Author: St. Patrick Catholic Community

First Down (September 17, 2017)

Dear Friends,

The challenge for today’s Christian is not to just know about Jesus, but rather to know Jesus. Jesus preached about what is called “The Kingdom of God.” Another way to understand this term would be to say God’s mindset – God’s desire for how he wants the world to be. Anyone in the Catholic faith that is given the honor to preach to God’s people is to preach this Kingdom of God. Those who preach need to know Jesus and what he desired to showed the world.

Jesus would say the Kingdom of God is at hand, yet not fully here just yet. This means that when humanity accepts the ways of God, which is always different from our worldly opinions, the Kingdom of God breaks through. We see it in our lives when people live as we ought to live, which God has revealed to us.

What do we know about Jesus? His teachings, miracles, stories and actions constantly show us how he breaks down barriers that separate people from God and each other. When one knows Jesus rather than just knowing about Jesus, one can clearly see the lengths that Jesus went to remove barriers placed by humans: healing to those excluded from community because of perceived sins, speaking to and seeing great faith in the enemies of the Jewish people, Jesus was angry that the Temple ways were blocking access for the poor, he spoke to women, foreigners, Roman soldiers – the examples just keep going.

So, let’s understand what every Christian should know: Jesus does not want barriers placed anywhere. To not see this is being blind and ignorant of the Kingdom of God. The quote from Pope Francis above is the message that every preacher in the Church must proclaim. This is not his own opinion or ideology. Pope Benedict, Pope John Paul the II, Pope Paul VI, Pope John XXIII have all stated the same idea of welcoming the stranger, removing barriers, walls and attitudes that divide all of God’s people.

I would invite all parishioners who have somehow decided that the wall between this country and Mexico is the best solution, to reevaluate the actions of Jesus. No one can dispute Jesus’ clear intention and motives, yet there seems to be a belief that Christians believe it is best to raise a barrier.

Scriptures, Catholic theology, the Pope’s preaching, the Universal Catholic Church, all point to a way of life that does not find peace and security in walls, barriers and division. The Kingdom of God is God’s mindset of how things really ought to be.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (September 10, 2017)

Dear Friends,

Monday will be the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country’s soil. For those of us who lived through these horrific events, this date will always be on our minds. The story told at the time was how this happened, who was responsible, how we could seek retaliation and how we needed to be on watch for certain people who could want to do more harm. There is no doubt that this fear, worry and stress was something new for many Americans. There was grief, sorrow and agony felt by many, and it needed to be processed.

Even though the attention was on the horrible events, there were countless stories of people doing many heroic things in caring for their neighbor. The City of New York, a place that at times can seem cold or too busy to be aware of one’s surroundings, revealed what was always there, people caring for each other. Risking lives, offering comfort and making sure that basic human needs were being met, were among many of the powerful acts of love that made our country take notice. There was a reminder that conflict and anger gets noticed and gets great ratings for those selling the news. What is lost during the normal days of our lives is that everyday people do so many loving things, more than all the evil acts on a given day.

Our country is reminded of this once again as we watch the people of South Texas suffer an unbelievable natural disaster. For a moment, the news turned to people saving others lives, using their boats to save others and bringing supplies to people who have lost everything. It is a reminder that “good works” are always at the heart of people everywhere.

I never really understand people who simply believe that people are not good, the world is a horrible place or that everything is falling apart. I can understand what is behind such statements because there is real suffering and suffering is being inflicted on others. Yet, fear and hopelessness comes when we close our eyes to the countless acts of mercy shown to many human beings, and it keeps us from seeing the kindness of everyday people, which can outshine the sinful acts that make the headlines.

I hear confessions of people for a living, and after three decades of listening to people bear their souls, I have seen more good from people who seek God for grace and courage. I hear their sins, and at times I see their sins, but I never forget to look for the good and believe me, it is there more often than we realize. I, too, can get discouraged when Christians who know better, do and believe in things that are not even close to Gospel living. Yet, I never cease to look for and see the good in every person. For me that is not a naive way to look at life, rather it takes a true disciple of Jesus to see that people are more than their sins.

The news says people are more divided than ever before, and that things are getting worse. It is true we have some problems that need attention. Yet, do not forget the whole news, today people loved, people cared for others, people shared with others and people saved others. This happens every day. It is happening right now in Houston as you read this. People do amazing things for others every day.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

Discipleship (Ministry Blog – For the Love of Kids)

In a recent homily pastor Fr. Eric Tellez said something that really resonated with me, it caused me to pause and go back to his podcast and listen again. ( You can do the same by following this link: https://stpatcc.org/first-down/homily-twenty-second-sunday-ordinary-time-september-3-2017-fr-eric-tellez/ ) Fr. Eric is a masterful orator and his homilies always make me think of how the scriptures flow within my life, and how they relate to the everyday. I have been struggling with results and consistency within our ministry. We all have demons that we battle with on a daily basis and this line from the homily landed a knockout punch to one of mine.

