Give Us Shepherds

Several months into his new assignment, Fr. Edward Sanchez is finding himself at home among the communities of Immaculate Conception and St. Augustine of Hippo in Bay View and Sacred Heart of Jesus in St. Francis. “There’s a lot of life here,” he said of the parishes. “There’s a real sense of investment in the parish family.”

This is your first assignment as an administrator — what’s it like being the one in charge?

It’s a big shift. Before (as an associate pastor), you’re kind of seeing the guy who’s making the decision — the pastor — and you talk with him about it, but in the end, he carries the burden of responsibility, the burden of leadership. I’ve grown so much in appreciation for my first pastor, Fr. Ryan (Pruess), and for Fr. Will (Arnold), and just the ways that they carried that burden of leadership, now that I’m sitting in that chair.

What has been a great joy in your life as a priest these past four years?

I think the biggest joys have been in confession. People come, and they’re so honest and sometimes you can tell God’s giving you the words to say. It’s very much just me being quiet and trying to listen to the person who’s there, and also interiorly quiet and trying to listen to what God is saying to me. I see the connection being made as God reaches these people and forgives their sins through me. When I walk out, I’m kind of exhausted, but also a little bit exhilarated.

Do you have any especially powerful memories from these first few years?

It’s simple, but for me, this captured a little bit what the life of a priest is like. I was talking with someone in a very personal way, and they were sharing some real deep difficulties and sufferings, and I walked out of that conversation and went over to the chapel and prayed the daytime prayer from Liturgy of the Hours. And I really felt like I was bringing that person’s pain into the liturgy of the Church and the prayer that Jesus is making to the Father. To be able to be that bridge between real flesh-and-blood human beings who are suffering in the world and Jesus and his prayer made present in the liturgy — whether it’s the Mass or the Liturgy of the Hours — that’s the life of a priest.

What do you like to do in your time off?

One thing I like to do on Tuesdays is go and play basketball with some guys in the parish. We’ll just play three-on-three, four-on-four, sometimes five-on-five, hoops at one of the local gyms. That’s a lot of fun.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve ever traveled?

I went to Guatemala in seminary as part of a Spanish immersion program. Three other seminarians and I climbed this volcano one night to try and get to the top in time to see the sunrise from the peak. We started at midnight, and this volcano was dormant, but we got most of the way up and looked down and saw this other volcano that was a few miles away and it was erupting. That was totally wild.

If you could invite any saint to dinner, who would it be and why?

I think I would invite St. John the Baptist. Which could be awkward — I don’t like grasshoppers and honey. But John the Baptist just has this unique relationship with Jesus. He’s at this turning point between Judaism and Israel and the Church. He understands humility, he understands asceticism, he understands fasting. He understands the joy of hearing the voice of Jesus. I would just love to get John the Baptist talking about Christ.

What did you give up for Lent this year?

I did Exodus 90 with some other priests and parishioners.

What was that like?

It was tough — I could pretend to be macho and say it was no problem, but sometimes the fasting, you get kind of short with people. But it was cool, it was nice having something to offer up for the other guys who were doing it, and for parishioners. It’s nice to be able to offer a sacrifice for your people like that.

Is there anything that people don’t know about you?

I don’t think so — it’s all in my bio. I studied math, I love Lord of the Rings. I like the bands U2 and Needtobreathe.

What is something you love or admire about your new parishes?

On Thursdays, we have 24-hour adoration at Immaculate Conception. The people who participate — they’re like dads and moms all day and then at night they’re there at 1 a.m. before they show up for work four hours later. It’s amazing. That’s one of my favorite things about the parishes.