Parishioners of The Parish of St. Benedict will never forget their long-haired, vegan, “Deadhead” pastor Father Gary Regula who will be moving on after the summer to a new parish.
Father Gary has been with the parish in Ahwatukee Foothills for seven years but the diocese has asked him to take over a parish in St. Jerome that was in need of a Spanish-speaking pastor.
“As priests we’re ordained to the service of the diocese. Sometimes there comes a greater need in other parishes,” Regula said. “I was asked if I would accept the move. I prayed about it of course but I knew that’s what was needed. It’s hard to leave but I knew it was the thing to do.”
Regula will be taking over the new parish on July 1 but will be leaving St. Benedict slightly earlier to give himself some time to transition. Father Bob Binta, who is currently the Associate Pastor in north central Phoenix, will become the new Parochial Administrator for St. Benedict.
The parish held a goodbye celebration for Father Gary on May 17. At that celebration they presented him with a new colorful vestment and a book with a pages created by members of the community. As he prepares to say goodbye to the community he served for so long, Father Gary said he hopes people will remember the message he strived to share.
“We are all created in love,” he said. “We are all created for love. That love knows no boundaries and doesn’t have any conditions. It should be given to others because it is given to us by our God.”
Father Gary said his goal has been to bring people together and to help them realize that each creature has the spirit of God in them. It hasn’t been too difficult in a community like Ahwatukee Foothills.
“We say ‘all are welcome’ but they (the community) are truly welcoming,” he said. “People gather here who have been here since the church was founded but if they’ve just come for the weekend and they’re from a different state or country, they always tell us they feel very welcome here. That was an honor to be not only welcomed by them but to stand by them in welcoming people as well as they come in.”
Father Gary has been a priest for 13 years, spending time in Flagstaff and El Mirage before coming to Ahwatukee.
The church is located at 16223 S. 48th St. For more information visit www.stbenedict.org or call (480) 961-1610.