El Salvador
City or Town: Santo Tomás
Ministry: Santo Tomás Parish Christian communities.
Focus: Engaging parishioners in living out Catholic Social Teaching and building small Christian communities.
Joe is originally from Bedford, NH, and has lived in Seattle, Washington since 1989. He graduated from Boston College with a BA in Theology and Political Science and later earned a Master of Divinity from Weston Jesuit School of Theology. He has worked with the homeless, in parish ministry, adult education and ministry formation, and most recently served as an Education Organizer for Catholic Relief Services for nine years. He served in Jesuit Volunteer Corps and co-founded MICAH, a JVC alumni network.
Joe was attracted to MKLM through his friendships with many lay missioners and by MKLM’s commitment to social justice through global solidarity.
Joe works in Santo Tomás parish in the town of Santo Tomás, located just south of San Salvador. He supports the Social Outreach Ministry and the parish’s small Christian communities.
Santo Tomás is a typical slice of El Salvador, spanning the country’s traditional past and its current reality. The parish church sits in front of a cobble-stone plaza shaded by the leafy canopy of an old-growth ceiba tree, creating a picturesque scene of old El Salvador. But sitting in the plaza, one can hear the buzz of traffic along the nearby highway that runs from the capital to the airport. Along the highway are the maquilas, the factories producing cheap clothing, cardboard boxes, and plastic goods that exploit El Salvador’s cheap labor, and the highway also serves as a boundary between gangs that control the poor neighborhoods on either side.
Santo Tomás parishioners hold a strong, traditional Catholic faith, which sustains them through the many challenges of life there: the threat and reality of gang violence, the new housing developments that threaten the natural springs and rivers that supply the people with water, the poor quality of local schools, and the lack of decent jobs. In many ways, the church holds the people together: every week, nearly 40 small Christian communities gather in homes around the town to reflect on the Scriptures, pray together, and celebrate the gift of their faith. The parish social outreach ministry provides a weekly breakfast and monthly food assistance for low-income elders, workshops in baking, food preservation, jam making for local people, and is currently seeking to start a small, mobile, community library. They raise awareness about water use and conservation through educational forums, and help parish groups find alternatives to using Styrofoam at parish events.