About Us

Mission

The Encuentro Project, rooted in the tradition of Faith that does Justice, offers participants a faith-based, multi-faceted immersion program in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez border region to experience a deeper understanding of the complex migration reality and of this community. 

Vision

Encounter experiences transform the hearts and minds of participants and open new perspectives about forced migration and asylum seeking by vulnerable people. By providing education, service, activities, reflection, prayer and community, the Encuentro Project motivates participants to engage in peaceful, effective action for greater justice and compassion for migrants and refugee persons as presented in Catholic Social Teaching. 

Our Team

Staff

Christopher Davis is an experienced immersive-education facilitator in the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez region, having been a full-time volunteer with the Annunciation House organization for nearly two-and-a-half years, where he was a coordinator of their Border Awareness Experience program. He is passionate about exploring social-, environmental-, and climate-justice topics with others through a combination of research and discussion, hands-on experience, and personal- and community-based reflection. Formerly, Christopher studied geography at Kansas State University in his hometown of Manhattan, Kansas, was a seminarian of the Salina Diocese in Kansas, and holds a BA in philosophy studies from Conception Seminary College. Christopher loves music and is a songwriter and performing artist. He is also an avid reader, hiker, and chile relleno enthusiast! He hopes you will come to El Paso/Cd. Juárez to encounter this richly dynamic and transformational place!

Lucy del Valle-Corbett is bookkeeper for the Encuentro Project. Lucy is an account by trade and studied public accounting at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, where she worked in public administration in the government sector and other organizations. Lucy has received a certificate in NGO administration from the FOCSIV Institute in Rome, Italy. She speaks Spanish, Italian and improving English. Originally from Guatemala and now an El Pasoan, Lucy is also a mother of two young children and an active volunteer in El Paso community and political organizations.

Father Rafael Garcia, SJ is a member of the UCS Province. Born in La Habana, Cuba, his mother, brother and he left Cuba in 1962 as political refugees and settled in Miami, when he was 9. After public high school, he went on to study architecture, earning his degree from the University of Miami in 1978. Rafael worked as a draftsman through high school and college and then practiced architecture on his own until 1983, a year after he had experienced a call to be a priest, entering the then New Orleans Province of the Jesuits.

After a long formation process and theology studies at Regis Jesuit college in Toronto, Canada, and ordination to the priesthood at the Jesuit parish in Miami, in 1994, Rafael was assigned as pastor at the Jesuit parish in El Paso, Texas, Sacred Heart, where he served until 2007. Those 13 years transformed his life into a greater understanding and compassion for the suffering migrant and refugee persons, and the many undocumented persons who live in the parish’s barrio. During his time as pastor, and with the leadership of a Sister of the Social Service, the parish started many social ministries, including education classes for adults, some of them in conjunction with Mexico’s education system and the Mexican Consulate.  

From 2008-2014, he served as pastor and superior at the Jesuit parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While there, he helped to develop the growth of the parish’s Hispanic immigrant community, and was involved with others in the re-structuring of an interfaith immigrant justice group (New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice). Also, funds from the Jesuits financially supported a bright, dedicated immigration attorney who went from working on her own to now being the director of an immigration law clinic that has several immigration attorneys (New Mexico Immigrant Law Center).  

From 2014-2016, Rafael served as pastor of the Jesuit parish in Kansas City, Missouri. He was able to form a team (a kind of mission band) that included students from Rockhurst University, to provide sacramental preparation on several consecutive Sunday afternoons to an immigrant rural community in the Lexington, MO area, which had not had any pastoral care for years. Children, teens and young adults received Sacraments of Initiation. 

Feeling a desire to dedicate himself more to serving migrants and refugees, he was missioned back to Sacred Heart parish in El Paso. 

Rafael provides pastoral care, mainly Mass and Confessions at the ICE immigration detention center as well as at two (of three) residential detention centers for unaccompanied minors, operated by Southwest Key. He also regularly helps at a shelter that assists paroled asylum seeking families.  

