High Desert Gives Father Patrick Travers New Hope, New Mission

April 22, 2012
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Father Patrick Travers

Father Patrick Travers

Father Patrick Travers is now the full-time parish priest at Holy Innocents Parish in Victorville, California, about 50 miles and an hour’s drive from his old base of Damien High School in La Verne, which he served for nearly a half-century before he was abruptly dismissed last summer by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a forced “sabbatical” that the Order never explained.


Travers speculated the Order, which is part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was upset over his yearly mission to Tijuana, Mexico, where he and several Damien students and their parents volunteered their time and resources to build houses and classrooms for an impoverished community against a backdrop of increasing violence throughout Mexico.


Regardless of the past, Travers has started over in the desert community, averaging about three masses a week and leading a congregation of 4,500 parishioners, of whom about 2,500 are active. “My job is to get those 2,000 more active.”


His challenges will be many, however. Victorville may be ground zero for the Great Recession. “The whole high desert,” Travers said, “probably has the highest unemployment in San Bernardino, if not the state.”


Unlike the catholic community in La Verne and San Dimas, which meets in the beautiful Holy Name of Mary Church, his parishioners meet in a community hall. The task of raising funds for a “real church when so many are jobless is daunting. “It will take a while, a long while,” Travers said.


While Travers may lack space, he doesn’t lack hope or resolve. He’s used to seeing and helping make miracles happen. At 75, he’s landed on his feet, signing a six-year contract with his new partners in Christ. Last summer, he and about 30 volunteers built six more houses for the needy in Tijuana, and he plans to return this summer with a workforce of about 50 volunteers to build six more houses.


To help raise funds for his ongoing mission, Travers will be coming to St. Paul the Apostle Church in Chino Hills (14085 Peyton Drive) on June 24 at 3 p.m.. The occasion also will be a time for the many friends of Travers to reconnect with Damien’s former principal. “It’s halfway between the old timers and the Damien era and my new mission,” Travers said.


Refreshingly, Travers isn’t afraid to discuss the past or open what might be old wounds.


“After I was dismissed a number of people were afraid to talk to me, he acknowledged. “But I can’t slam the door on the past. There are too many memories, too many years.”


Nor he is afraid to face the future of building a new church community. “The people are giving me new energy,” Travers said. “They have been very supportive.


Indeed, Travers on Saturday was preparing his sermon for four Sunday masses. The theme was how to become a better person through Jesus Christ.


It’s a personal message that touches Travers himself. “No question, I wondered if I was doing the right thing,” he admitted in reference to continuing his Tijuana mission over the objections of his superiors. “But I have to believe God is with me despite what other people think.”


As for putting volunteers at risk because of Mexico’s endemic violence, Travers felt he was putting his volunteers in harm’s way. “I never had any fears where we went,” he said. “The drug lords are not out there because there is no money.”


Last November, about 50 people from the La Verne and San Dimas community made the trek to visit and celebrate mass with Travers. He said he was deeply touched by the visit.


At 75, Travers is still very much a man with a mission.


If you’re in the neighborhood, you can visit Holy Innocents at 13230 El Evado Road in Irwindale or drop him line at ptravers37@gmail.com.







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