His presence will be felt for many days to come…

We learned about Father Lerena’s passing a month ago. Here is what I wrote…

Fr. Francisco Pérez-Lerena, S.J.
December 27, 1924 – July 25, 2017


Fr. Francisco Pérez-Lerena, S.J. lived on planet Earth for 33,813 days. I only got to spend a fraction of that time with him. But it was enough to learn about his greatness.

It was the late 80s and early 90s as he was doing everything he could to address the drug epidemic consuming his city. Prior to that, Fr. Lerena had been the leader of Jesuit priests in the Antilles (1974-79) and the rector of Belen Jesuit (1980-83), back when the prep school was based in Little Havana.

In 1984, as a parish priest in Downtown Miami, he was moved by the plight of Kelvin Minnick who came to confession. The priest struggled to find a drug treatment for the young man, but before he could, Kelvin committed suicide.

The Jesuit priest realized he had to do something to help Miami’s drug-addicted youth. Finding few resources, he decided to build his own center.  From the rectory of Gesu Catholic Church he began organizing; he called on volunteers to help him—my Mom was among them.

Together, they began to build Regis House, a drug prevention and treatment center.  Slowly, they raised money, awareness and more volunteers to grow the organization. They built community, life. They gathered for weekly masses and potlucks. They organized working sessions to plan radio marathons, raffles and gala luncheons.

He knitted together friends, parishioners, the Belen community, concerned citizens, politicians, parents, students –any one who would listen — to work together to help care for our community’s children.

People listened. People responded. Together, he led them in building Regis House.

I last saw Fr. Lerena on April 1st, 2017, 116 days before he died. He was surrounded by a room-full of supporters who came to thank him for a life dedicated to love, to service. At 92, he was stepping down as the leader of the non-profit organization he had founded, fully aware of the impact they had made. The organization had changed the lives of countless children and families, including the very people he called upon to help him build Regis House.

Fr. Lerena was an incredibly generous man. He was a man of purpose and vision. He was a leader. Leading by example, he taught us how to be better, do better.

We are all better because he lived.

His presence will be felt for many days to come.


Xavier Cortada

Regis House Executive Director, 1990-1992
Board member 1988-1997

April 1, 2017: Fr. Lerena and Xavier Cortada at Belen Jesuit Prep School in Miami.

Regis House presents: Seahorses exhibit closing event

SeahorsesGallery | Opening InvitationPress release | Closing Invitation

Xavier Cortada, “Seahorse Society: South” 48″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas, 2014

Join us on

Thursday, May 11th, 2017
from 6 pm to 8 pm

for the official closing of


an exhibit by

Xavier Cortada


Pinecrest Gardens
Historic Entrance

11000 S Red Rd, Pinecrest, FL 33156

Exhibit runs April 6 – May 11th, 2017th


Proceeds from sales will benefit Regis House.
As a law student, Cortada served as Executive Director of the adolescent drug and alcohol abuse center.

Founded in 1984, Regis House is a non-profit, 501(c)(3), charitable, community-based organization with the mission to improve lives for a healthy community through mental health, family support and substance abuse services.  Regis House, Inc. has served more than 70,000 families throughout Miami-Dade County since its inception.  Programs and services such as co-occurring psychiatric/mental health, substance abuse services, individual, group, and family counseling/therapy, school-based prevention programs, and public assistance programs are many of the programs, and services the agency has to offer.