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December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is always a busy time for the Jesuit parish in San Diego that bears the name of the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas.

In addition to two midnight Masses (one in the church and one in the parish hall), five daytime Masses and a heartfelt reenactment of the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this year, the Spanish-language station Telemundo was anchoring its coverage from the parish. Adding to the hectic but joyful scene were approximately 20 migrant men who have been sheltering at the parish.

Migrants having dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish

Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, said that the parish was not intending to start a shelter but as temperatures started growing colder in San Diego, more and more migrant men were sleeping on the church steps every night. Several other shelters in the area provide services for women and children, but it is often not easy for men to find a place to say.

Our Lady of Guadalupe opened its doors to migrant men on October 1. Every day, migrants start lining up in the late afternoon and at 6:30 p.m. are invited in, providing they can demonstrate that they have registered with U.S. immigration.

Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, with volunteers preparing a meal for migrants at the shelter

They spend the night at Salon Tepeyac, a building on the parish grounds. The building is used frequently for meetings and gatherings by the parish and by the larger community, and being able to reserve Salon Tepeyac for an event is difficult because space is a rare commodity.

Fr. Santarosa says, “It is hard to take the building out of commission every night, but our parish staff and community felt it was absolutely what we had to do.”

A Quonset hut made of galvanized steel, Salon Tepeyac is not fancy, but it is warm and welcoming as parishioners take turns preparing and serving dinner every evening and breakfast every morning before migrants have to leave for the day at 7 a.m. Salon Tepeyac, which was blessed by the provincial of Jesuits West, Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, can accommodate a maximum of 35 guests.

Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, provincial of Jesuits West, blesses Salon Tepeyac.

The building is named for Tepeyac Hill, the place in Mexico where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1531 to an Indigenous man named Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. Our Lady chose Juan Diego, a peasant of low social standing, to be her messenger, something that just might resonate with the migrant men who seek shelter at Our Lady of Guadalupe every day.

Jesuit associate pastors Frs. Brad Mills, SJ, far left, and Hung Nguyen, SJ, far right, have been instrumental in creating this shelter and helping it be a warm, welcoming place.

Fr. Santarosa says, “Our mission is to provide migrant men who have no place to go the opportunity to stay for 30 days to help them get back on their feet. We are making this up as we go along, but God has been with us every step of the way. I am so grateful to our volunteers and to my brother Jesuits for reflecting the face of Christ to our brothers in need.”

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