Saint James Parish was established on June 2, 1982 by Fr Matthias Feit. The parish was named after St. James the Greater in honor of Bishop James Rausch, the second Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix.
The first building was the rectory. Park Meadows School was used for Sunday worship. The first Masses were held on September 12, 1982 with about 300 families. In July 1983 Fr Wayne Goulet became the second pastor and (under his direction), plans for the construction of a new building began.
Ground breaking was held on April 29, 1984, and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church on Christmas Eve of that year. Within two and a half years, there were many very active ministries including Music, Hospitality, Religious Education, Youth Group, Women’s Group, St. Vincent De Paul and others.
Because the parish was growing rapidly, the Parish Service Building was built in 1991. In the fall of 1986, Fr Wayne was granted a sabbatical to continue his education, and Fr Vernon Meyer was appointed as administrator. In September 1987, Fr Ken Van De Ven was appointed as the pastor and he served the community until April 2005. That month, St James became the first parish in the Diocese of Phoenix to be entrusted to the Apostles of Jesus Missionarey Order. Fr Robert Aliunzi and Fr John Ssegawa were appointed Pastor and Parochial Vicar respectively. In July of 2012, Fr John was appointed Pastor of a neighboring parish by Bishop Olmsted. At that time, Fr Ben Onegiu, also from the Apostles of Jesus was named Parochial Vicar at St James. On July 1, 2013, Fr Ben moved to a neighboring parish and Fr Mark Nyeko was appointed as the new Parochial Vicar at St James. Then on December 1, 2015, Bishop Olmsted appointed a new parish to Fr Robert and Fr Ben was named Pastor of St James. The following February Fr Felix Kauta, arrived from Tanzania to serve as Parochial Vicar.
Since 2012, The Finance, Pastoral and Stewardship Councils, along with the Pastor, implemented a Pastoral Plan with a goal of planning for the future of the parish. To implement the Pastoral Plan, committees were formed in the following areas:
Renewal of Church and Campus
Continued Spiritual Growth
Enhance Stewardship & Development Council
Continue to Build the Parish Community
Each year, the Councils work to update and continue to work with the Pastoral Plan. St James is a parish of approximately 900 families and has taken the lead in the establishment of many practices and services for our community; providing daily Mass, sacrament preparation, baptism by immersion and counseling. Many services offered are part of the 30 or more ministries at the parish. A committed staff handles the parish administration.
St James is an inclusive and diverse community that accepts all. St James continues the challenge to serve others and to be Christ’s hands and feet in our community. The members of St James Roman Catholic Parish believe and live their motto: “You are a stranger here but once!”
The Story of Saint James
St. James the Greater was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, a son of Zebedee. He and his older brother John were called by Jesus while fixing their nets at the Lake of Genesaret. They received from Christ the name “Boanerges,” meaning “sons of thunder,” for their impetuosity. The gospel relates that James was present for the miracle of Jairo’s daughter, the Transfiguration, and later with Jesus during His Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Acts of the Apostles relates that the Apostles dispersed to different regions to take the Good News to the people of God. Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda was a Franciscan religious who received revelations from Jesus. It was revealed to her that St. James the Greater went to Spain to evangelize. He went first to Galicia, where he established a Christian community and later to the Roman city of Cesar Augusto, today known as Zaragoza.
It is believed that on January 2nd, in the year 40 A.D., St. James and his disciples where resting on the shore side of the Egro river and started to hear sweet voices singing. They saw the sky fill up with light and many angels coming near them. The angels where carrying a throne on which the Queen of Heaven and earth was sitting. This was extraordinary, for Mary was living at that time in Jerusalem, making her appearance to them in Spain a bilocation. The Blessed Virgin told St. James to build a sanctuary where God would be honored and glorified, and gave him a pillar with her image to be placed in the sanctuary.
The Blessed Virgin also told St. James that the sanctuary would remain until the end of times and that she would bless all the prayers offered devoutly in this place. At the end of the apparition, Our Lady said to St. James that when the sanctuary was finished, he should return to Palestine where he would die.
