Father Pete Elizardo vividly remembers his first mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
He remembers all of the parishioners, anxious people smiling and looking on as he slowly walked down the aisle to the altar.
Nervously, he began his homily that Sunday morning and he spoke to the parish of what he calls his “one policy.” He simply asked that the parish be a welcoming community.
“Just that one policy; that we all be together, and they have,” said Elizardo, who is originally from Odem. “They have met the task and brought it to completion and they’ll continue to do that way after I’m gone.”
Now, some six years after the St. Joseph and entire Alice community embraced the man simply known as “Father Pete,” they’re all gathering once again; only this time it’s to say goodbye.
St. Joseph and the Alice community are having a "Despedida,” or farewell, for Fr. Pete, who is leaving the parish to resume his former position as the Rector at the Corpus Christi Cathedral. He will also serve as the pastor for Sacred Heart Catholic Church just a few blocks from the Cathedral. As Rector, Elizardo will oversee the Cathedral for Bishop Mulvey. It’s an assignment Elizardo is familiar with, but it comes with some strong, yet mixed emotions.
“Being here at St. Joseph and in Alice, it’s been a blessing… no question about it,” he said as he fought back tears. “I came here, and I knew a little bit about the history of the parish, but I knew it was my task to come here. My time in Alice has been filled with enormous blessings. There’s so much love, a lot of love.
“They welcomed me with an open heart. This wonderful assignment of being here, it opened the doors to the rest of the community. It really did, because St. Joseph has been an enormous blessing of faith. Through them, I’ve been able to send that love to so many in the community. When I saw that I’ll miss St. Joseph, I will tremendously, but attached to that is how much I will miss the community of Alice.”
The “Despedida” is set for 1 p.m. Sunday at the K.C. Hall in Alice. The entire community is invited. Coincidentally, Sunday isn’t only Elizardo’s final day of leading Mass at St. Joseph. The day will also mark his 18th anniversary of being ordained to the priesthood.
Marc Joseph Zamora, who helps Elizardo in day-to-day tasks at the church, said Father Pete is someone whom people are drawn to because of his sincerity and devotion to the Church and the community.
“I think he has a passion for the priesthood,” Zamora said. “There are a lot of people who he has been there for in moments of happiness and in moments where they’ve had to lay loved ones to rest. To him, everything he does for the Church is important.”