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Catholicism In Utah And Community Outreach

Ten years after the arrival of Mormon pioneers in 1863, Catholicism became the second established religion in Utah. Priest Lawrence Scanlan was entrusted with the 800 Utah Catholics upon his arrival. Since then, the Catholic church has become the third largest Christian religion in the state after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Protestantism. In the city of Logan, the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church welcomes up to 600 parishioners each mass - the majority of whom are Hispanics.

The church pews at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church are filled every weekend with Hispanic parishioners who have practiced the Catholic faith generation after generation. The number of Catholics in Logan has stayed the same in recent years, according to Father Rogelio Félix. He told us about the drop in attendance during the pandemic and the motivation parishioners are experiencing to attend mass again.

“We have had an increase in parishioners," he said. "I believe that speaking of having new parishioners, I believe that it has not increased, it has stayed the same, and we have lost parishioners because some have been unmotivated with the issue of the pandemic. Now there is no justification, there are no longer restrictions, so it is not so much on the side of the church.” 

Father Felix explained how church headquarters in Rome provides help to parishes around the world, but St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church is supported economically by its parishioners. 

“The Holy See, as far as I understand, helps churches that are really in poverty; cases of churches in Mexico, Central America, South America, India, Asia, who are going through difficult times, but to us directly, the parishioners support us one hundred percent,” Father Félix said.

With a staff of six people and two priests, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church does community outreach to those recovering from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“An example was last year with the pandemic: giving food to people who worked for a company. We have a good group of people, a pastoral society, who help us in these matters. We also have assistance for the sick: a good group of people who help us with people who are in nursing homes, and in particular homes. And, on the immigrant issue, we also have financial aid from the church for people who need to pay for electricity, water, and who need food," Father Félix said.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church and Saint Jerome Newman Center located on the Utah State University Campus serve as havens of faith for Catholic parishioners in Cache County.

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Manuel Giron produces news content at UPR. As a bilingual reporter, he writes stories in English and Spanish, and is involved in all steps of the reporting process from thinking of story ideas to writing the stories and preparing them for air. He is a Senior at Utah State University majoring in Political Science and minoring in Portuguese. He loves to write, read, listen to music, and swim. He is incredibly excited about working for UPR and learning about journalism in the process.