This hero priest's humble and simple life shows how small details can change the lives of many.
Joaquin Sancho Albesa was better known in his home city of Valencia as “Padre Botella” (“Father Bottle”). His life would make a great movie: a humble and simple man whose actions show how small details can change the lives of many. Now he even has a street named after him.
It’s a well-deserved tribute to a priest who managed to collect funds on a large scale for the construction of housing for immigrants and poor families in his neighborhood.
The archdiocese of Valencia explains that the street, which has been inaugurated in the Valencian town of Benimámet, serves as recognition of his “great pastoral and social work in favor of charity, education, and access to decent housing at a time of great need.”
Padre Botella was born on April 24, 1930, in the tiny town of Valdealgorfa (in Teruel, in northeastern Spain) but his family moved to Valencia when he was a child. After his formation at the Metropolitan Seminary of Moncada, he was ordained a priest in 1953, beginning his priestly ministry as chaplain of the San Francisco Javier School; in 1954, he was appointed parochial vicar of the parish of San Miguel de Burjassot.
A year later he was assigned as parish priest of the Nativity of Our Lady in Canterería as well as being in charge of the parish of Beniferri. There, he would find himself dealing with a situation of poverty; most of the families who went to his parish lived in caves.
Padre Botella rebelled against this situation and began to do small things to try to alleviate it. First, he worked to provide education and cover other basic needs for children and adults: he distributed milk, cheese, and other food, and created a nursery for children and a vocational school for adults to learn trades.
Along with this work, he started to collect bottles to recycle to raise money for the construction of some blocks of housing next to what is today the Camales Caves Park of Benimàmet. The residences were destined for emigrant families and poor families from the neighborhood, including those who lived in the caves. His motto was: “Every bottle is a brick.”
This is the reason he is remembered as “Padre Botella” (“Father Bottle”). His ideas and projects grew and gave fruit, and finally the families living in the caves were able to have decent housing. The apartments were finished with the intervention and economic help of the Archbishopric of Valencia, since Padre Botella in 1961 was transferred to the diocesan branch of Caritas and had the support of the archbishop of Valencia at the time, Marcelino Olaechea.
Padre Botella’s initiatives were endless. For example, he auctioned off bottles at the end of stages of the Tour of Spain bicycle race, and sought to take advantage of the growing world of soccer: “Even the stadiums of Madrid accepted that the collection of bottles be set up at the gates,” say those who knew him.
Thanks to all his efforts, there are now homes for 107 families, and a kindergarten — places that everyone knows as “Padre Botella’s lands.”