We Celebrate Father Jim Turner Pastor of St. Thomas More
By Leo Wozniak
On paper, and for many of our recent parishioners, twenty years may not seem like a long time. After all, that is only two decades! But in reality, it has been an exciting time of growth and expansion which parishioners of St. Thomas More have experienced during these inaugural years.
There was no church, no parish, no building when Fr. Jim Turner, pastor, arrived in the area. He came at the beginning of July and then about a month afterwards began the process of creating a parish from nothing. He started building a team. Judy Casar-Rogers became an integral part of the core of the new parish.
The first masses were in homes. Later, in October, masses were celebrated in Copper Creek Elementary School.
The Phoenix diocese, after studying the demographics and growth in the Glendale area, bought some property for future growth. The purchase was of an orange grove. “When I arrived, all the trees were dead,” Fr. Jim says. “My first official act was to hire someone to take them all down.”
He remembers that at the beginning of the parish, there were no registered members. But by the second anniversary of the parish, 1100 families were registered. Now that number is more than 3500.
Fr. Jim recalls those early years, especially when masses were held at the elementary school: “Those times were an adventure,” he says. “It was very much a frontier-like experience.”
“We competed with the sounds of the freezer and other equipment in the kitchen cycling on and off.” But, he says, despite some obstacles at the beginning of the parish, “we have always had more than a sufficient number of parish members stepping up to the plate to get things done.”
He remembers that at the beginning the paid staff was minimal. Besides Judy, who directed Christian Formation, there was Cynthia LaNuez, who handled the business aspects of the parish. “Without these two dedicated women, the growth of the parish would have taken much longer than it did,” Fr. Jim says.
All in all, looking back at the parish’s history, he points out that the soul of the parish has always been “a deep faith in the Gospel, a desire to share that faith with our young, and a commitment to the community.”
Fr. Jim has had his own journey. After growing up in Long Island, NY, in what he calls a “mixed family” – his father was Protestant and his mother a fervent Catholic – he attended Syracuse University, where he was associated with the Thomas More Newman Center on campus. (He likes to think of the coincidence of the name of the Newman Center and our parish.) At that time, his faith began to grow.
He moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, where he had family and a position in an assistantship at NAU in secondary education. Shortly afterward he entered the seminary at St Meinrad in Indiana, and then at the Theological College at the Catholic University of America in D.C.
His ordination was in June of 1984. Before our parish, he served at St. Catherine’s in Phoenix, Holy Spirit in Tempe, and St. Pius X in Flagstaff.October 26, 2017