For about 10 years, he has participated in the Jesuit Migration Network of Central and North America (RJM-CANA), and is a member of El Paso’s Bishop Mark Seitz commission on migration.  

For about 5 years, he has served on the advisory board of the Jesuit Social and Research Institute (JSRI) which is part of Loyola University. He is presently an associate for JSRI in El Paso. JSRI supports the Encuentro Project.  

His ministry in El Paso, with the Grace of God, led him to vision and initiate the Encuentro Project, with the help and support of many others.  

La formación académica de Hermano Todd incluye una licenciatura en teología con un título en psicología y una maestría en kinesiología / educación al aire libre, así como cursos adicionales en administración escolar. Además, ha obtenido certificaciones como instructor de seguridad en el agua y Wilderness First Responder.

H. Todd ha trabajado como Maestro, Entrenador, Supervisor de Campo, Desarrollador de Currículo, Entrenador, Consejero, Especialista en Actividades, Subdirector, Instructor de Desierto, Ministro del Campus, Director del Programa de Retiros de Aventura, Facilitador, Misionero, Supervisor de Obras, Director de Vocaciones. Ha trabajado en muchos entornos educativos diferentes, tanto tradicionales como no tradicionales, y con poblaciones que van desde preescolar hasta médicos académicos superiores. Él es un apasionado de la educación experiencial, la formación de equipos, el aire libre y el trabajo con y para los “menos favorecidos”.

H. Todd es actualmente miembro de la Nueva Comunidad de Hermanos Maristas en El Paso, Texas, un proyecto conjunto de los Estados Unidos y México, para cooperar en el cuidado de los migrantes y refugiados.


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Brother Todd’s educational background includes a BA in Theology with a minor in Psychology, and a MS in Kinesiology / Outdoor Education, as well as additional courses in School Administration.  Additionally, he has held certifications as a Water Safety Instructor and Wilderness First Responder.

Br. Todd has worked as a Teacher, Coach, Field Supervisor, Currticulum Developer, Trainer, Counselor, Activities Specialist, Assistant Principal, Wilderness Instructor, Campus Minister, Adventure Retreat Program Director, Facilitator, Missionary, Construction Site Supervisor, Vocation Director.  He has worked in many different educational settings, both traditional and non-traditional, and with populations ranging from pre-kindergarten to Senior Academic Doctors.  He is passionate about experiential education, team-building, the outdoors, and working with and for the “least favored”.

Br. Todd is currently a member of the New Community of Marist Brothers in El Paso, TX, a joint project of the United States and Mexico, to cooperate in the care of Migrants and Refugees.

Board of Directors

Mary Baudouin is the Assistant for Social Ministries for the Jesuits of the Central and Southern Province.  Prior to beginning her work with the Jesuits in January 2003, Mary worked for 14 years in social justice ministry with Catholic Charities and the Office of the Social Apostolate of Archdiocese of New Orleans.  After the U.S. bishops wrote their pastoral letter on the U.S. economy in 1987, Mary coordinated their Office of Implementation for the United States Catholic Conference Office of Social Development and World Peace.  She also worked for seven years as a consultant with faith-based and social service nonprofits in the south, specializing in the areas of strategic planning, board development, and grantwriting.  Mary holds a Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in community development from Washington University in St. Louis.  She and her husband, Tom Fitzgerald, are the parents of three adult children.

Chris BenoitChristopher Benoit is an attorney with The Law Office of Lynn Coyle, PLLC and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. in El Paso, Texas.  Christopher has spent over a decade working as an advocate for human and labor rights in Mexico and the United States. Christopher has worked alongside workers and unions since 2003 and practiced employment, labor, civil rights, and human rights law for the last ten years.He has tried numerous cases against federal and local law enforcement for civil rights violations and against employers for violations of state and federal employment rights throughout Texas and New Mexico. 

