July 1, 2020 544 PM
MARFA – On Wednesday, July 8, at the Presidio County commissioners meeting, County Judge Cinderela Guevara will formally transfer ownership of the historic Ruidosa church to the Friends of the Ruidosa Church, a recently formed nonprofit dedicated to fundraising, overseeing the church’s restoration and managing the property for secular and religious functions.
“It’s been a long road,” says Mike Green, secretary of the Friends group. “We started discussions about the transfer with the Catholic Diocese way back in 2016.” In 2019, the diocese deeded the church to Presidio County, pending the group receiving nonprofit status from the IRS. “We got our letter from the IRS in May, making us official,” said Green. The present deed ceremony is the last step in the transfer process and opens the door for a major fundraising effort.
Completed in 1915 using sun-dried adobe bricks made by the citizens of Ruidosa, El Corazón Sagrado de la Iglesia de Jesús (the Sacred Heart of the Church of Jesus) was a scaled-down frontier version of a traditional Catholic Church floor plan, featuring two pyramidal-roofed towers flanking a central arched vestibule entryway. The church’s four interior adobe arches are believed to be the largest traditional adobe arches in the state.
Used for decades by its congregation for weddings, funerals and Sunday mass, by the mid-1950s, as the population of Ruidosa declined, the church began to fall into disrepair. By the early 1990s, the church had reached an advanced state of decay and the El Paso Diocese announced plans to demolish it. Although those plans were dropped due to local opposition, the church continued to deteriorate.
In 2004, funding for the church’s restoration was secured through the Texas Historical Commission in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Presidio County Historical Commission. Over the course of the following six years, the building was stabilized and partially restored. However, as a result of concerns about the structural integrity of the left tower, the project was terminated in 2010 and the church’s deterioration resumed.
“We are very excited to finally gain formal ownership of the church,” said Friends’ president, David Keller. “With this transfer, and the group’s nonprofit status, people can now make tax deductible donations with confidence.”
In coordination with the deed transfer, the group is also launching its new website at Ruidosachurch.org. More information can be found there as well as on Facebook and Instagram.