St. Mary’s Father Gray celebrates one year in Park City
Reverend Christopher Gray, pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, fondly remembers the connections he made in Park City during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
He moved his office from the church on White Pine Canyon Road to the Old Town chapel, located 121 Park Ave.
“I opened the doors, kept it warm and kept the coffee brewed,” Gray said. “There were a lot of people who came by, ducked in, prayed for a bit, had a conversation and went about their way.”
Gray enjoyed those casual encounters, because he said his goal as pastor of his parish, which covers Summit and Wasatch counties, is to create an environment where people can grow in holiness.
“We have so much here which is inherently beautiful and transcendent,” he said. “The mission of the church is to bring the sacrament to the place and all the things that come from that.”
While the objectives of how to achieve that goal are many, one of them is easy to do, he said.
“Let’s be more fun,” Gray said. “Let’s be more pleasant to be around. Let’s be more interesting. Let’s be authentic. And let’s have more community engagement.”
This has been the Father’s mantra since he was assigned to the parish a year ago last Wednesday. Gray replaced Reverend Stan Herba, who had served in Park City since 2010.
Throughout the past 12 months, Gray has kept his eye on that vision and introduced some programs that would both attract people to the church and connect it with the general public.
“We didn’t have a lot of programming when I arrived, but right now we have at least one or several fun events that happen here in the church or elsewhere that has our name on it,” he said.
Some of those events have included at Parish White Picnic and mass at Jordanelle last month, family movie nights and a weekly Way of Christ talk and meal.
The talk and meal, which starts at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday, gives people a chance to hear Gray about one of the foundational aspects of Catholicism and enjoy a post-presentation potluck meal.
Another program that has added to St. Mary’s presence in Park City is the annual Feast of the Assumption Procession. (See accompanying story).
The programs have created a more welcoming spirit within the parish, according to Gray.
“People say over and over again that it feels happier here,” he said. “It feels more pleasant and warmer.”
Making a difference in how the community viewed the church and how the church interacted with the community is something Gray has worked on from the first day he started his Park City assignment.
He gathered his staff from St. Mary in Park City as well as from St. Lawrence Mission Church and St. Lawrence Thrift Store in Heber.
“I talked about what a pastor does, how I looked forward to it and said, ‘let’s get going,’” he said. “It was a funny way to begin things, but also a great way to do it.”
The night before the meeting, Gray had wrapped up his previous commitment as vicar of the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.
“I drove to Park City, where I stopped at Wasatch Brewery and had a burger and a beer, and went to our Old Town church for an all-night vigil and prayer,” he said. “The all-night prayer vigil was very nice. But I’m definitely not doing that again this year. I plan to sleep this year.”
Gray’s belief in God is what steered him to the clergy.
“I have a very strong belief and love for God, a love that brings one to make the decision to dedicate one’s life to this,” he said.
Gray grew up in Salt Lake City, and graduated from Judge Memorial Catholic High School in 2001.
Six years later, he started his studies at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, and later went to Rome to start his studies at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. In 2012, he earned his Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
A year later, Gray was ordained a priest at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and he returned to Rome in 2014 to study for and receive his Licentiate of Sacred Theology from Pontifical Lateran University.
He served as parochial vicar of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish and the Cathedral of the Madeleine before coming to the Wasatch Back.
“I always loved coming up to Park City when I was young, because it’s a great place for skiing and hanging out in the afternoon,” he said. “This is, frankly of the parishes of Salt Lake City, the finest and grandest. It’s the one that has the best people, and the best possibility of doing things. I love being here.”
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