Former All Saints pastor and community advocate, Fr. Stephen Jasso, TOR, dies at 88

North Texas Catholic
(Feb 15, 2021) Local

Father Stephen Jasso

Bishop Michael Olson stands next to Father Stephen Jasso, TOR, on Dec. 15, 2017 at All Saints Catholic Church in Fort Worth as they prepare to distribute Communion. (NTC/Ben Torres)

FORT WORTH — Father Stephen Jasso, TOR, retired pastor of All Saints Catholic Church and much-respected advocate for the region’s growing Hispanic population, always taught by example. When debilitating illness robbed his speech and mobility, there were still lessons of faith to share.

“He always told me, ‘This is my cross to bear. Pray for me and I’ll continue to pray for you,’” said Arica Prado, longtime friend of the Franciscan friar and principal of a place he loved — All Saints Catholic School. “He was our shining light. It was hard to see him suffer.”

Fr. Jasso, a tireless champion for immigrants, the unborn, and Catholic education, died February 12 after a three-year battle with ALS. He was 88.

The body of Father Jasso will be received at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 21 at All Saints Catholic Church. Father Manuel Holguin, pastor of All Saints, will receive the body. The Rite will include a brief reading of Scripture and a homily. People may be present wearing masks and social distancing.

On Monday, February 22, Father Jasso’s body will lie in repose from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. in All Saints Catholic Church. Public viewing will be allowed with social distancing and wearing of face masks. At 7 p.m., Bishop Michael Olson will preside at a vigil, and three eulogies will be given: Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price; former Fort Worth City Councilman Sal Espino; and Madison Perales, a 23-year-old alumna of All Saints Catholic School, Nolan Catholic High School, and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. 

Fr. Jasso’s funeral Mass will be at 12 p.m. Tuesday, February 23 in All Saints Catholic Church. Bishop Olson will be the celebrant and Father Mauricio Alarcón Martinéz, TOR, will be the homilist. Afterwards, Fr. Jasso will be buried in his hometown of Waco at Waco Memorial Cemetery, with Bishop Olson present.

Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson described Fr. Jasso as a faithful Franciscan who watched over the people of All Saints for 23 years with a shepherd’s care. Respected and valued by those in public service and government, the late pastor’s influence extended beyond the confines of his parish to men and women of all faiths in Fort Worth and throughout Texas.

“A final lesson to his flock was his witness to the human dignity and the fundamental right to life by his suffering and courageous perseverance with Lou Gehrig’s disease,” the bishop commented. “We thank God for the life and ministry of Fr. Stephen Jasso. Please join me in praying for the repose of his soul.”

Raised by devoutly Catholic parents, the late Domingo Jasso Sr. and his wife, Leonor, Fr. Jasso credited time spent with Franciscans for his spiritual growth and vocation to the priesthood. The order staffed St. Francis Catholic Parish in Waco where he was baptized and made his first Communion and Confirmation. Before entering the Franciscans in 1957, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, earning the rank of sergeant first class.

After earning his undergraduate degree at St. Francis College in Pennsylvania, the army veteran began seminary studies in Majorca, Spain, and then the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1965.

“I spent eight years in Europe without coming home at all,” Fr. Jasso recalled in a 2018 North Texas Catholic interview. “But my family always supported what I did.”

When the newly ordained priest arrived in Peru for his first assignment, his parents and 14 siblings purchased a motorcycle for the missionary so he could navigate the country’s narrow, mountain roadways.

Four years later, Fr. Jasso was sent to Mexico where he spent 24 years serving parishes and the TOR community in leadership roles. In 1994, his order allowed him to come to Fort Worth where he worked at St. Thomas the Apostle for six months before assuming the role of All Saints pastor.

Under his leadership, the historic parish flourished. The soft-spoken pastor recruited religious sisters to work in parish ministries, spearheaded construction of a parish hall desperately needed for religious education classes, and raised the profile of Hispanics in Fort Worth by participating on civic boards and committees. In 2002, Fr. Jasso met with then President George W. Bush during the Hispanic Leadership Summit. Locally, he served on the board of United Way and the Task Force on Racism.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price honored the faith leader’s “humble service and active community involvement” by proclaiming August 7, 2018 as Father Jasso Day in the city.

A lifelong member of All Saints Parish, Carlos Flores said the late pastor exemplified leadership through faith and works.

“Even in his last days, he was an inspiration for all of us,” stated the Fort Worth City Councilman who represents District 2. “He bore his cross very well with dignity and faith.”

When the third generation Texan considered running for public office, he sought the counsel of his spiritual leader and longtime friend.

“I contacted and spoke with Fr. Jasso and we prayed together,” Flores recalled. “I wanted it to be an endeavor I was wholeheartedly sure of and getting his blessing was important.”

The humble priest’s ability to reach out and influence community leaders helped save All Saints School from closing in the early 2000s. Faced with a dwindling enrollment and a building in disrepair, Fr. Jasso met with local business owners and parishioners to determine the school’s fate.

His personal commitment to provide tuition assistance, along with pledges of support from alumni and benefactors, eased the parish school out of financial crisis. A remodeling project updated classrooms in 2010.

For his service to Catholic education, Fr. Jasso received the University of Notre Dame Sorin Award in 2013. Accepting the honor, the friar called Catholic schools “a gift to the country.”

“I’m privileged to serve Catholic education because I’m convinced that’s what the Church and the country needs,” he said emphatically. “We need solid Catholics with a living conviction of the truth they have discovered through the process of a Catholic education.”

Teresa Montes, a graduate of both All Saints and Nolan Catholic High School, praised Fr. Jasso’s stamina and devotion to duty. She grew up steps away from the parish, and her parents, John and Jeanette Hernandez, were close friends of the pastor.

“He never sat down,” she observed. “He worked tirelessly day and night. I’d see him in my parent’s home at 10 o’clock at night having coffee.”

His arrival at All Saints in 1994 generated record Mass attendance and a renewed sense of pride in the Hispanic community. Prior to becoming ill, the pastor would don his wide-brimmed sombrero and mariachi suit to lead the Cinco de Mayo or Mexican Independence Day parade on a horse.

“Fr. Jasso was very much a person everyone called upon to ask his opinion regardless of the subject matter,” Montes said. “He always promoted the North Side community and the people who live there.”

As Fr. Jasso’s health worsened, family, friends, and parishioners gathered at his home to offer prayers and shed tears as they spoke words of comfort to the ailing priest.

“They expected his death and came together with sadness and gratitude,” Father Manuel Holguin explained.

The current pastor of All Saints Parish described his predecessor’s dedication to the priesthood and ministry as a beautiful blessing.

“You can’t describe his life in a few words,” he added. “He was a wonderful example of Christ for his people.”

In one of his last media interviews, Fr. Jasso explained how his unshakeable faith helped him cope with a devastating diagnosis.

“I’m carrying the cross because I feel — this illness — for some reason God has permitted,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2018. “I will carry it as the Lord carried His cross for me. Suffering is part of everyday living.”

Editor's Note: Please click here to read a letter of sympathy from Fr. Jasso's Franciscan Minister General.

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