The Rev. Andres Arango, whose baptisms were assumed to be invalid, gave holy water to a dozen people as a re-run of the Catholic ritual.
Thursday’s ceremony was a new assignment. Arango had been pastor at St. Gregory Parish for almost five years, until it became known that he had repeatedly misunderstood the initiation rite’s phrasing. His mission now is to heal and help those he has invalidly baptized.
Alysson Najera was thirteen years old when she was baptized in 2009 by Arango. She was one of the 11 children and 1 adult who were recited the rite with Arango, using the church-prescribed language. She received Communion again and was confirmed, this time as valid sacraments according to the church.
Eliana Najera said that Alysson’s mother doesn’t feel any resentment for Arango’s invalidation of her daughter’s baptism. He was praised for his efforts over the years, and she questioned why the Diocese of Phoenix did not seek input from the community prior to his resignation as pastor.
Najera stated, “He didn’t do this intentionally.” It was a mistake.
Arango made an error in saying “We baptize” you in the name(s) of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit.” This difference was theologically crucial, which the Vatican ruled in 2020. It’s not the “we”, but the “I” Christ working through the priest.
Officials from the Church estimate that Arango performed thousands upon thousands of baptisms, which are now considered invalid. They advise those affected to get valid baptisms right away. It is not known how many people received the sacrament once again.
Theologically, there is no “again” nor “rebaptism in church theology. Since baptism, Confirmation, and first communion are one-in-a lifetime rituals that cannot be repeated, it’s not possible to “rebaptise”. Jay Conzemius (moderator of Diocese of Pittsburgh’s tribunal, past president of Canon Law Society of America) stated that baptism doesn’t exist since it creates an ontological shift (a change of being) in a person.
Arango explained to the families at the church that the “do-over” was an opportunity for faithful to renew their faith in God. After the ceremony, he declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter. However, he thanked that journalist for his attendance.
Arango is still loved by parishioners. Some of them said that the mistake was an honest error that unfairly overshadows a record of honorable service. They should have allowed him to continue as leader of St. Gregory Parish.
The congregation members credited Arango for launching fundraising campaigns to pay church debts, reversed a drop in membership, and counseling them after the coronavirus pandemic.
Arango was given a standing ovation at the conclusion of the final Sunday Mass at St. Gregory and was carried down the aisle to be thanked by his parishioners.
Maria Moran, a parishioner, said that after all this and other positive things he has done, created and launched, how will the diocese pay him to pronouncing an inclusive term?”
“If he made mistakes in writing, believe me, that was not intentional. It was not lack heart, faith, education, or of heart. It was a simple human error that I believe Jesus would quickly forgive,” Terri Flynn and Steve Flynn, parishioners, wrote via email.
They added, “This is a travesty that should be crucified because of the use of WE instead I.”
Brisa Lomas (17 years old) wrote a letter asking Thomas Olmstead (the bishop of Phoenix), to restore Arango at St. Gregory. He was credited with inspiring her to go to Mass and restoring faith.
She wrote, “If Jesus were in charge of The Roman Catholic Diiocese of Phoenix I know in my heart he would forgive Father Andres’ honest mistake.”
The diocese released a statement acknowledging that Arango’s reassignment had caused distress. “Fr. “Fr.
According to a note posted on the site of the diocese, Arango did not resign as pastor. Some parishioners believe Arango was forced from his post.
Parishioners petitioned the diocese to hold a town hall meeting at their church to voice their concerns and get answers about the decision of the diocese to cancel thousands of sacraments. The spreadsheet also contained hundreds of examples of Arango’s positive impact on their lives.
The diocese declined comment on whether such a meeting was planned.
Officials from the church are trying to find people who were baptized at Arango. It created an FAQ section on the website that addresses issues related to botched baptisms. A form was also available for people to complete to begin the process of getting valid baptisms.
Arango served as pastor at Saint Jerome Catholic Church, Phoenix, and St. Anne Roman Catholic Parish, Gilbert before he joined St. Gregory. He also served in San Diego, Brazil.