Father Pat Grile senses change is coming. As he celebrates his 40-year jubilee, the 65-year-old Redemptorist priest thinks his time as pastor of St. Alphonsus in Brooklyn Center may be coming to an end.
He has served at the parish, which has seven other Redemptorists, for almost 12 years, which is longer than usual.
“Normally, it’s a six-year cycle, then we get booted out,” he said. “I think it’s coming to an end [at St. Alphonsus] because my brother is now the provincial and I think he’s going to boot me out.” He said it with a laugh and no hard feelings toward his brother.
Asked to reflect on a decade plus of ministry at St. Al’s, he noted the multicultural makeup that began more than halfway through his pastorate. In addition to the Caucasian parishioners, there now are three more ethnic groups — Latinos, Africans and southeast Asians.
He called the effort to blend the four communities “very interesting.”
“You’re always trying to juggle,” Father Grile said. “One of the challenges is always trying to bring everybody in to the focus on the faith, and not to let people get too hung up on their ethnicity.”
One of the Redemptorists, Father Joe Stenger, came to the parish six years ago fluent in Portuguese after serving in Brazil for 35 years. He decided to say Mass at St. Al’s in Spanish, and it grew from there.
When another priest came four years ago who was fluent in Spanish, the parish decided to offer bilingual and Spanish Masses regularly.
Eventually, Africans and southeast Asians made St. Al’s their parish as well, though there currently are no Masses offered in the languages of these communities.
“Now, we have 800, 900, 1,000 [Latinos] at a Sunday Mass,” Father Grile said. “That’s what keeps us [Redemptorists] here, I think. Our school is a little United Nations.
“It’s beautiful, it really is,” he added. “I keep saying this is a universal church right here. That’s what keeps it exciting, and it’s really what I love about it, too. I’m hoping that whoever would be my successor would follow that — unless I can convince my brother to [let me] stay.”