Local church deacon leads UTEP’s Catholic Campus Ministry
By Domingo Martinez on March 1, 2013
EL PASO – The UTEP Catholic Ministry is a well-known student organization serving and spreading the good news and serving the needs of young Catholic students. It was started in 2005 by the Rev. Father Henry Beck in the basement of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Sunset Heights until moving in 2007 to its current location at the Newman Center building on Oregon Drive, next door to the Baptist Student Ministry building.
In December 2011 Beck resigned his role as Catholic campus minister, after he was transferred to serve a local Catholic diocese in Wisconsin. During the spring of 2012 the campus ministry placed a temporary minister in charge until the Catholic campus ministry was able to find a permanent minister.
In April of last year, El Paso Native Ignacio “Sonny” Bustillos, 64, was installed as the new campus minister by the El Paso Catholic Diocese and Catholic Campus ministry.
A father of four and grandfather of 14, Bustillos is also a deacon at Cristo Rey Catholic Church in the Lower Valley. As a first-time campus minister, Bustillos has big shoes to fill.
“It was an opportunity to serve our young college students,” said Bustillos, who also volunteers at Cristo Rey and other local charities.
He was appointed to serve as campus minster by the Diocese spokesman Rev. Father Tony Celino because of a shortage of priests in the area, said Bustillos. A deacon since 2007, he currently serves at the Sunday 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. English masses, and sometimes at the 11 a.m. Spanish mass.
“I also officiate at baptisms and funerals; I am currently the head director of the English evangelization group, chaplain for the men’s ACTS and Knights of Columbus, and an active volunteer with the teen life at Cristo Rey,” Bustillos said.
“I always help out with the colonias of Horizon City,” he said, adding that this is something he does “personally” and not as part of Cristo Rey.” A Vietnam War veteran, he also was part of the Navy construction battalion, also known as the Seabees.
“I built wells and built schools. This profession helped me get jobs in construction,” said Bustillos.
His main goal at UTEP is to recruit new members for the Newman center.
“Although this is still my first year I am still learning to become a campus minister and haven’t had a chance to work with other campus ministers. It takes time to understand about the other religious groups on campus,” he said. He hopes to devote more time during the next academic year to build relationships with the other religious groups.
Chris Smith, director of the Baptist Student Ministries (BSM), said he knows only a little about Bustillos’s leadership. “I barely know a little about Sonny (Deacon Bustillos) but Father Henry said that he is a nice guy.”
Smith added that Bustillos “is the perfect choice” to be the new Catholic Campus and looks forward to working with him in the future. “Just because he doesn’t have experience working with college students it doesn’t mean he can’t minister college students,” he said.
Although Bustillos is brand new to UTEP he already plans new events for the Catholic campus ministry such as staffing a table at the UTEP Union this semester and going to different Catholic parishes this summer to recruit students to the Newman center.
For him everything is a learning experience in his first year as campus minister.
There many activities planned every week with faith sharing on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12:30 p.m., mass every Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. Bustillos welcomes visitors at the Newman center on the corner of Oregon Drive and Kerbey Avenue behind Kinley’s coffee house on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.