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3022: St Anthony of Padua, Wickenburg, Arizona, USA
St Anthony of Padua, Wickenburg, AZ (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Old Rackensack.
The church: St Anthony of Padua, Wickenburg, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Phoenix.
The building: An attractive brick structure in the Spanish Revival style, dating from 1957. The interior is elegant in its simplicity under a pitched wood beam ceiling. The altar bore a multicolored frontal reading Peace, Love. On the wall behind the altar is a life-size crucifix. In the south aisle is a shrine to St Anthony; in the north, to another saint I couldn’t recognize.
The church: They sponsor chapters of the Knights of Columbus and the St Vincent de Paul Society, a youth group, and Bible study. They run a gift shop featuring various devotional items, the proceeds from which go toward buying communion wine and bread. There are two masses in English each Sunday, plus one in Spanish. They also maintain a missionary presence in three nearby communities not otherwise served by churches.
The neighborhood: In the mid 19th century, gold fever brought prospectors to America’s Southwest. Among these was one Henry Wickenburg, a Prussian immigrant whose sharp eye for the odd appearance of a particular rock formation led to the discovery of the most productive gold mine in Arizona’s history. As more settlers arrived, the town bearing Wickenburg’s name sprang up and prospered despite problems with drought, flood, outlaws, and Native Americans whose land the settlers had usurped. With the coming of the railroad and the highways known today as US 60 and US 93, which link Phoenix with the California border and Las Vegas, new residents moved in and the tourist trade began to blossom. Today, the cowboy ambience of downtown Wickenburg attracts folks who shop for Western arts and crafts and dine in a variety of saloon-style eateries. I was pleased to see that the Saguaro Theater, perhaps the last remaining single-screen grindhouse-style movie house in the country, is still open and showing first-run films; last I heard, it was in danger of closing. It now also hosts Cowboy Church. Henry Wickenburg’s old gold mine, the Vulture Mine, which was in production until 1942, is open to tourists. St Anthony of Padua Church is located on North Tegner Street just past the spot where Route 93 turns off Route 60.
The cast: The Revd Msgr George E. Highberger, pastor.
The date & time: Pentecost Sunday, May 15, 2016, 10.00am.

What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
I counted room for about 250 and it was about three-quarters full. A good mix of ages, although I’d say it leaned toward the elderly side. I saw only three families with children.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Was your pew comfortable?
The plain wooden pew was a little narrow but OK.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People entered quietly, with quiet exchange of greetings among friends.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“Good morning. Welcome to this celebration of the liturgy.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Breaking Bread 2016.

What musical instruments were played?
An acoustic guitar accompanied a rather timid sounding choir in the gallery.

Did anything distract you?
In the parking lot was a car with a sign in the rear window that read, “He’s not my dictator.” Who, I wondered, was it referring to? A gentleman in front of me wore a t-shirt picturing an ultrasound rendering of a fetus in the womb and the words “I am a person.” A lady was wearing a white lace blouse that resembled an old-fashioned lace surplice from days gone by.

St Anthony of Padua, Wickenburg, AZ (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A typical Catholic mass. No incense, but bells at the consecration. The choir sang its timid little way through the ordinaries, the music to which was not specified and so we couldn’t sing along even if we wanted to. Those, and the hymns, were a mixture of St Louis Jesuit and Singing Nun stuff.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – Monsignor spoke from the center aisle and was not miked; I had considerable trouble hearing him. He seemed to speak from the heart, though, and did not use notes. What I could hear of his sermon was well prepared.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The Apostles knew they had a mission, but they had no courage until the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Then they went out to teach everyone what Jesus had taught them. They changed the world. We, in our time, need to be open to the grace of the Holy Spirit that we received in confirmation. We must open our ears, our hearts, and our minds to basic fundamental truths. We live in a world of persecution and hatred, but we must be strong enough to stand up for what we believe. The future lies with our children.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The choir, timid as they were, really did their heavenly best, the dears. A good director – one who is not afraid to use the organ instead of guitar and to put worthwhile music in front of them – could teach them to blend and to employ proper dynamics and intonation.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Someone should donate money to expand and improve the sound system to include a cordless microphone for the priest. Not only could his sermon not be heard, but he couldn’t be heard at the altar either.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I wanted to find out what saint was represented in the north aisle shrine. I noticed a lady praying in front of it, and I asked her who the saint was. She said she didn’t know. (Blind faith, I guess.) She asked me if I was visiting and we chatted a bit.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee and donuts were announced as being on offer in the parish hall. The gentleman with the ultrasound fetus t-shirt was serving coffee, but the donuts had pretty well been picked over by the time I got to them. The coffee was hot and adequately tasty, though. I noticed only about a dozen or so people had bothered to go over to the hall; they were sitting at tables visiting amongst themselves. No one paid any attention to me. I asked the monsignor who the saint was whose shrine was in the north aisle, and he said he didn’t know either.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
3 – I don’t see any compelling reason to return to Wickenburg. My favorite BBQ joint, the Hog Trough, has closed. Shucks – I was looking forward to making a pig of myself. I might go back one Sunday to try the Cowboy Church, but I didn’t see anything about St Anthony of Padua that would prompt a return visit.

St Anthony of Padua, Wickenburg, AZ (Poster)

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The shrine to the Mystery Saint.
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