June 10, 2015 — Though he's served in Brazil for the past 50 years, the people of El Paso, Texas, have not forgotten Jesuit Father Harold Rahm, who served as assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Church in El Paso from 1951 to 1964.
Now 96 years old, Fr. Rahm received a warm welcome when he returned to Texas last month to receive the first-ever "Segundo Barrio Person of the Year" award, named for the neighborhood surrounding the Sacred Heart Parish.
While serving in El Paso, he founded several service organizations in Segundo Barrio that continue today, including Camp Juan Diego, for children who could not afford summer camp, and Our Lady's Youth Center, an outreach program targeting at-risk youth. He also helped to alleviate gang warfare, ministering to gang members whom others were too afraid to approach.
Fr. Rahm became known as the “bicycling priest” for his habit of riding his bike to visit people in the neighborhood and deliver breakfast to the homes of the elderly. "The bicycle, when you work with teenagers, is great because you know where they gather and can get there quicker than in an automobile. On a bicycle, you can just come up and become part of them," Fr. Rahm said.
During Fr. Rahm’s visit, a dinner and bicycle parade were held in his honor, and local artist Francisco Delgado unveiled a mural of Fr. Rahm at Sacred Heart. Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke also placed a tribute in the March 17 Congressional Record recognizing Fr. Rahm's service to the El Paso community.
Though he left Sacred Heart in 1964 and moved to Brazil to work with individuals dealing with substance abuse, Fr. Rahm said he will never forget El Paso. "El Paso, for me, is the most wonderful place in the world. There are not people like you, any place on this earth. Thank you for this beautiful welcome here."