If you are not meeting resistance in your daily life of discipleship then you are not doing it right.” – Fr. Eric

We work with children that, most of the time, have been thrown away by their parents and cast off by society. They are fighting unimaginable demons. So why do we expect results in our time? Why are we projecting our values and expect the same results we had with our own children? These are maimed and guarded children who react according to their own sense of self-preservation, not ours.

As I sat with a 16 year old girl we discussed her parents, or should I say lack of them. Her mother abandoned her as a very young child. She doesn’t remember her. Her father brought her here from California while looking for work. She spoke very openly of the sexual abuse that started once she arrived here and how she was rebuked and cast out when she reported it. As she bounced from couch to couch the abuse continued until the day she was finally taken into CPS custody. She has grandparents back in California who want nothing to do with her because the reports of abuse and neglect were against her sons and they believe that they were all lies. She is cast out, abandoned by all who she thought loved her.

Three years later we have an intelligent young woman looking to graduate high school in 2 years and she has her eyes set on college. So why does she cut herself? Why does she bleed? Demons are chasing, although she is working hard at quieting them. “I haven’t cut for a month now.” Her results and accomplishments are not the same as yours and mine. Her life is a struggle everyday as she tries to keep the demons at bay.

Discipleship is not easy. We cannot turn way. We cannot stop. We must relieve some of the pain of others by accepting it unto ourselves, consoling the wounded, and understanding that their pain is real. Understanding that everyone reacts differently to the pain, we must believe that every touch, whether physical or emotional, counts towards healing. When rejected we must continue on and not let it deter us in our quest to help and heal the unfortunate children in our midst.

“If we don’t suffer in discipleship then we don’t know the truth.” – Fr. Eric

We are here for the long haul and we will not go away.

That is what the For the Love of Kids Ministry is about; helping with love in any way we can.

First Down (September 3, 2017)

Dear Friends,

Where did the summer go? With Labor Day weekend here, it seems to mark the end of summer and soon the beginning of the fall season. Many of us have entered the fall/winter routine of life. Vacation and travel life is put aside for many people, and now we focus on the task at hand.

I would like to share with you a focus on the message behind Labor Day. As Americans, we have a reputation that we work long and hard. Some would point to our material comforts and advantages as a by-product of hard work and dedication. There is still the idea that being in this country one can dream of anything, and through hard work, it can happen. I would say most of us are familiar with this line of thinking. I know for myself and others, there is something good about working a long day, knowing that tasks were accomplished and that we got closer to fulfilling a goal that we had set.

Work is seen as a gift from God, to be able to give humanity the ability to use one’s gifts and talents to do great things for others. When work is seen as serving others and accomplishing good things for humanity, this can please God. There is a beautiful prayer in our faith that asks God to, “give success to the work of our hands.” In this case, success is to find and have proper meaning and balance regarding our work. This is a success that God blesses and enriches.

Work becomes a heavy burden when those responsible for offering work to others forget the dignity of those employed. I sometimes see people working very long hours, to make ends meet or because the pressure of the business says that is what one does. I have come across places of employment that do not pay adequate wages or do not offer enough hours or salary to have to pay benefits. I encounter those who have given many years of work with a company or business, and then the company realizes they can pay someone else less money by letting go of the older person. The Church reminds us that the economy is meant to serve people, not the other way around.

People’s family life, mental health, physical health and even spiritual health suffer when one’s work treats its people as only an end to its means. My message today is I believe we can all do better. We have a powerful economy. When it is used to serve everyone, it shares great resources that all in this world would want. When people who offer employment respond poorly to their employees, this is something that God does not bless.

What a great country and powerful economic system we have. When it places people as the highest priority, it does great things. When it does not, it really is difficult to see God bless the work of our hands. If we have any influence in employment of others, we can remember that work can give us dignity and blessings when done well.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

Hurricane Harvey

We are one family. Right now, many of our family members are suffering greatly from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

If you are looking for a way to help in response to Hurricane Harvey and the devastating effect it is having on Houston and the surrounding area, you can do so through Catholic Charities.

Donate through Catholic Charities: As the country continues to see the devastating and heartbreaking images from Hurricane Harvey, Catholic Charities agencies are rolling their sleeves and providing on the ground support. Catholic Charities USA is working in conjunction with the local agencies and parishes to setup shelters, distribute supplies, and are creating canvassing teams to go door to door to check on families. In addition, Catholic Charities USA is sending their newly commissioned Mobile Response Center vehicle to provide further disaster relief assistance. Catholic Charities USA is the official domestic relief agency of the Catholic Church. Block by block and brick by brick Catholic Charities is committed to providing help, healing, and hope to the people and communities who have lost homes and loved ones, but we cannot do it alone.

