Participants in the first Desert House of Prayer Circle gathering.
Participants in the first Desert House of Prayer Circle gathering.

Desert House of Prayer: Our Oldest New Circle

by John & Diana Davenport

A dedicated group of Redemptorists and lay volunteers who have been ministering along the Mexican border for half of a century have become the newest Circle of Redemptorist Associates in the Denver Province. Fr. John Kane, C.Ss.R. opened the Desert House of Prayer in Tucson on February 3, 1974. The founding team included Sr. Louise Margaret (Peg) Williams, CPPS, Sr. Mariquita Luby, FSPA and Sr. Dorothy Ann Lesher, CSJ. Although Fr. Ricardo Elford was not an official member of the team, Fr. John asked him to chair the community’s weekly social justice forum. The forum has been meeting regularly ever since that time.

Fr. John and his team envisioned a contemplative center based on the model of Fr. Bernard Häring, C.Ss.R.: lots of silent time for prayer and centering activities, with the understanding that prayer must lead to social action. On the other hand, social action without deep prayer can become politicized. Because the Desert House facility is in need of many repairs, it was closed during the pandemic. But the community has remained active, thanks to the determination and dedication of the core group of Redemptorists and lay members. Fr. Ricardo, who has continued to celebrate Mass for the community, also was a founder of Clinica Amistad, which provides free medical care to the low-income and uninsured community in Tucson.

Fr. Ricardo, Katherine Gaboury and Camille Sensale have been working with members of the Desert House community and the Tucson Circle of Redemptorist Associates to bring their group into the fold of Redemptorist Circles. The first meeting of the Desert House Circle focused on the issue of immigration, and featured excerpts from Redemptorist Fr. Charles Vijay Kumar’s documentary, Who Is My Neighbor? Fr. Ricardo is a featured speaker in a portion of the documentary, and some of the actions of Border Patrol and ICE are included as well. A prayer service and in-depth discussion of the documentary followed.

Please contact Fr. Ricardo at ricardoelford@gmail.com to participate via ZOOM. The new Desert House Circle wishes to extend a very special thanks to the Denver Province Partners in Mission, Council 15704 of the Knights of Columbus, and the Our Lady of the Desert Circle for providing equipment and technical expertise, as well as warm personal support.

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