HURRICANE — Saint Paul Mission began as a group of about 20 Catholics who rented the American Legion Hall in Hurricane for Eucharistic services. Six years ago they opened a thrift store to begin funding a church. In 2009, they turned a former office building into a gathering space, with a corner for the thrift store. The Catholic Extension Society provided financial support for the mission at the beginning and continues to assist with the ongoing needs, said Monsignor J. Terrence Fitzgerald, Diocese of Salt Lake vicar general emeritus.
"During our first year we only had two SCAP (Sunday Celebration in the Absence of a Priest) services a month," said Toni Foran, who recently stepped down as the mission’s administrator. "Our first task was to try to come up with a way to have more than two, because when you have everybody going to St. George or Mesquite or Cedar City every other week, you never build community."
Father Gustavo Vidal, then pastor of Saint George Parish, agreed to have a deacon travel the 20 miles to Hurricane for weekly SCAP services.
However, the community continued to grow, doubling in size. Two years ago, when Father Martin Picos became pastor of St. George Parish with Father Tai Nguyen as associate pastor, they committed to a weekly Mass at St. Paul Mission.
"Eucharist builds community; that is the reason we have a really big community here now," Fr. Picos said; these days the mission regularly sees 100 people for the Sunday Mass.
On May 20, the mission celebrated the third anniversary of its dedication. In his homily, Msgr. Fitzgerald recalled working with the community from the beginning. "Saint Paul Mission has been one of the great blessings for me as a priest, to see how the life of faith has grown here in this community," he said. "It’s not just about the building and how beautiful it is – and it’s true, it’s all so lovely – it’s about the unity, the cohesion and dedication of the community, you caring for each other, you being witnesses to the broader community."
Parishioners have made the mission their home, Foran said. For example, one volunteer who sorts items donated to the thrift store does her work outside, "so a couple of the guys decided to build her a tarp to give her shade out there. Nobody said, ‘Do we need this?’ It just got done," Foran said. "Somebody decided it was their job to come on Saturday and blow off the front walkway to make sure that it was ready for Sunday. Somebody else decided it was their job to hold the door and greet people. There have been so many things. It’s been like hundreds of miracles."
Having the mission "means everything," said Carol Musich, co-manager of the thrift store; her husband, Don, publishes the parish newsletter. "We were driving to St. George, and we really didn’t know anybody. We weren’t part of the community there because we had to drive so far to go to a meeting or be part of a group. This way we are so very, very close. Everybody knows everybody’s name, and you just feel so much a part of it because you do recognize faces and all that. If you ask for help, you get it. When we moved the thrift store, we put a notice out and we had more people than you would believe in here helping us."
Earl Bond has volunteered as the mission’s new administrator. "It needed to be done," he said. "My wife and I talked about it and decided it was something we can do." After moving to Hurricane six years ago, the two of them chaired the campaign for the building fund, and he already has a typed list of things he would like to accomplish in his first year as administrator. First, though, is the assignment he received from Fr. Picos on May 20: to organize a bilingual event for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29.