 

In addition to his legal career, Christopher has coordinated wage and hour organizing committees in worker centers in El Paso, Denver, and Seattle andsupported migrant workers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border with the Southern Poverty Law Center Immigrant Justice Project, Colorado Legal Services Migrant Farmworker Division, and the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.  Christopher also worked for Proyecto de Derechos Económicos Sociales y Culturales, AC (ProDESC) in Mexico City supporting human rights campaigns throughout the country.

Michael S. Gallagher, SJ has been a Jesuit for over 50 years and has worked on migration and refugee issues for over 25 years. From 2008-2019 he was Jesuit Refugee Service‘s Representative to the Offices of the United Nations in Geneva. He holds a law degree (J.D.) from Georgetown University and a Master’s degree in refugee studies (M.St.) from the University of Oxford.

Father Rafael Garcia, SJ is a member of the UCS Province. Born in La Habana, Cuba, his mother, brother and he left Cuba in 1962 as political refugees and settled in Miami, when he was 9. After public high school, he went on to study architecture, earning his degree from the University of Miami in 1978. Rafael worked as a draftsman through high school and college and then practiced architecture on his own until 1983, a year after he had experienced a call to be a priest, entering the then New Orleans Province of the Jesuits.

After a long formation process and theology studies at Regis Jesuit college in Toronto, Canada, and ordination to the priesthood at the Jesuit parish in Miami, in 1994, Rafael was assigned as pastor at the Jesuit parish in El Paso, Texas, Sacred Heart, where he served until 2007. Those 13 years transformed his life into a greater understanding and compassion for the suffering migrant and refugee persons, and the many undocumented persons who live in the parish’s barrio. During his time as pastor, and with the leadership of a Sister of the Social Service, the parish started many social ministries, including education classes for adults, some of them in conjunction with Mexico’s education system and the Mexican Consulate.  

From 2008-2014, he served as pastor and superior at the Jesuit parish in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While there, he helped to develop the growth of the parish’s Hispanic immigrant community, and was involved with others in the re-structuring of an interfaith immigrant justice group (New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice). Also, funds from the Jesuits financially supported a bright, dedicated immigration attorney who went from working on her own to now being the director of an immigration law clinic that has several immigration attorneys (New Mexico Immigrant Law Center).  

From 2014-2016, Rafael served as pastor of the Jesuit parish in Kansas City, Missouri. He was able to form a team (a kind of mission band) that included students from Rockhurst University, to provide sacramental preparation on several consecutive Sunday afternoons to an immigrant rural community in the Lexington, MO area, which had not had any pastoral care for years. Children, teens and young adults received Sacraments of Initiation. 

Feeling a desire to dedicate himself more to serving migrants and refugees, he was missioned back to Sacred Heart parish in El Paso. 

Rafael provides pastoral care, mainly Mass and Confessions at the ICE immigration detention center as well as at two (of three) residential detention centers for unaccompanied minors, operated by Southwest Key. He also regularly helps at a shelter that assists paroled asylum seeking families.  

For about 10 years, he has participated in the Jesuit Migration Network of Central and North America (RJM-CANA), and is a member of El Paso’s Bishop Mark Seitz commission on migration.  

For about 5 years, he has served on the advisory board of the Jesuit Social and Research Institute (JSRI) which is part of Loyola University. He is presently an associate for JSRI in El Paso. JSRI supports the Encuentro Project.  

His ministry in El Paso, with the Grace of God, led him to vision and initiate the Encuentro Project, with the help and support of many others.  

Brother Lalo was born in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, Mexico. He was educated in the Marist Brothers’ school and, from a very young age, he participated in the vocational accompaniment programs of this congregation. He professed perpetual vows in 1974.

Besides the Program of Philosophical and Theological Studies of the Congregation, Bro. Lalo studied as Professor of Primary Education with the specialization of Spanish Language and Literature. He obtained a Licentiate in Psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.  He has participated in various programs of theological and spiritual renewal.

