The parishioners of St. Philip's Catholic Church are welcoming the arrival of John F. Emanuel, who comes from Wilcox, Ariz. Emanuel replaces Father Joe Krause who retired due to health reasons.
Emanuel said he's been impressed with the people he's met in his short time in the Rim country.
"A number of people from the parish have invited me over for dinner already," he said. "It's been wonderful. They are very warm."
He is going on his 13th year of priesthood. He said he was inspired to serve God by his grandparents, mother and father, while growing up in Iowa, as well as the priest and nuns who taught him from elementary school through college.
"I enjoyed listening to the priest who gave the sermons on Sundays, it really cut to the heart. It really meant a lot to me," he said. "His words struck a chord in my mind and it was then I knew I wanted to become a priest."
Emanuel said he has known since the fifth grade that the priesthood would be his destiny, although he postponed it for a while, knowing it was a big commitment and sacrifice. He said he finally grew tired of fighting the Lord, and accepted God's will for his life.
Emanuel received his undergraduate degree, a bachelor's of science, in Omaha, Neb., and then worked as a medical records director for seven years. He moved to Minnesota to work as a county health analyst at a county hospital for about eight years.
Over the years, he made frequent visits to Arizona to see his parents who had retired here. He said he grew so fond of Arizona he decided to study for the priesthood. He sent letters to the diocese of Phoenix and Tucson. It was the Tucson diocese that interviewed and approved him. He was sent to seminary in Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee, where he studied for five years for the priesthood.
In 1992, he was ordained in the diocese in Tucson.
This priest has plans for his new home at St. Philip's. He wants to encourage those parishioners who have strayed from the church to return.
"I will gently lead them back home and welcome them with open arms," he said.
Emanuel said he is happy to share chapters of his life that gave him a profound spiritual awakening.
One of those chapters was a religious dream.
"I was in a dark room and you could see light emanating from underneath the door," he said. "Clouds of smoke, billowing out from underneath the door. I opened the door and the light was blinding. It was very brilliant, and I felt I was being moved along.
"I remember walking, just kind of floating along, and I see Christ on the cross. He had one arm that was not nailed to the cross, but extended to me as I was looking up at him. He lifted up off his cross. He went into the clouds above me."
Emanuel said it was a very moving dream. He was 15 when he had that experience.
Asked about his present concerns for mankind, Emanuel said, "You can't help but be taken back to the war in Iraq for the service men and women losing their lives. There are better ways to resolve man's differences with each other than having to resort to killing and bombing.
"We will come through the difficulties in the world. It's just going to take time," he said.
He said the most important message he wants to send to the Payson community, the new parishioners, and current parishioners, is that he is here for them.
"I'm here for you. God loves you. He wants you to experience the love and goodness and kindness of our Lord," he said. "I want to welcome those who have fallen away from the church to return. Our arms are extended to you. Respect each others' differences in harmony."
Name: Rev. John F. Emanuel
Occupation: Roman Catholic Priest
Employer: St. Philip the Apostle Parish
Birthplace: Ottumwa, Iowa
Family: 2 brothers, 2 sisters; parents deceased
Personal motto: Practice what you preach.
Inspiration: You cannot judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
Greatest feat: Becoming a priest.
Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Reading, hiking, playing tennis
Three words that describe me best are: Humorous, caring, and loving
The person in history I'd most like to meet is: Jesus Christ
Luxury defined: Checking into a health resort and spa and being pampered to death 24 hours/7.
Dream vacation spot: Ireland
Why Payson? Because it's a great place to live and commune with nature, the climate is wonderful and it's peaceful here.