A longtime fixture in the Northside Fort Worth community is stepping aside. Father Stephen Jasso is retiring after 24 years as priest of All Saints Catholic Church, and his mission has always reached far beyond the pulpit.
"My ministry has been very ample in Fort Worth," Jasso said.
Jasso's office holds the evidence of his wide-ranging influence.
"Not everything is put up, because there's no space," he said, pointing to the walls covered in framed photos and awards.
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Educated in Rome, trained in Mexico City, he now serves on the Fort Worth mayor's faith leaders cabinet and has met with a number of politicians advocating on issues like immigration for the growing Hispanic community.
"Growth has been our number one issue," Jasso said.
The 2010 Census put Fort Worth's Latino population at 34 percent. This year, 62 percent of students in the Fort Worth Independent School District are Hispanic.
"I think the future is going to depend on us being well-educated, well-trained," Jasso said.
Education is the priest's biggest focus, especially in the Catholic school attached to All Saints, where students greet him like a celebrity.
"He's been like a second father to me," one student said.
"I feel happy with them," Jasso said. "I get energy from them. I need it."
And in their faces, Jasso sees the next generation of leaders.
"But we have to help them," he said. "Leadership is not just something that happens. It's something you get ready for."
Jasso is ready for his next phase and for a younger crowd to take up his work, both in and outside the church walls.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this was a calling from the good Lord, and I don't deserve it. I really don't deserve that, but I'm doing my best," Jasso said.
Jasso is 85, and the priest replacing him is just 28. He arrives next month from Mexico to take over. Jasso will remain as vicar to continue helping out in the church and school.
There will be a mass and retirement reception for Jasso on Friday, Dec. 15, at 6 p.m. at All Saints Catholic Church, 214 NW 20th Street, Fort Worth.