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Cirila Nava, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Omaha, scrapes paint from an old radiator at St. Mary School in Omaha as the building is renovated into Centro Pastoral Tepeyac, a new Hispanic pastoral center. In the background are Bryan Diaz, left, and Clemente Nava, right, also members of St. Francis of Assisi Parish. DANIKA LANG/STAFF

Hispanic pastoral center to open in Omaha

A vacant school building in South Omaha has found new a purpose and new identity serving Hispanic Catholics.

The building, formerly St. Mary School, which closed in 2005, and which housed St. Peter Claver Cristo Rey High School from 2007 to 2011, is now Centro Pastoral Tepeyac (or Tepeyac Pastoral Center, named after the site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico).

The new center is a response to input archdiocesan leaders received during listening sessions in 2016, said Deacon Gregorio Elizalde, manager of the Latino Ministry Office.

People from predominantly Hispanic parishes told Archbishop George J. Lucas of the need for adequate facilities to hold their activities.

In addition to housing the offices of Latino Ministry and Latino School Enrollment, the center will provide space for retreats, workshops, Marriage Encounter weekends, sacramental preparation, safe environment training, and other faith group gatherings and meetings.

Although primarily aimed at serving Hispanic groups, the facility will be open to other groups that want to use it, Deacon Elizalde said. 

People from St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joseph, Assumption/Guadalupe and St. Peter parishes, all in Omaha, will serve on the board operating the facility.

St. Mary Parish will continue to own the building and the operating board will be responsible for expenses such as utilities, said Father Frank Jindra, pastor of St. Mary and St. Peter and Paul Parish, also in Omaha. 

The school has been vacant since 2011, he said, and with the Juan Diego Center beginning renovations and needing to reclaim the space recently occupied by the Latino offices, using the St. Mary building was a logical solution.

The facility is being spruced up with new paint and carpet. Other improvements will include creating a large meeting room for up to 150 people, two smaller meeting rooms and possibly about 20 sleeping rooms for people attending retreats, Deacon Elizalde said.

Plans for repurposing the building began late last year as Latino Ministries attempted to find a facility for holding retreats, Deacon Elizalde said. It was then that Father Scott Hastings, vicar for clergy and judicial vicar for the archdiocese, who is active in Latino ministries, discussed with Father Jindra the possibility of using the building.

The Latino Ministry and Latino School Enrollment offices will move into the facility on the last weekend in May. Inauguration celebrations are planned for July 27, including Mass and an outdoor festival, Deacon Elizalde said.

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