Here is how you can help:

Pray: God of hope and mercy, we lift up to you all victims of Hurricane Harvey, and those responding with assistance and aid. Protect all who are in any form of danger; provide practical help to all those in need; strengthen the weary; console the grieving and heal the suffering; and bless those engaged in disaster relief efforts with safety and courage. Help all people of goodwill to respond with compassion and generous hearts. Amen.

Give: Help relief efforts in wake of Hurricane Harvey by texting CCUSADISASTER to 71777 or click below. You can also give by calling 1-800-919-9338 or by mail: PO Box 17066 Baltimore, MD 21297-1066 and put “Hurricane Harvey” in the memo line of the check, or online at http://igfn.us/vf/CCUSADISASTER. Funds raised will go towards Catholic Charities agencies’ efforts to assist families and individuals with shelter, food, and other immediate and long-term recovery needs.

We thank you for your time and generosity. Your donation to CCUSA’s Disaster fund supports disaster response and recovery efforts including direct assistance, rebuilding, and health care services.

First Down (August 27, 2017)

Dear Friends,

A book I read this summer was written by Fr. James Martin S.J., Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion and Sensitivity. The goal of Fr. James Martin was to promote an open discussion in the Church regarding encountering, welcoming and engaging those of the LGBT community.

Those who are gay/lesbian and their families have experienced journeys of pain, exclusion, misunderstanding and doubt. These experiences are very real, and the book Building a Bridge shares some stories where some in the Catholic communities have shunned those who have needed the inclusion into the community. The book also shares insights into powerful examples of those in the Church who have welcomed and journeyed with those of the LGBT community. All that Fr. Martin wanted to have happen was serious and thoughtful conversations, whether one agrees with the book or not.

I would hope that parishioners, who want to know more in this area, will think about reading the book to begin a process of asking God, “What should we be doing as a Parish community?” Fr. Martin has spoken about his book at many parishes and on many different media platforms. He shares his experiences of meeting some Catholics, shouting with anger towards him in their pain or confusion. One lady let him have it for five minutes while next in line was a gay man waiting to tell Fr. Martin the book meant so much to him.

My response as Pastor, in our Catholic faith, is to create an atmosphere that everyone has a place in God’s family. A welcoming encounter begins with a first step to journey together towards our loving God.

New Ways Ministry is a Catholic group that serves the LGBT community. On their website they list the Parishes across the country that are welcoming to this group, including Parishes listed in Arizona. To my surprise St. Patrick was listed as a welcoming community to gays and lesbians. I was surprised because this kind honor bestowed on us was not sought by me personally, yet the New Ways Ministry felt this Parish was a welcoming and safe place. I am so grateful for this recognition, yet my hope is that every person, no matter who they are, come to realize they have a place here in God’s family. Once this is realized, we can journey together through conversation, sharing and growing.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with this First Down article, I would encourage you to follow Fr. James Martin’s vision regarding ongoing conversation for such an important group of people.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (August 20, 2017)

Dear Friends,

I always enjoy having visiting priests join us for our Sunday night Youth Liturgy. They are always blown away by the large number of youth who minister at Mass and have a great commitment to their formation. There is a struggle in our Catholic faith to bring young people into the life of the community. I will not go into the many reasons why we think that is, that is for another conversation; rather I want to look at how this reaching out to the youth happens here.

It usually begins with the parents modeling that God is very important in the life of the family. Every family has priorities, and sometimes they are very God-centered priorities along with service priorities in helping others. At times, the priorities that parents set can go down a path that really leaves little time to know God and to live a life of fulfillment and meaning. Parents are in constant battles with their children and teens trying to do the things that are necessary for healthy family life. This can really wear parents down. Parents might demand good education, family time, good hygiene and/or attendance to important functions, and these battles are good and necessary.

Who can blame parents wanting to let something go to avoid the whining and complaining? Being part of the Parish Community and learning about God, many times, does not show quick results that we can all see. It is a process and a continual journey that really never concludes. So allowing our children to let go of faith community living for the moment seems to give parents instant peace of mind. Too busy for Mass and too busy with other priorities will make for minimal faith formation.

Parents, I want to offer you my support and encouragement to make the life of Jesus Christ the center of your family. The great long range plan for your children is to know that God is with them and guiding them when: tempted with drugs, being mistreated, pressured into having sex, drinking to excess or being in cliques that degrade those that are different.

