Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick (1918-2006)
A champion and friend of the poor and the oppressed, John Fitzpatrick served as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville from 1971 to 1991. He formed the sponsoring organization that invited the Industrial Areas Foundation to organize in the Valley, leading to the creation of Valley Interfaith in 1982. “There would be no Valley Interfaith without Bishop Fitzpatrick,” the IAF’s Ernesto Cortes, Jr., told the Observer. He was a staunch supporter of the United Farmworkers Union and the rights of migrant workers. He opened Casa Oscar Romero in 1982 to provide shelter and assistance for Central American refugees as part of the sanctuary movement. During the trial of Casa Romero director Jack Elder, Fitzpatrick testified that while no law of the Roman Catholic Church specifically required Catholics to provide sanctuary or rides to Salvadorans, he believed that providing such assistance constituted an appropriate expression of the Christian gospel. Bishop Fitzpatrick was a man of great good humor, a great companion at the dinner table or in a political demonstration, and he never flinched in standing up for economic and political justice. He will be missed.