By Andy Sparke
Rio Grande Catholic
A change in pastors gives parishioners “a new perspective,” says Lorena Reyes, a member of Holy Spirit Mission parish in Horizon City.
Bishop Mark J. Seitz named Father Jose Morales to lead the parish as one of the assignments of priests he made in November of 2013.
New leadership “teaches parishioners new ways” of expressing their faith as a community, Reyes told the Rio Grande Catholic.
The change has brought a different energy to the parish, she said.
For Father Morales, who was parochial vicar — assistant — at St. Pius X Parish before being assigned as administrator at Holy Spirit, the new assignment has also meant change.
”It has been good,” he said, but “quite different” being the leader of the parish rather than an assistant to the pastor. As an assistant he took part in ministering to the needs of parishioners and the various parish activities, but wasn’t in charge. Now, when questions come up, he realizes “you’re the pastor.”
Father Morales agrees he may have brought some new approaches to parish life, particularly in things like the Lenten observances. “But that is part of growth,” for parishioners and pastor, he said.
Parishioner Annette Pedregon said “At first you’re not sure what to expect “ when a new pastor is assigned to your parish.
“You’re so used to the way the pastor has done things, there is an uneasiness about the new pastor,” she said.
But the previous pastor, Father Ralph Solis, “told us the best way to remember him would be to keep an open mind and give support to the new pastor,” she said. “And it has been different, but very positive.”
At the first parish council meeting, “Father Morales said he wanted to get to know the people and get them involved. He stressed he wanted to build the church community, and it has been a very good thing,” she said.
While located in Horizon City, Holy Spirit Mission boundaries extend well into areas around that community.
City officials report the population of Horizon City as about 18,000, which Father Morales estimates “includes at least 10,000 Catholics. ”But the surrounding areas like Aqua Dulce have many Catholic families who are in the Holy Spirit Parish boundaries. The city’s boundaries represent only “about half of the parish area,” he says.
The area is growing rapidly, with new home construction at a feverish pace. Father Morales estimates the parish gains 50 new families every two or three months.
”The parish community is very active,” he says. “Parishioners are very willing to participate, which is one of many blessings.” Parishioners take part in approximately 20 ministries he notes. People have been able “to identify their calling within the church and have been very active,” Father Morales said.
Father Morales is familiar with the parish, having grown up in the area outside of East El Paso, and having worked in Holy Trinity Parish while a seminarian.
”I see familiar faces often,” he said .
The sheer size of the parish is challenging, he said, because it includes four areas, each with its own needs.
But the parish staff and involvement of the parish members makes it easier to deal with the challenges, he said.
Father Jose Morales goes over plans for Holy Spirit Mission parish events with members of the parish staff in the parish office in Horizon City.