Pope Francis has often been called the “Slum Pope” for his work in the poorest and most dangerous areas of Argentina.
“When Bergoglio was here, nobody really gave us any money at all,” says Padre Juan Isasmendi, a slum priest in Villa 21-24, where Pope Francis spent the most time. “So he would find bread himself. He would literally go out to the bakeries, get bread, and bring it back to the kids every morning. No one was helping him. And that’s important because it gives the people the idea of what the church is for.”
Throughout the course of his papacy, Pope Francis has continued to preach the need of ministering to these desperate communities. One “curas villeros”, or “slum priests” continuing Pope Francis’ work now that he is in Rome is Jesuit Father Jose Maria di Paola, who is better known as “Padre Pepe”.
He began working with Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) over 20 years years ago, when then Archbishop Bergoglio asked Padre Pepe to help in the villas, specifically to work with the children and the young people in the neighborhoods. He worked in these neighborhoods for 15 years, before death threats from drug dealers forced him out. He began his work in Villa Carcova three years ago.
Villa Carcova is one of about 50 neighborhoods dubbed the “villas miserias,” or “misery villages.” The streets are rocky and unpaved, and the labyrinth of alleyways is overcrowded with shoddy houses constructed from cinder blocks and metal scraps. The highest rates of crime, violence, and drug problems reside here, making these some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in and around Buenos Aires. But this is Padre Pepe’s home, where his hopes and passions, rooted in faith, lie.
In this seemingly hopeless slum, Padre Pepe runs “Capilla Sagrado Corazón” – The Sacred Heart Chapel. The Capilla, is a small comprehensive care center for children and families in the poorest area of Villa Cárcova where no other Church presence exists. Padre Pepe, one of Pope Francis’ “priests in the slums” provides food, academic support, catechesis, sports and other recreation activities at the Capilla.
To help support Padre Pepe’s mission and other missions like it, The Pontifical Mission Societies have created MISSIO, a new and innovative Catholic crowd-funding platform that allows you to directly help provide aid for the poorest of areas.
MISSIO allows you to search through vital charity projects – ones providing for basic needs, education, safety, and others extending the Good News of the Gospel to remote areas.
Launched by Pope Francis himself, the MISSIO platform offers a direct connection to change-makers who work on the “front lines” making a difference for the poor and marginalized through direct, daily service.
Choose one of these missions of Pope Francis, and donate directly to them, knowing that 100% of your donation will go directly there. Share them on social media so others can support the projects also.
MISSIO is powered by The Pontifical Mission Societies, the Catholic Church’s official support organization for overseas missions since 1822, providing for a global network of people who are making a difference for communities in need around the globe.
Check out MISSIO today and start giving!