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Photo via Community Wraparound

October 12, 2023 — Fr. Richard Brown, SJ, who passed away at age 93 in 2020, earned the nickname “El Padrecito del Barrio” (Father of the neighborhood) for his 50 years serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Diego. On October 7, Beardsley Street, which runs by the parish, was renamed “Father Richard H. Brown SJ Street” in his honor.

The event began with a memorial Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Ramón Bejarano, of the Diocese of San Diego, followed by the unveiling of the new sign and a block party.

Fr. Brown was not Latino, but he spoke fluent Spanish and had a deep knowledge of Mexican culture and customs. He brought a mariachi band into Mass and instituted a blessing of the lowriders, sprinkling the cars with holy water. When he died, hundreds of lowriders processed through the neighborhood in his honor.

Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with Todd Gloria, mayor of San Diego

In addition to his sacramental ministry at the parish—baptizing thousands of babies, witnessing marriages and conducting funerals—Fr. Brown counseled gang members and was active in the parish’s school.

(Image via the Southern Cross, newspaper of the Diocese of San Diego)

He also worked with civic and church organizations to help keep his young parishioners out of gangs. In 1968, Fr. Brown created the Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Youth Organization, a club for teens that had a spiritual component but also taught practical skills.

Fr. Richard Brown, SJ, with Our Lady’s School students (courtesy of Our Lady’s School)

“He had a Mexican heart,” said longtime parishioner Adela Garcia. “He loved our culture. He knew more about our culture than I think anyone I had ever met.”

“We have the best neighborhood in all of San Diego,” Garcia said. “It is rich with love, with talent, and a lot of people just don’t know what a wonderful community this is to live in. He did.”

[Sources: kpbs.org, edition.com]

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