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Former parishioners brighten rectories for new pastors

St. Theresa members travel to Arkadelphia and Searcy to provide renovations for priests

Published: October 14, 2022   
James Keary
Father Mark Wood stands in the backyard of the rectory at St. Mary Church in Arkadelphia Oct. 4, surrounded by a new wooden privacy fence that was built with donated labor and materials from St. Theresa parishioners.

ARKADELPHIA  —  Parishioners of St. Theresa Church in Little Rock continued their tradition of lending a helping hand to remodel the rectories of two priests who served them for years.

Father Mark Wood, who was pastor of St. Theresa Church for 12 years, and Father Nelson Rubio, who served as associate pastor since 2019, were both transferred to new assignments July 1. St. Theresa families followed the two priests to Arkadelphia and Searcy and began remodeling and upgrading their rectories.

“The families wanted to help them,” said Fernando Sanmiguel, a St. Theresa parishioner who helped organize the work. “We have so many different people with so many different talents that wanted to help.”

More than 1,500 families attend St. Theresa Church. Sanmiguel said the parishioners consider it a service to God and the Church to help maintain the parish buildings and grounds by donating their time and building materials.

“The families wanted to help them,” said Fernando Sanmiguel, a St. Theresa parishioner who helped organize the work. “We have so many different people with so many different talents that wanted to help.”

“(Father Wood and Father Rubio) are more than family to me,” said Sanmiguel, one of the dozens of people who have worked on the rectories. “Father Nelson helped me reconnect with the Church. He got me closer to the Church.”

Father Wood said that while they served at St. Theresa Church, Father Rubio was the person who organized church members and friends to make repairs to the church, parish hall, rectory and grounds.

“I considered Father Nelson the construction manager,” Father Wood said. “Father Nelson was great to motivate them. They would donate their labor and materials. It was incredible.”

“I am an artist,” Father Rubio said. “In my mind, I see God in the beauty. I believe it is my duty to organize to make things more beautiful so that way the people also see God in the beauty.”

Father Rubio said St. Theresa parishioner Raul Beza helped him move from Little Rock to Searcy when he was named pastor of St. James Church. When they went into the rectory, Beza saw quickly that some improvements were needed.

“He said, ‘Oh, no, Father. You need a lot of help.’”  Rubio said. “The next Saturday, 25 guys were here, taking out carpet, working in the yard.”

At the rectories in Arkadelphia and Searcy, teams of parishioners have built privacy fences, replaced flooring, painted and landscaped. Father Wood said they also are working with some members of St. Mary Church to move the laundry room from the carport to inside the rectory.

At St. Mary rectory in Arkadelphia, the outside has been power washed and primed for painting, a new front door was installed, and privacy fences have been built. The partition wall was removed to open up the living area, and construction began on a new laundry room off the sunroom. A new dishwasher and granite countertops were installed, and an old gas heater was removed. The inside of the house will be repainted, and new flooring will be installed in the kitchen.

Father Wood said the work is being done by people from St. Theresa and St. Mary parishes.

“It’s like a partnership,” he said. “They all worked so hard together.”

The work at the rectory of St. James in Searcy is mostly completed. The small house has been repainted inside and out. New flooring installed, and new light fixtures brighten up the rooms. Father Rubio’s bathroom next to his bedroom was remodeled with a new shower and vanity. The Knights of Columbus in Searcy donated a new dishwasher.

Father Wood said it is a tradition for priests to make improvements to rectories before they move, so the house is a little nicer for the next priest assigned to the parish.

“This is not my house. It belongs to them,” Father Wood said. “This house will be here for future priests of St. Mary Parish.”

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