Father Rick Thomas, S.J. was born in Seffner, Florida in 1928 and entered the Jesuit order in 1945 after attending Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida. He was ordained to the priesthood in San Francisco in 1958.
From 1964 until his death, Father Thomas was the Executive Director of Our Lady’s Youth Center in El Paso, Texas. Under Father Thomas’s leadership, Our Lady’s Youth Center grew to include ministries to the poor in different areas of Juarez, Mexico, including food banks, medical and dental clinics, prison and mental hospital ministries, and schools. Dedicated volunteers from both sides of the border continue to run the various ministries.
In 1975 Father Thomas started The Lord’s Ranch east of Vado, New Mexico. Over the years the Ranch has provided recreation and rehabilitation to needy youth, housed hundreds of visitors from all over the world, run retreats for young and old, and is home to KJES International Shortwave Radio Station broadcasting to every continent.
The old Youth Center building at 515 S. Kansas was sold in 1997 when Father Thomas acquired a larger building he named Las Alas, at 501 E. Paisano and the weekly Wednesday night prayer meeting grew, expanding to include catechism classes for children, individual prayer counseling, and increased hours of confessions.
Father Rene Laurentin, a renowned theologian, wrote two books about Father Rick and the community entitled, “Miracles in El Paso?” (which is now out of print) and “Le Miracle Continue” (which was only published in French.)
A book, written by a Canadian journalist named Richard Dunstan, was published in 2009 called, “The Bible on the Border: How Father Rick Thomas and his friends learned to serve the poor of Mexico by taking God at His Word”. Dunstan is currently working on a biography of Father Thomas.
Father Thomas was the recipient of numerous awards and honors in his lifetime, none of which he cared about or paid any attention to. The only award he was interested in was to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…come and share your Master’s joy.” (Matt. 25:23) We believe he heard those words.
Father Richard M. Thomas, S.J. died on May 8, 2006 at the Lord’s Ranch in Vado, New Mexico. He was 78 years old.
Father Thomas leaves us a legacy of deep spiritual faith, a strong commitment to social justice and an unwavering obedience to God’s Word.