(This is the first in a series of articles profiling the priests who have new assignments this year in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.)
MAGNA — Father Javier Virgen has been assigned as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Magna effective Aug. 17.
Fr. Virgen will remain vicar for Hispanic Affairs and also will serve as the associate director of vocations. For the past year he has been the director of vocations for the Diocese of Salt Lake City; from 2008 to 2011 he served as the associate director of vocations. Fr. Virgen will turn over his position as chairman for the Continuing Education for Priests Board to Father Martin Diaz, pastor of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Midvale.
"Fr. Virgen has done a wonderful job as the vocations director and vicar for Hispanic Affairs and has been a wonderful help to me in many ways," said the Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City. "He will continue as vicar for Hispanic Affairs, in which he not only represents me when I can’t be present, but he also works closely with Maria Cruz Gray in Hispanic Ministries, and with the Latino pastors and deacons."
Deacon Ricardo Arias will become the vocations director and Fr. Virgen will assist him in promoting vocations and in working with seminarians, said Bishop Wester. "I have asked Fr. Virgen to foster vocations in the Latino community."
Fr. Virgen has been very successful in the vocations ministry, said Monsignor Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general. "During the three years he assisted me (as vocations director), he was especially effective in recruiting Hispanic vocations from his native Mexico," said Msgr. Bircumshaw. "His continued activity as associate director is critical for the success of this vital program for the diocese.
Fr. Javier’s special gift is his generosity and willingness to serve wherever the need is greatest, Msgr. Bircumshaw said.
"No matter what the bishop has asked him to do since his ordination for this diocese, he has always said, ‘Yes, of course,’" said Msgr. Bircumshaw.
Fr. Virgen was ordained a priest by Bishop William K. Weigand for the Diocese of Salt Lake City on Sept. 4, 1993 in his hometown of Estipac, Jalisco, Mexico.
"Fr. Virgen is a very wonderful, spiritual, sensitive and kind priest; a very capable priest, who has a special charism of bringing people together," Bishop Wester said. "As pastor of Saints Peter and Paul Parish, he was very adept at bringing the various communities together so they were one community of faith."
Msgr. Bircumshaw has known and worked closely with Fr. Javier since his first assignment as parochial vicar at Saint Joseph Parish in Ogden in 1993, when Monsignor was pastor there, he said. "He is a delightful priest with whom to share ministry. He has already proven himself a very effective pastor in both the rural setting of St. Elizabeth Parish in Richfield and all its missions (1995-1996) and as pastor at the more urban parish of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in West Valley City (2003-2008)."
Fr. Virgen also served as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi in Provo from 1996-2000, and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus as pastor from 2000-2003.
"He is one of the few priests who is perfectly bilingual and can relate easily and well to both English speaking and Spanish speaking communities, with great success in helping them to form one community," Msgr. Bircumshaw said.
Fr. Virgen’s goal as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes will be to serve and get to know the people of the parish and let them get to know him, he said.
"Eventually, I will develop a Spanish ministry there so they can embrace the faith in their own language with the idea of bringing unity among the Anglo and Hispanic communities to bridge them together in their traditions, cultures and customs," Fr. Virgen said. "The population of Catholics in the diocese is almost 85 percent Hispanic, and it is the bishop’s desire that we meet the needs of Hispanics. I will welcome any culture to be part of the parish life and bring them together in one faith."