We keep reminding parents that studies show that overall the youth that have Christ in their lives in powerful ways are more well-rounded, can adapt better and have healthier relationships. I hope parents can hear this good news without it making them feel guilty or thinking it is a plot to get our numbers up. Parents, I ache for you when you are in battles to form your kids; yet, I want for you healthy, good children/youth. Life fulfillment in Christ is realized when parents simply model and choose God over all things. Parents, we lift you up to God on your important vocation.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

A message from our Pastor regarding recent events

Dear Friends,

As a young man preparing for priestly ordination, I recognized that my feelings towards the Church were very idealistic and full of hope. One day I visited a couple in Flagstaff, Ray and Lupita Reyes. During our time chatting on their front porch, Ray talked about growing up in Flagstaff. Our conversation turned towards the beautiful Nativity Church in downtown Flagstaff. The beautiful architecture and art is something to behold, and I enjoyed going to Mass there. Ray told the story of the priest who, one time from the pulpit, told the Mexican people present at Mass that they were not welcome, and that they needed to stay on the other side of the tracks, at Guadalupe parish.

I couldn’t believe what I had heard; my image of Church went down a peg. “Did that really happen, Ray?” I asked.”It happened so long ago… Could you not let it go”? Ray said he could never go back to that church because of what had happened. It was not my experience, but it was his. I needed to listen; I needed to acknowledge the real pain in his life. It was real for him.

The acts of some people who purposely spread fear and anxiety towards others is a grave sin, especially when there is no compassion for or awareness of the suffering caused by their actions. There are people whose hearts and minds have been molded to devalue the dignity of other people, and whose words  aim to place the blame for their problems on others. There are people who use the law, thinking they are doing the right thing, yet indifferent to the pain that can be caused to innocent families and members of the community. Not everybody is aware of these acts which are so often the reality for people.

The recent events in our country seem to have given people who hate, who feel superior to others, and who spread fear within their groups regarding people who are different or have different views, opportunity to be more open with their views. Hate may never totally go away yet it must be met by men and women of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with great opposition and words that call out the dark deeds of prejudice and racism.

As a young man I loved the Church in a way that was idealistic. Today I still love the Church, but that love gives me the courage to speak about the shadow side of the Church. Racism, prejudice and discrimination are alive and well in our Church because we can be people who are blind to it. One can love the Church, yet call out what is wrong and work towards what is good. I think seeing our country in the same light might give some hope to those who are in fear or are having anxiety about what is happening in our country now. One can love the country even if we love it in an idealistic way, yet this love of country should move us to call out its shadow side to work for peace and justice for all people.

I needed to listen to Ray Reyes’ story, and even though I never experienced what he experienced I knew it was real for him. To honor people’s stories of being victims of prejudice or hate is to listen with open hearts. I could not take away the pain Ray felt, but I could journey with him and let him know he was important to me. The struggle for many of us in this country is the tendency to  take someone’s story and immediately make it about our view of what the problems really are. We are not very good listeners right now because we are impatient or we are only concerned with our own worries.

Listen with open hearts. Acknowledge the pain of someone who shares. To challenge church or country with love at the core can be a good thing, because we do love and care. We will be walking together in the coming weeks with this issue. It won’t go away but the Gospel gives us so much hope to share the truth of Jesus Christ to a broken world.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric

First Down (August 13, 2017)

Dear Friends,

Recently our Parish was asked to welcome the family and friends of the victims of a recent flash flood near Payson. This tragedy had ten members of a family become victims of a wall of water and mud. The Parish staff and many parishioners, once learning of the funeral being held here, came forward and offered their services. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to offer hospitality, comfort, sacraments and rituals among other things that the family and their friends needed.

My thanks to our Parish staff for going beyond their normal duties and stepping forward to give their physical presence, hours of set up, running errands and meeting with the many family members. Without their willingness to work together, it would not have been such a powerful experience. No complaining, no feeling it was not their job, simply stepping forward and giving their all. We are so blessed to have a staff that really sees this as ministry.

My thanks, as well, to the many parishioners who came forward and offered our guests assistance, prayers, hospitality, Spanish translation for some of the guests, music ministry, liturgical ministers and hospitality with food and watching over the many children. We had many parishioners who helped out and many others who offered to help. All needs were covered.

What we learned was it took a team effort on many fronts to help a grieving family. We all did the best we could, and the funeral went well.

With the number of funerals we have hosted the past few weeks, our outstanding Funeral Ministry team has worked very hard. The average for a few weeks was about one funeral per day. I want to thank the supporting clergy, the staff who work with funerals and the many parishioners who serve in the Funeral Ministry. It is important work.

St. Patrick was in the news for having such a big funeral mass for ten people at once. We inspired the many who came and gave them hope. Just be aware that this happens every day at our Parish. It is a large operation that offers countless funerals, weddings and sacraments that welcomes everyone and lets them know God is with them. For the big events that are seen and the many things that are unseen, know that your Parish leadership works hard to bring the love of God to all.

Peace in Christ,

Fr. Eric