Fr. Elías Puentes, S.J., was born in Mexico but immigrated to the U.S. with his family when he was a teenager. As a student at Maywood Christian School outside Los Angeles, he balanced academics with a nearly full-time job at a local grocery store. One day after graduating from high school, he was driving past Dolores Mission, a Jesuit parish in East Los Angeles, and found himself inexplicably and strongly drawn to the church. Before long, he was part of the community at Dolores Mission, working as a clerk in the office. He was quickly spotted by the staff of Proyecto Pastoral, the homeless shelter housed in the church, and was asked to join their team. For the next seven years, Elías took on increasingly more responsibility with the shelter, eventually serving as director of the program. He also formed close friendships with Jesuits and immersed himself in parish life while discerning his call to the priesthood. After building an academic foundation at East Los Angeles Community College, Elías entered the Jesuits in 2006 and, as a novice, did a six-week pilgrimage in the San Joaquin Valley with migrant farm workers and worked at Sacred Heart Nativity School in San Jose, California, and at the Jesuit infirmary in Los Gatos, California. Missioned in 2008 to Saint Louis University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy before serving for one year at Loyola Academy, a college preparatory program for underserved middle school boys that is part of Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix. Missioned next to Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Washington, for two years, Elías taught Scripture and managed the school’s diversity program. In 2015, he was missioned to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where he studied for a Master of Divinity degree while working as a deacon at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts, a diverse parish committed to social justice. His Jesuit formation also included work in prison ministry as well as a summer spent at the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national humanitarian aid organization co-founded by the Jesuits. After ordination, Elías will continue his studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He will celebrate his first Mass of Thanksgiving at Dolores Mission. (USA West Province)
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