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Parish offers military families a new faith home

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CORONADO — Several U.S. Navy families are celebrating the New Year for the first time at their new parish, Sacred Heart Church in Coronado.

When it was announced that Catholic Masses would no longer be celebrated in the chapel at Naval Air Station North Island, beginning Oct. 1, those families received a personal invitation to consider Sacred Heart Parish as their new spiritual home.

“We are ready to welcome you with open arms to Sacred Heart,” Father Michael Murphy, pastor, wrote in a letter that was read at the base chapel’s final weekend Masses. And he invited them to attend his parish’s 5 p.m. Mass on Oct. 8, which would be followed by a welcome reception held in their honor.

Father Murphy estimates that about 150 to 200 people who had formerly worshipped on base have begun attending Mass at Sacred Heart. And that’s not all.

“They’re jumping right in,” he said.

Father Murphy shared that his new parishioners are also coming to social events, like the parish’s Oktoberfest; enrolling their children in religious education and sacramental preparation classes; and getting involved in parish ministries, such as singing in the choir or serving as lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

“We recognize that they are a unique community and that they’ve had to make a shift in their community life,” he said. “But we just want to be here to serve them and to integrate them into our community.”

He added, “We welcome the charisms that they bring to us.”

Father Murphy described the decision to cut Catholic services on base as “sad” and “short-sighted.”

“It does affect the morale of the active-duty people when they don’t have a place to go on base,” he said. “A lot of these young sailors … have no cars. So, where are they going to go to Mass?”

“At a time when we’re trying to get more and more young people to return to church,” he said, “it’s just unfortunate that this had to happen.”

But Sacred Heart Parish has plenty of experience when it comes to meeting the sacramental and spiritual needs of military families.

It has been doing so for more than a century, Father Murphy said. And, even before the recent influx, he estimates that active-duty and retired Navy families made up more than 50% of his flock.

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