The San Jose Catholic Church in the Lower Valley has been around for 104 years, but its days are numbered. The church has not been maintained properly, and both time and improper maintenance have taken their toll. The Diocese closed the church last year due to structural problems that the City of El Paso said made the church unsafe to use.
On Friday, I spoke to Elizabeth O’Hara, the Communications Director for the Catholic Diocese of El Paso about San Jose.
O’Hara said the problem with San Jose dates back to Bishop Pena. The parishioners wanted to expand the church and asked if they could raise money to toward that end. He said yes and the parishioners worked on fundraisers.
When Bishop Ochoa replaced Pena, fundraising continued, but Ochoa never took a stand one way or the other on expanding San Jose.
The problem is, parishioners stopped doing regular maintenance on the old church. The Diocese is not like a school district. They don’t have a maintenance department that looks after the buildings in the diocese.
Individual churches and parishioners are required to maintain their structures. This is common knowledge, and one of the reasons why fundraising for expansion is undertaken by individual parishes, and not the Diocese when a particular parish wants to expand.
When Bishop Seitz replaced Ochoa, he was asked about San Jose, but at that point, the structure was already having issues.
When the City came in and said San Jose was unsafe to use, the Diocese had no choice but to close it and look at the damage to the structure. Engineers looked at San Jose, but said that years of quick fixes for problems like water leaking into the old adobe structure have rendered it unfixable.
The Diocese was told there is no way to save the old church.
San Jose will be decommissioned and demolished. It is not known if another church will be built on that site, or if San Jose parishioners will be told to find other parishes.
The Diocese is as upset as the parishioners because San Jose is a historic church and a strong faith community, and they are sad to see that community lose their beloved church.
I go to Immaculate Concepcion downtown. It is also a historic church, and the upkeep on it is tremendous, both in time and money.
All parishes know that they are required to keep their structures up to code, and while it is sad that San Jose is going to be demolished, it is a good lesson for other parishes to make sure that proper maintenance of their buildings is done so that they won’t have to go through the heartbreak that San Jose parishioners are feeling.