By Violeta Rocha
Special to The Texas Catholic
Eduardo Duran never imagined that one quiet Saturday morning while cutting the grass in his yard, he would receive a visit from the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Dallas and the Dallas police chief.
On Nov. 4, however, Duran was one of many east Dallas residents that were greeted by Bishop Greg Kelly and Chief Eddie Garcia as part of a community block walk coordinated by Dallas Area Interfaith and St. Pius X Catholic Parish.
Also participating in the community block walk were Father Salvador Guzmán, pastor of St. Pius X, joined by Fray Ángel Ríos, parochial vicar of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, more than 20 parish-based Dallas Area Interfaith leaders, and several police officers. The objective was to listen to the needs and concerns of residents in the neighborhoods surrounding the parish. Participants asked survey questions, taking notes to investigate any security concerns and ways to encourage community participation.
‘Together we are stronger’
“It’s the first time I’ve seen someone from the Church and the police in our community,” said Duran, a native of Mexico City and a St. Pius X parishioner.
Duran, who has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years, told the block walk group that he does not want to see it decline. He added that the visit from the bishop and police chief motivated him to become more involved in his community.
“It was important to see the people in the neighborhood face to face,” said Bishop Kelly, adding that the opportunity allowed him to learn that the majority of residents have lived in the neighborhood for a long time, and they want to see positive changes.
Bishop Kelly added that the work of Dallas Area Interfaith volunteers allows such issues to be discussed and addressed to find the most effective paths to improving community life.
Garcia agreed, praising the alliance between St. Pius X and law enforcement representatives.
“Working together with the parish is very important because we know that the community comes here to Church. They have faith in the parish, and we want them to also have faith in us,” Garcia said.
The police chief added that the visit to the homes, a collaborative effort between the parish and the police, made the community see that “together we are stronger.”
Maricela Chávez, who like Duran has lived in the neighborhood near St. Pius X for more than two decades, called the visit a “pleasant surprise.”
“I hope we continue like this,” Chávez said.
Francisco Uchida, a member of Dallas Area Interfaith for two years, accompanied Bishop Kelly and Garcia, facilitating the survey of the residents.
“It offers a positive example to the community that they do not need to be afraid to talk to the police,” Uchida said. “It also shows the generations of young people that they are not alone and that we are all united.”
Father Guzmán praised St. Pius X parishioners for putting their faith into action by “taking the Church out into the neighborhood.” He said that his wish was that the residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the parish now know that St. Pius X Catholic Church is there as a neighbor, ready to help others.
Gloria Lam, who heads up the DAI group at St. Pius X, helped organize the block walk, which she called “a big step” toward helping the community establish a better, more confident relationship with law enforcement.
Lam, who in September as a representative of Dallas Area Interfaith, had the opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. She recalled that Pope Francis emphasized the importance of priests going out to minister in the streets.
“Seeing that we are working towards that and seeing what is happening here in our own community, it is a great joy,” Lam said.
In addition to the block walk, Lam said a resource fair was offered for the community at the parish on Nov. 4 with Catholic Charities Dallas, health clinics, and financial institutions present.
“We are privileged because this parish is interested in providing this information to us,” said St. Pius X parishioner María Saucedo.