After serving for many years as a missionary in Pakistan. India and Cameroon Fr John Taylor (*1939) recently moved to minister at St Mary’s parish in Phoenix Arizona. He reports on his experiences so far:
All is well here in Chandler, Arizona. I honestly cannot imagine myself easily adapting to the quiet life in Herbert House, Freshfield. I am grateful to God that I keep good health and still have the energy to serve in this dynamic parish of St. Mary’s and St. Juan Diego: two churches, but one parish!
I arrived here in mid-October 2016 and I am fully involved pastorally now that I am confident driving (on the ‘right’ side of the road) . After a few months ministering only in English and getting some tuition in Spanish, I have been able to anoint the sick and preside at Mass also in Spanish, but normally have a deacon preach, though I can manage a short homily (not fully appreciated by the Mexican immigrants who love long celebrations!). But I do not have enough time or energy (or memory!) to learn enough Spanish yet to hold a conversation and hence cannot normally hear confessions in Spanish (though I know the absolution in Spanish, of course) and some penitents still come to me happily knowing I won’t fully understand them!!
Recently added to our little team (Frs. Dan McBride, Shea Bowora – originally from Zimbabwe – and myself ) is now a fourth priest Fr. Edgardo Iriarte from Argentina who, unfortunately, does not know any English, but has started learning it. He served in BuenasAires and worked under bishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio who is now Pope!
With our second newly constructed church of St. Juan Diego now fully functioning since 7th May, together with St. Mary’s, the main Church, we have to commute between them as we have 12 Sunday Masses: 4 at San Juan Diego (15 mins drive on a quiet Sunday if all traffic lights are green!) and 8 in St. Mary’s, 5 of them being in Spanish. These 12 Masses we four priests can easily cope with, though we have a couple of retired priests not too far away who are willing to help us if one of us is absent. Then there are three sessions of Confessions every week (we are in a very traditional style parish) and four of us are kept busy for a full 45 minutes (and sometimes for over an hour) on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings. While many are clearly in need of Confession, there are some who are weekly penitents with the old idea that they have to go to Confession before every Communion and confess a list of peccadillos which can try our patience.
There are lots of Sick-calls (even at night when we get called to the local hospital as the resident chaplain strangely keeps to a 9-5 schedule). Added to all this are lots of funerals which cannot be scheduled, of course!
Our Pastor, Fr. Dan, estimates that after we opened the second church 2 thousand more people have joined our parish. We already had nearly 5 thousand registered families so it’s a very busy parish and nearly half of the parishioners are Hispanic.
We have lots of lay helpers, some employed by the parish, and many volunteers, especially those involved in various care-ministries. We have, next to St. Mary’s Church, an excellent Catholic School (St. Mary-Basha Catholic Elementary School) that has been in existence for over 80 years and gets financial support from a Supermarket Chain (Basha) that was founded by a generous Catholic family. We have all the usual Catholic organisations: RCIA , Marriage Encounter, Couples for Christ, Cursillo, Knights of Columbus (I was recently initiated in the first degree!), Vincent de Paul Society (very active and we minister to hundreds of very poor people with our food bank), Legion of Mary, Life Teens(Youth ministry), English and Spanish choirs each with professionally employed leaders and volunteer instrumentalists, Grief and Bereavement Ministry etc., Our parish office has 14 departments, each with at least one employed professional.
What I share in my homilies is seemingly appreciated from the comments I get from lots of parishioners who also tell me they love my ‘Irish’ accent (which I tell them is actually Lancastrian!).
The people in this parish are deeply committed to their Christian faith and rather traditional. I frequently hear people saying in Confession (sadly) that they missed Mass one Sunday (was tired, lazy) and hence felt they could not go to Communion until they had been to Confession. They would tell me that normally they went to Mass every Sunday. I have assured them that even if that missing of Mass had been a serious matter a ‘mortal sin’ (which I find difficult to accept that such an omission could be equivalent to murder, adultery etc.) they could have made a perfect act of contrition with a resolve to confess later and gone to Communion. Depriving oneself of the nourishment and healing that Christ gives in Holy Communion (already taught by the Council of Trent) is to leave oneself in a state of weakness, depriving oneself of the grace of God, and hence more likely to fall into sin when tempted. I encourage them to focus on Christ as their the One who nourishes us and heals us in this Sacrament. Missing one Sunday Mass is like missing a meal. To do this regularly would mean one was depriving oneself of essential nourishment and healing and thus one would get spiritually sick and ‘die’. But the occasional omission would surely not be ‘death-dealing’! Most people are happy to hear this explanation, but there are some who have even written to the Bishop to say that I am teaching heresy : that missing Mass is not a mortal sin and that there is no need to go to confession. Further , they claim that there are enough priests around to hear confessions so there could never be a reason to resort to the perfect act of contrition solution before receiving Communion when conscious of some grave sin. If any of our MHMs can help me in this moral matter, I would be most grateful!
My MHM colleague, Fr. Gregory Rice, who encouraged me to come to this diocese (for we had served together in Pakistan), lives around 20 or so minutes’ drive away and is kept busy assisting in various parishes after he retired from being in charge of the special ministry to the Native Americans in the Reservations, where he continues to assist and still has other responsibilities in the diocese.
Please visit our St.Mary’s Catholic Church Chandler website for more info and photos http://www.stmarychandler.org/
Fr John Taylor mhm
A video of a Eucharistic Celebration at St Mary’s with Fr John Taylor as main celebrant: