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Chronicles:

Paz gets new mural
The next time you come to Paz you will notice a new painting on the outside of our office entrance. You may remember the story in the AZ Republic in May about one of our employees being united with his sons after 19 years due to the publicity generated by our recent fire. Jean-Pierre Verdijo, the eldest son of Marcial works for a non-profit in Austin, TX called “Young Artists in Service”. The program works to create opportunities for young people to deepen into the spirit of service by engaging their communities through art. Jean-Pierre recruited some local youngsters to assist him in creating this mural. Thanks JP! The mural is a wonderful addition to Paz.
A Blessing in Disguise
There is an incredible story about one of our employees who first discovered the fire. The Mesa Fire Department awarded Lidia Beltran & Marcial Verdejo the “Good Samaritan Award” for their quick action in putting out the fire and preventing the fire from spreading and doing more damage.  They were interviewed on several local TV channels and two of Marcials sons saw the interview and have reunited with Marcial after 19 years. The day after the news stories were reported, we received a call at Paz from one of Marcials’ sons by the name of Marcial Verdejo Jr.  He told us he had not seen his Dad in 15 years and saw the news clip on the local news in Racine, WI.  He was very excited to learn the whereabouts of his Dad and asked that we have Marcial call him.  As you can imagine, it was a very emotional call for Marcial once he was able to get back in touch with his son. Marcial last saw his son when he was about 10-12 years of age, when his mother left Marcial and took the children with her. The next day we received a voice mail from another of Marcial’s sons by the name of Jean Pierre, who works at a nonprofit near Austin, TX.  He had been contacted by Marcial Jr. and also viewed the Fox interview.  He told us that he had not seen his father for 18 years, that he was very proud of him and would we please ask him to call since he had so much to tell him.  We could not help but sense the emotion and excitement in his voice on the message he left. Jean Pierre said he grew up in homeless shelters and now works for a non-profit in Austin, Texas. He is making plans to visit Marcial in Phoenix this summer along with his son. Marcial says that this situation has changed his life and his view of himself as a person of worth. He looks forward to the opportunity to reunite with his children soon. 
The History of Paz de Cristo
St. Timothy’s hired a social concerns director to coordinate various outreach projects the parish was involved in. Interest in this area of ministry soon grew and a social concerns core group was formed to research major projects which would focus the church’s efforts. The parishioners were invited to a “Town Hall” meeting in February 1988 to discern and vote for a project from 2 options presented by the pastoral council. The decision was to sponsor a food service and family shelter in the East Valley. St. Tim’s created Paz as a “Major Outreach Project,” a ministry that would be the focus of all of St. Tim’s Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the Hungry-Give Drink to the Thirsty-Clothe the naked-Shelter the Homeless. The vision also included an Interfaith component. We would invite other faith communities to participate with us in this mission. We would pool resources—both financial and human—and develop a Community Center that would help to serve some of the needs of our poor brothers and sisters here in the East Valley. Those of us who started Paz had the experience of serving at Andre’ House, a Catholic Worker House in Phoenix. We were inspired by the vision of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and the profound needs we saw in the homeless people here in the East Valley. We wanted to develop a central place of service both for those with needs ANDfor those with the need to serve. The rented little yellow house at 559 S Country Club Dr opened July 1988. Our first services were providing information and referral to other community services, Adopt-A-Family program, an emergency food pantry and a clothing bank. The first meal was served on the corner of Hibbert and Main Street, Mesa September 15, 1988. The meals were prepared at the little yellow house and then transported, tables and all, to the parking lot of what was then the Tri-City Community Service Center building. We had more volunteers than guests that first night. The actual number served was 12! (Remind you of another “supper”?) In the beginning two meals a week (Wednesday and Thursday evenings) were served. Another evening was added in October and again in November then in January 1989 the ministry became a seven evenings a week operation. At this time there was also a meal outreach effort to the Chandler Heights Orchards on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This ministry actually began at St. Tim’s (in collaboration with other faith communities) before Paz de Cristo was born but in the summer of 1990 this meal service  became a part of Paz. That effort continued until the local land owners kicked out those providing this service to the migrant farm workers in the late 1990’s. Paz quickly outgrew its home on Country Club. In 1993 a building site was secured. The land was purchased from the Railroad and the shells of the buildings were donated – a donation secured by former AZ Gov. Rose Mofford. Paz was the first organization that had to secure a special use permit for social service agencies in Mesa. The ground breaking was on Oct. 2, 1993. The blessing and dedication of the building was on February 12, 1994 and the first meal in the new facility – our current home on Broadway -was served on January 15, 1994, a forerunner to Mesa’s annual MLK celebrations. The heart and soul of Paz de Cristo is its dedicated volunteers. Today Paz de Cristo, a private, nonprofit 501(c)3 charity is a respected interfaith ministry that has become an integral part of the network of services for those in need in the East Valley. This year we celebrate the courageous witness of Paz de Cristo and the positive force for goodness and love it continues to be.

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given: a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.

-St. Francis of Assisi