For the past 50 years, the orphanage has helped thousands of young boys. With the aid of donors and the future expansion of its campus facilities, Nazareth Orphanage is now moving towards permanently helping young girls.
The original vision for Rancho Nazareth dates back to the early 1960’s when Father Henry, a Catholic priest from Orange County, California, saw a need to help migrant worker families by providing temporary support to their children via access to a stable education. Due to the nature of the temporary agricultural work that many parents undertook to earn a living, families were left with few options as to how to care for their children while away. Some were able to leave their children with grandparents or other family members but, for many, this was not an option. This resulted in children who could not stay in school consistently due to moving so frequently, or worse, children who were not under the care and supervision of a trusted adult. This need for reliable care and stable education for children of migrants was made more urgent when the Bracero Program, an agreement between the U.S. and Mexican governments that permitted Mexican citizens to take temporary agricultural work in the U.S., was promptly cancelled leading many parents to being able to return to Mexico less frequently.
In response, Father Henry began fundraising to purchase land and build a basic dormitory close to the border where migrant workers could entrust their children while they worked in the United States. In 1967, Father Henry purchased 126 acres of land in Tecate, Mexico under the name of the Archdiocese of Tijuana and began building. The Rancho Nazareth facility was officially opened in September 1970 as a co-ed facility with approximately 25 children. The day-to-day administration and care for the children was overseen by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and of the Poor. Of note, the permit granted to the facility at the time was under the guidelines for an orphanage, although the children living there could or could not technically be orphans.
Around 2014, the portion of land that composes Rancho Nazareth was deeded to the religious order who administers the Orphanage. The other 106 acres that surround Rancho Nazareth are still owned by the Archdiocese of Tijuana.
Since its inception, Rancho Nazareth has evolved to meet the needs of the community and the changing circumstances that many families of limited resources face. In its current form, Rancho Nazareth functions as a “Casa Hogar”, or a facility where parents can take their children when they cannot adequately care for them. The circumstances faced by the families of children at Rancho Nazareth range from divorce, a parent in jail or, most commonly, a family facing severe financial hardship that may preclude children from adequate care and consistent attendance in school. There could be a few orphans with no known living family in the facility; however, most of the children placed there have living family members with whom they are connected and see with varying frequency.
While Rancho Nazareth started as a co-ed facility, in the late 1970’s it changed into a male only “Casa Hogar” accepting boys from 2-18 years of age. The number of children enrolled has fluctuated between 25 and 51 throughout the years. After seeing the impact that separating siblings due to gender had, Sister Enedina advocated to reopen to girls and, in 2017, began accepting girls back into Rancho Nazareth.
In Sister Enedina’s words: “It is of ultimate importance that the families of children in need, regardless of economic or emotional circumstances, remain together rather than separating children due to gender. Unifying them, giving them the same sets of values and structure under a loving environment, will allow them to stay together as a family for years to come.”
Rancho Nazareth seeks to provide a stable, warm and supportive environment for children to be enrolled in school and learn while their families address financial, legal or other issues that may prevent them from being able to create these circumstances in their homes. When possible, and under counsel of trusted entities, Rancho Nazareth seeks to reunite children with their parents to continue their education and family life. All operations are supported by donations from local organizations and individuals.
In July 1996, Father Brian F. Kelly, a Navy Chaplain, stationed at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, California, arrived at Nazareth Orphanage to meet the Mother Superior of the facility. After a tour of the orphanage, Father Kelly offered to bring Marines, Sailors and their families back to the orphanage to assist with needed repairs. In September of 1996, the first day trip of four per year started with 35 volunteers. Ever since 1996, Father Kelly has led four trips during the school year to Nazareth Orphanage, starting with the military and, upon his retirement from the Navy in 2008, parishioners from various churches he has assisted as well as students from many schools.
In 2012, as Sister Enedina was formulating her plan to keep siblings together by bringing girls into Rancho Nazareth, she approached Father Kelly with the idea of him (via OFNO), providing help to build a girl’s dormitory. It was clear that accepting girls created a need for a dedicated dormitory and a larger multipurpose room to accommodate the additional children. Father Kelly agreed, and the fundraising to build the expanded facilities began shortly thereafter.
To fund raise for an expansion at the orphanage, Father Kelly realized that a formal organization needed to be created. Thus, Outreach For Nazareth Orphanage became a 501(c)(3) by the USA Internal Revenue Service on December 12, 2014. A Board of Directors was established, and Father Kelly serves as President/Spiritual Moderator. OFNO created a Website, www.ofno.org, to support this fundraising effort. The headquarters for OFNO (and where check donations can be sent) is: Outreach For Nazareth Orphanage, 6797 Encelia Place, Carlsbad, CA 92011. Donations can also be made securely online through the Website. Funds raised by OFNO are earmarked towards building a girl’s dormitory, a larger dining room, a new chapel and multipurpose building. With the aid of donors and the future expansion of its campus facilities, Nazareth Orphanage is now moving to help young girls through our Girls Everywhere Matter capital campaign.
Rancho Nazareth is a nonprofit “Casa Hogar” that seeks to provide a stable, warm, loving and supportive environment for children ages 2-18. It is administered by the sisters of the Sacred Hearth and of the Poor. The order was founded in 1899 and is based in Morelia, Mexico. The children must be enrolled in school in order to be accepted at Rancho Nazareth. All day-to-day operations are supported by donations from local organizations and individuals as well as foreign groups such as OFNO.
The founder of Rancho Nazareth, Father Henry, died in a car accident in 1978.