The Valley Missionary Program was founded by Fr. Jose Pawliki who was a Holy Cross priest that came to the Coachella Valley in 1974 to serve the needs of the Hispanic immigrants. When he arrived there were 40,000 Hispanics, but very few Spanish Masses and few priests who understood the Mexican religious culture.
Father José started out by leading Cursillo de Cristiandad retreats. Cursillo is a worldwide Catholic organization that provides evangelization through an intensive three-day retreat. Father José added a new twist, though. He combined the weekend retreat of Cursillo with small faith communities, like the “comunidades de base” he had experienced in Latin America. He recognized that the spiritual impact of the retreat would fade quickly unless the participants found a small community where their faith could be shared and nourished. After discovering the love in Jesus in the retreat, they need to learn how to live it in community.
In 1983 the leaders of Cursillo told Father José to drop his emphasis on small faith communities and other modifications that he had made, or else he must leave Cursillo and start his own program of evangelization. So, Father José created a new program tailored to the spirituality of Mexican immigrants, based on the ideas of friendship with our Lord Jesus and love shared in small communities. Thus, the Valley Missionary Program was born. Nowadays more than 15,000 people have been transformed by the experience of living the Missionary Encounter that keep evangelizing families and individuals in the Coachella Valley and beyond.