Father knows best: St. Patrick’s and St. Canice welcome new pastor Alexander Estrella | TheUnion.com

Father knows best: St. Patrick’s and St. Canice welcome new pastor Alexander Estrella

Alexander Estrella is the pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Grass Valley and St. Canice Church in Nevada City. In his spare time Estrella enjoys fishing, crabbing, and gardening.
Photo by Jennifer Nobles

The life of a pastor is a busy one. Just ask Alexander Estrella, who in July accepted the position of parochial administrator for the area’s two Catholic churches, St. Patrick’s in Grass Valley and St. Canice in Nevada City.

More a lifestyle than a job, Estrella’s pastoral duties keep him busy six days a week, ready to be of service to the churches’ parishioners. Estrella, however, sees it as a labor of love.

“The title ‘father’ is perfect because we are spiritually a father to people from baptism through life, womb to tomb,” Estrella said. “This is a wonderful place to be. But also I am responsible for all the nitty gritty. Lights, leaks and locks. That is my job here too. It’s wonderful.”

Estrella’s interest in the Catholic church began at an early age. The oldest of five children, Estrella was raised in Citrus Heights. He attended public school and after graduation considered – and pursued – a career in banking. However having attended church his entire life, the religion called to him.

“When I was younger I thought about being a priest but I really didn’t know what to do,” he said. “It kind of all came to the forefront of my mind in my mid 20s. I went to Mt. Angel Seminary. I spent about a year praying and discerning, talking to a priest. Then I applied to the Diocese of Sacramento and became a Seminarian. I was in Seminary for eight years at Mt. Angel and was ordained in 2016.”

Estrella’s previous assignments include serving as parochial vicor, who assists the pastor.

“I think all priests find great satisfaction in the Sacraments, great reward,” said Estrella. “That’s by and far the most beautiful part of being a priest. But the relationships with the people…I could show up on somebody’s door but they’d be thrilled that I dropped in. I am part of that family for that moment.”

Looking forward, Estrella said he would like his churches to concentrate more on Youth Ministry. He places great importance on educating teens and young adults in the ways of Catholicism and engaging them in the church and its practices.

“I am working on some things just to build a stronger sense of community and relationship among the Catholic families. It’s important to instill the fact that everybody is needed and young people are important. Otherwise they’ll be hesitant to take the initiative.”

The upcoming holiday season will find Estrella even more busy than usual. St. Patrick’s and St. Canice will be offering extra confession times and an advent penance service will include priests from Colfax and Auburn. Christmas masses will be held, as well as a special mass for Feast of the Holy Family.

Christmas really begins on Dec. 25, said Estrella, and is celebrated through Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings. The season winds up Jan. 2, with the Presentation of the Lord.

Estrella said the churches over which he presides are another home not only to him but to his parishioners.

“This place, this church where God dwells, is meant to be a home for whoever wishes it,” he said. “We use the phrase ‘our mother the church,’ and it’s true. The church mothers us all and helps us all. Not to be cliché or to steal anything from Motel 6, but the light is always on in a very real way. There is always a lamp burning by the tabernacle.”

For more information on St. Patrick’s Church please visit saintpatrickgrassvalley.dreamhosters.com. Information on Nevada City’s St. Canice Church can be located at http://www.stcanice.com.

Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer available for hire. She can be reached at jenkrisnobles@gmail.com.

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