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State Hispanic commission honors Father Jesús Camacho with Lifetime Achievement Award

The following story appeared in the September 23 Idaho Catholic Register.

Padre Jesús Camacho in his office at St. Mary’s Parish in Boise.

The Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct 15) by presenting its Lifetime Achievement Award to Father Jesús Camacho, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish in Boise.

However, Father Camacho was not able to attend the ceremony as he was in Mexico to celebrate something far more important to him than his person-al recognition: his sister’s 80th birth-day. “I just returned from Mexico to celebrate my sister Estela’s 80 years of life along with my brothers, nephews, cousins and aunts. It was a great family party, a true gift from God,” Father Camacho wrote on his Facebook page. “Thank you for your congratulations on the occasion of my recognition.”

Judge Sergio Gutierrez, a close friend of Father Camacho’s and a con-vert to the faith, accepted the award on his behalf.

Also honored as Reporter of the Year was Brenda Rodríguez of KTVB News in Boise, for her work in both English and Spanish journalism.

The ceremony at the Idaho Capitol included a statement from Gov. Brad Little who said Idahoans of Hispanic descent have added to the state with a “culture uniquely rich in the diversity of its people, their traditions and history and contributions to the state of Idaho.”

Father Jesús Camacho has been a fixture in the Idaho Hispanic com-munity since his arrival in the state in 1981. Catholics of Hispanic descent come to him from through-out the Treasure Valley to hear him preach, to receive the sacraments, to have him celebrate their quinceañeras or to help recently released prisoners to find a job. For years they listened to him on the radio. Even during the days before Idaho had a Catholic station, Father Camacho had a program on a local Spanish station to answer questions about Catholicism.

“Father Jesús Camacho is one of the most trusted people in our community,” said JJ Saldaña, community resource development specialist for the Hispanic Affairs Commission. “As long as there are resources available to the Hispanic community, we know we can count on him to use those resources to solve problems."

Father Camacho arrived at the rectory at Boise’s Sacred Heart parish at 1 a.m. July 7, 1981. He didn’t have a driver’s license, so his friend, Father Francisco Tapia, drove him from Veracruz, Mexico to Boise. After five days on the road, Boise was a welcome sight.

Father Camacho didn’t speak English and the priests at Sacred Heart didn’t speak Spanish.

Father Camacho says his choice to come to Idaho was one of pure faith. He first heard about the need for priests in Boise while still in Veracruz. His friend, Father Tapia, had just re-turned to Veracruz after serving in the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He told Father Camacho of the need for Hispanic priests in Oregon and Idaho.

“Someone upstairs was in charge of this. When Father Tapia told me about the situation and the need of priests here, something moved inside me. I felt called to come,” said Father Camacho in a 2017 interview with the Idaho Catholic Register. Father Tapia gave the good news to the bishop of the Diocese of Baker, Bishop Thomas Connolly. Then somehow, his neighbor to the east, Bishop Sylvester Treinen, found out.

Bishop Treinen sent a letter to Father Camacho in Spanish, telling him that he had convinced Bishop Connolly that Boise needed another Hispanic priest more than Baker did. So Father Camacho agreed, obeying the prodding of the Holy Spirit to come to Idaho.

The day after arriving in Boise, Father Camacho boarded a bus for Blackfoot. On Sunday, July 12, 1981, he said his first Spanish Mass in Idaho.

In 1985, he spent a year at Mt. Angel Seminary to improve his English. After that, Bishop Treinen sent him to St. Mark’s Parish in Boise, where Father John Donoghue was pastor. Father Camacho credits Father Donoghue with getting him through the most difficult part of fluency in a foreign language: thinking in that language. He also made a deal with the children at St. Mark’s School: He would teach them soccer, if they would speak only English to him.

Much more fluent in English, Father Camacho was given his first assignment as a pastor in 1987 at St. Hubert’s in Homedale. The difficulties of over-coming the multicultural environment led Father Camacho to attain his master’s degree in Theology and Multicultural Ministry in 1991from the Jesuit School of Theology at the University of California at Berkeley.

He was pastor in Jerome from 1993-1998, after which Bishop Michael P. Driscoll asked Father Camacho to be the first priest to serve full-time in prison ministry. Father Camacho said he would accept only if he could be allowed to continue to do his first love, parish work. Bishop Driscoll agreed, and in 1999 he named Father Camacho as director of Prison Ministries and parochial vicar of St. Mary’s in Boise. He continued in prison ministry until 2016, but still serves at St. Mary’s to this day.

Father Camacho was a regular columnist for the Idaho Catholic Register and also enjoys writing creatively. His goal is to bring the good news of the Savior for all nations to all of Idaho, not just Hispanics, which is fitting for a priest ordained on Christmas Day in 1975.

His English now nearly perfected, he says that we must remember that prepositions are important: If we do things for a community, we separate that community from ourselves. If we do things with a community, then we unite ourselves and everyone becomes richer.

Brenda Rodríguez, 27, works as a news anchor and reporter for KTVB. Originally from Rupert, her parents are from Zamora in the state of Michoacán, where many of Idaho’s Hispanic Catholics come from.

Although her parents were not well educated, they made the effort to ensure that their children could go to college. Rodríguez is the second of three children, two of whom are university graduates and one still a student.

Rodríguez studied for a degree while working as a news anchor at the University of Idaho in Moscow. The oldest of her brothers works as a translator for Saint Luke’s Hospital and the youngest is studying in Spain.

Rodríguez was honored by the award. “I feel loved and accepted by the community, for whom I am very grateful.”

Rodríguez’s love for television news began when she was 8. She bought

a video camera and played with her brothers at hosting a news program they called “First Impact.” Her oldest brother was in charge of the news section and sports and the smallest reported on the weather.

“I always knew I wanted to work as a television news anchor, however I didn’t believe in myself very much, I thought it was just a dream,” Rodríguez said.

She began her career working with María Hinojosa for MSNBC television and cable news. She also spent time in California, working for different technology and news companies, but her desire was to be close to her family. She returned to Idaho when she began her work at KTVB.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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