About EPISO / Border Interfaith


El Paso Interreligious Sponsoring Organization (EPISO) / Border Interfaith is a broad-based community organization located in El Paso, Texas.  Our members are faith and neighborhood institutions who work across religious, racial, ethnic, economic, generational and neighborhood lines for the good of the whole community.

EPISO/Border Interfaith believes that in order for community leaders to be effective, we must be educated and informed citizens.  We engage in public discourse and initiate action guided by that conversation, creating opportunities for ordinary people to make real and dramatic change in the community.  We strive to hold elected officials accountable for their public responsibilities.

Affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the West/Southwest IAF and the Texas IAF, EPISO/Border Interfaith builds relational power and exercises that power to strengthen our communities and bring about a more just society.  

Teaching & Practicing Democracy

EPISO / Border Interfaith embraces a vision of a vibrant bilingual border community.  We are convinced that El Paso can be a better place to live – with better schools, better jobs, and healthier citizens.

  • We commit as institutional members to work for a community where the schools are excellent, all residents have affordable healthcare, and all people are treated with respect.
  • We hold our elected officials accountable to ensure they protect our natural environment, manage growth carefully, and make basic services available to all.
  • We pledge to identify and train leaders whose web of relationships transcend economic, racial, gender, and religious divisions.

Through building relational power and engaging actively in democratic civic life, our institutions and leaders will transform our border region.  Our motivation comes from the teachings of our diverse faiths and from our fervent belief in liberty and justice for all.

  • Latest from the blog

    Pope Francis Blesses EPISO/BI Leaders Ahead of 40th Anniversary

    (Pope Francis congratulates Silvia Camacho of San Juan Diego Catholic Church on October 14, 2022 at his residence.) Last Friday evening at St. Thomas Aquinas, close to 400 EPISO and Border Interfaith leaders celebrated a landmark event-- four decades of organizing in El Paso. But something they never anticipated also came to pass-- two weeks earlier, leaders representing EPISO and Border Interfaith were invited to join a delegation of 20 people from across their broader community organizing network, the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation, to share with the Pope the courageous work of countless leaders to bring water, sewer, and drainage to the colonias in El Paso. To these stories, Pope Francis responded, "Hombres y mujeres así son los que hacen la historia. No se conforman con los limites. Seguramente los habrán criticado mucho. Pero la gente escucha la critica, porque es humilde, y va adelante." - Pope Francis ("Men and women like these are those who make history. They don't conform to limits. Surely they have been criticized a lot. But the people listen to the criticism, because they are humble, and they keep moving forward." He sent his blessing and his medallion to each organization, and closed with encouragement to leaders to keep working, and to not rest on their laurels. (Co-Chair Rosa Lujan shares the medallion with others at EPISO/BI's 40th Anniversary.) And rest EPISO/BI leaders do not. At their 40th Anniversary celebration, they recognized the work of their founding leaders, the major accomplishments of the organizations, and charged forward with a vision for the work ahead. Bishop Mark Seitz delivered a keynote address congratulating EPISO/BI on their achievements, but also recognized leaders for listening to people on the peripheries, and for taking action.  Honorees included Sr. Elisa Rodriguez, Fr. James Hall, and Alicia Franco. Had it not been for their courage and persistence, there would never have been an organization with the power to bring water and sewer to 100,000 people on the border, or to start Project ARRIBA, a workforce development project with over 20 years of success in training people for in-demand occupations in healthcare and education.  But leaders acknowledged that the work is far from over. K. Denisse Garcia, a second generation EPISO/BI leader shared that after a harrowing recovery from COVID-19, she now has to work three jobs to support herself through El Paso Community College, and that many of her peers have fallen through the cracks. Amanda Ozer of University Presbyterian Church presented on the state of the economy, and the need to shore up efforts for workforce training and direct cash assistance for people living on the edge. Judge Ricardo Samaniego reacted to EPISO/BI's proposals for action by committing to finding American Rescue Plan funds to invest in Project ARRIBA. "It's a no-brainer," the Judge quipped when asked if he would support the project.  (K. Denisse Garcia and Ivan Bernal speak to the need for greater investment in the new workforce of El Paso.) EPISO/BI is continuing a hard money campaign to raise funds for the organization until December 31, 2022. Missed the Anniversary but want to make an investment? You can now invest online at episo-iaf.org/invest.  Press and Photos Forty Years Later, EPISO Founders Remember Their Victories, Struggles, El Paso Matters InSeitz into the Faith, A Podcast with Bishop Mark Seitz on EPISO/BI's Papal Visit EPISO/Border Interfaith Meets with Pope Francis, West/Southwest IAF Photos of EPISO/BI 40th Anniversary Photo credit to Rabbi John Linder (Visit with Pope Francis), 40th Anniversary Photo credits to Rafael Paz Parra
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    EPISO/Border Interfaith Meets with Pope Francis

    Our organization had the rare opportunity to visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican as part of an interfaith delegation of 20 leaders and organizers from the West/Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation. We met with him to share our collective work of broad based organizing at a time when the Pope is guiding the global church in a historic Synod listening process. The Holy Father sat side by side with us in his residence, thanking us for inconveniencing ourselves to come see him.  What ensued was a true dialogue, a 90-minute conversation in Spanish with lots of back and forth engagement.  The encounter was filled with many graced moments about both the joys and the struggles of our work, and the work of the Church, past, present, and to come.  This invitation to meet was in large part due to the recognition of our work by local Bishops, particularly those involved with the 'Recognizing the Stranger' strategy, which is dedicated to formation and leadership development of immigrant parishioners. As well, our involvement to support the Synod process in multiple dioceses has helped to bring those in the margins to the center of the synodal dialogue.  As we shared our experiences of organizing, we were struck by how carefully he listened, asked questions, and engaged with lots of humor. Early on, he reflected back to us, “Usaron mucho las palabras ‘ver’ y ‘escuchar,’... Me impresiona que ninguno de ustedes es parte de alguna teoría.  Ninguno dice ‘leí un libro y me interesó eso.’” (You constantly use the words “to see” and “to listen.. I am impressed that none of you start with any theory. No one says ‘I read a book and that interested me.’)  “El peligro es intelectualizar el problema” (The danger is when you intellectualize a problem). He stressed the importance of being with people and paying  attention to their reality, emphasizing Amor Concreto, love concretely in action, saying that he understood our work as seeing and hearing of injustice in the real lives of our people, acting to change the situation, and being changed ourselves as a result. He expressed his appreciation for our focus on what we are doing, rather than to complain about what is not being done or to disparage anyone. “Ustedes no menospreciaron a nadie.” Before concluding, he thanked us for our visit, saying that although he had never known of IAF before, he was glad that he knew us now, and he welcomed further conversation around our continuing work with the Synod process. We teach that power recognizes power.  For Pope Francis, “el verdadero poder es el servicio,” (“true power is service”).  Recounting the Good Samaritan, he clearly stated that the Gospel cannot be understood without acting with those who are suffering.  He recognized the leaders and organizations of the IAF and the powerful work that is happening every day at the margins. He referred to the IAF as “Good News for the United States.” We are humbled to represent the many decades of work from those who preceded us, and we are encouraged in the continuation of our work into the future.   Delegation of West/Southwest IAF leaders and organizers stands with Pope Francis. [Photos credit: Rabbi John Linder]
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