One California priest is fighting to save his rural parish

Since his appointment as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Olema last July, Father Erick Arauz has been working to motivate the community with faith and optimism to stand up and join him to put the parish back on its feet.

Some 18 parishioners, including children, attended the 7 p.m. vigil Mass on Jan. 4 and a similar number of parishioners were seen the next day at the other Spanish Mass, while some 30 parishioners usually go the English Mass each Sunday.

Despite low Mass attendance and without the necessary funding for the upkeep of the rural Marin County parish, Father Arauz is not giving up and is knocking on doors around the neighborhood.

“I’m visiting families to invite them to church, to make them feel like church and to let them know that I’m here, that I’m present,” he said.

When he first arrived he found some discouragement among the faithful and parish staff, “as if waiting for the closure.”

He remains positive, however, and has a plan in mind and plenty of energy and enthusiasm to bring it to fruition with the help of the community.

Some people who serve at the parish are still waiting for a response from the archdiocese. “I am the answer,” said Father Arauz, who is a well-known priest in the Hispanic community in the archdiocese and celebrates his 35th anniversary as a priest Sept. 13.

Father Arauz is “very good with his parishioners,” said Father Andrew Spyrow, associate vicar for clergy for the archdiocese. “He’s outgoing and he has a great sense of humor.”

Father Arauz faced his first challenge when payments were due and the coffers were empty. He managed to come up with a raffle to get started.

That was just the beginning. Continue reading.