After nine years in Overgaard, Father John of the Catholic Parish has been reassigned to a small town in New Mexico. On this warm Friday afternoon one could barely move through the crowd of people. As I was moving through the crowded room looking for Father John and chatting with a woman about the turn out and the fact that he has been here nine years she said to me, “We just couldn’t let him go.”
When I sat down for a minute with Father John he told me he was looking forward to slowing down a little because of his health issues. He said he will be seven minutes from a hospital. Recently, he was the recipient of four stints and has had more than one bout with pneumonia in a short period of time. Local residents have been very helpful in moving his personal belongings for him so he will feel ‘at home’ when he arrives on Saturday. On his way to his new home he will reside over a funeral in Shiprock for a Native American lady.
There was so much food prepared for his farewell dinner and one long table dedicated only to desserts. You could see he was weary from the overcrowded room and he needed to sit and relax but everyone wanted a little more of his time. He plans to retire in five years and relocate to his home in Phoenix.
Just as he was requested somewhere else, the new pastor appeared. He had just arrived, and it was a pleasure talking with him. The new pastor is Father Jerry Thompson from the L.A. Arch Diocese. He was very apologetic for not being in his Robe but joined in on the photograph with Father John anyway.
Father Jerry explained to me that all priests move on the same day, so the transition is smooth. He tells me he has a house in Concho and has many plans to make it a House of Prayer for priests and eventually a Retreat in the future for those of Catholic denomination. Those of other faiths will be welcome, but it will have a Catholic focus. We welcome you, Father Jerry, to our small community and look forward to many years with you!
Father John will be missed by many and please pray for his health to improve.