Bro. Lalo has served in the Marist Educational Mission, as Professor and Catechist in educational centers of primary, secondary, high school and in the administration of several colleges. For many years he has participated in the formation and as director of Marist Formation Centers in its various stages.  Another period of his mission has been dedicated to the animation and leadership of the Province as Provincial Councilor, Vice Provincial and Provincial. At the international level he has participated in 3 General Chapters and in several committees of the Institute.

During 15 years he has served, during the summers, as professor and director of the School of Formation of Mexico and of Central America. Both within his congregation and outside it, he has accompanied the vocational growth of numerous brothers, priests and religious.  He was a member of the board of directors of the Conference of Major Superiors of the Religious Institutes in Mexico.

Bro. Lalo is a founding member of the community of Marist Brothers in El Paso: he collaborates in the shelters for refugees which are part of “Annunciation House” as well as in “The Encuentro Project”, as a member of its board of directors.

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Brother Lalo es originario de Tepatitlán, Jalisco, México. Se educó en el colegio de los Hermanos Maristas y, desde muy joven, participó en los programas de acompañamiento vocacional de esta congregación. Es profeso perpetuo desde 1974.

Además del Programa de Estudios Filosóficos y Teológicos de la Congregación, ha estudiado la Normal de Enseñanza Primaria y la Especialidad de Lengua y Literatura Española. Cursó la Licenciatura en Psicología en la Pontificia Universidad Gregoriana de Roma. Ha participado en diversos periodos de Renovación Teológica y Espiritual.

Se ha desempeñado en la Misión Educativa Marista, como Profesor y Catequista en Centros Educativos de Primaria, Secundaria y Bachillerato y en la Dirección General de varios Colegios. Por muchos años ha sido Formador y Director de los Centros de Formación Marista en sus diversas etapas. Otro periodo de su Misión ha estado dedicado a la Animación y Gobierno de la Provincia como Consejero Provincial, Viceprovincial y Provincial. A nivel internacional ha participado en 3 Capítulos Generales y en varias comisiones del Instituto.

Durante 15 años ha cooperado, durante los veranos, como Profesor y director de la Escuela de Formadores de México y América Central. Tanto a nivel de su congregación como fuera de ella, ha acompañado el crecimiento vocacional de numerosos hermanos, sacerdotes y religiosas. Fue miembro de la Directiva de la Conferencia de Superiores Mayores de los Institutos Religiosos en México.

Es miembro fundador de la Comunidad de Hermanos Maristas en El Paso: colabora en los albergues de “Annunciation House” y en “The Encuentro Project”.

Marcela Villareal de Panetta earned her bachelor degree of Liberal Arts from Newcomb College in 1967.  

Mrs. Panetta has served on the boards of several companies and cultural institutions in the United States and Mexico. She is a founding member and currently serves on the board of ARCA-Contal, the second largest Coca-Cola Bottler in Latin America and third largest in the world.  She is a founding member of the first Coca-Cola charitable foundation in Mexico. As a board member of ARCA-Contal’s Compensation and Social Responsibility Committee, she was instrumental in the company’s adoption of a Triple Bottom Line, as well as in their commitment to social responsibility. In addition, she is largely credited with Arca-Contal’s partnership with PETSTAR, one of the largest and most awarded PET recycling centers in the world.

Mrs. Panetta was a member of the first UBS/ASKOHKA selection committee for the Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award in Mexico.

Working in her community, she served as the Guild President of the El Paso Museum of Art, President of the Juarez Symphony, and as a board member of the El Paso Opera. Mrs. Panetta assisted in building a high school at the Yermo y Parres Multi Cultural Education Center located in one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of Juarez, Mexico.   

Mrs. Panetta serves on the Board of Administrators of Tulane University and the Advisory Board of Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, where she helped create Fondo Guadalupano, a scholarship fund designed to support Mexican students while they are studying at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.  

Mrs. Panetta is married to fellow Tulane Graduate, Bernard J. Panetta II.  The Panettas have three adult children, one of whom is a 2008 graduate of Newcomb College.