St. James fulfilled the desires of the Blessed Virgin Mary and constructed the first Christian Church in the entire world. St. James returned to Palestine, where he was decapitated by order of Herod on the 25th of March during a persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. According to tradition, the accuser of St. James, who lead him to judgment, was so moved by St. James’ confession before death that he converted and was willingly beheaded with the Apostle. His disciples recovered his body and translated it to Galicia without anyone’s knowledge in a miraculous boat guided by God.
In the Old Testament Jacob constructed an altar for God naming it Bethel, which means “House of God” (Gen. 35:7). Jacob is a Greek name, and translated to Spanish, the name means James. Jacob constructed the “House of God,” and St. James parallels his namesake with the construction of the first “House of God” of the New Covenant.
St. James’s tomb was forgotten for over 800 years. Under the rule of Alfonso II (789-842), a hermit named Pelagio received a vision revealing the tomb of St. James. On July 25th, 812, the spot where the tomb was revealed to be was filled with a bright light. Because of this, it has since been known as Compostela, which means “Field of Light.” The bishop of Iria Flavia, Theodomir, after investigating, declared that these were truly the remains of St. James in the tomb. In 1884 Pope Leon XIII, in a Papal Bull, declared that the remains of St. James were at Compostela.
St. James the Greater is also known as “Matamoros,” Spanish for “killer of the Moors.” It is known that his intercession helped the people in various occasions against the threat of the Moors, especially in 1492 when Spain was re-conquered.
HIS PRESENCE IN THE NEW WORLD.
1492 was also the year the Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. Columbus and his conquistadors had a special devotion to the image of Mary that had appeared in the mountains of Spain that same year. Tradition tells us that St. Luke the evangelist made the image.
The advocation of the image was “A Virgin of Guadalupe,” named after the small river that passes through the mountain, meaning “A River of Light.” The conquerors, Colon and Cortes, visited the sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe before departing on to the new land.
In 1519, Cortes arrived at Veracruz, today known as Lantigua, and constructed the first church dedicated to St. James the Apostle. Then in 1521 when Mexico was conquered from the Aztecs, Cortes constructed a Church in ruins due to the war with the Aztecs, which he dedicated to St. James. This is the Church to which St. Juan Diego was heading on December 9th, 1531 to receive religious education classes and participate in the Holy Mass for the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception. St. James prepared the way for the Blessed Virgin Mary both in Spain and in the ‘new world.’ He is the apostle of the Blessed Virgin Mary that goes in front of Mary to prepare the way. He is also known also as the apostle of peace.
ST. JAMES AND THE BLESSED MOTHER.
In 1981, when Our Lady appeared in Medjugorie, with the advocation “Queen of Peace,” St. James already had made his presence known. A few years before the apparition, the Church constructed in the village of Medjugorie was dedicated to St. James the Apostle. St. James, being the apostle of peace, carries in his hands the keys to open the door that would bring peace to Medjugorie. We should pray to this apostle for his intercession. St. James prepared the way for the world to know the Virgin Mary as a “Pillar” of our Church, just like the pillar she had given him hundreds of years before.
ST. JAMES OF COMPOSTELA.
In the middles ages all roads lead to Compostela. The city is located in northern Spain, and it was one of the principle cities of Christianity, the other two being Jerusalem and Rome. Most likely, Compostela was the most known and visited. All the European countries had their holy places, but Santiago was always full of pilgrims. Even the word pilgrimage was associated to Santiago. Many pilgrims would come walking to St. James tomb, which brought prosperity to the city. Because many people came from all throughout Europe, an exact route did not exist, but instead many different ones. There were four places designated in France as starting points towards Santiago de Compostela. In Spain these roads united to form two, the “Way of Aragones,” and the “Way of France.” Of the two roads, the “Way of France” was the most important historically and also today.
The road follows the old Roman road “Via Traina.” Today this same road is used by millions of pilgrims, even though many have different intentions than the Christians of mediaeval times who expected to see miracles and receive the absolution proclaimed by the Church.