Our Lady of Grace’s new pastor sees room for growth

Photo by Victor Moreno

When it comes to the small-town atmosphere that many Maricopa residents love, the Rev. Jay Luczak is no different. Having been a priest for over 27 years, Luczak has spent all his career in tight-knit communities in Arizona.

Luczak, known by the parish as Father Jay, has been the pastor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church since August.

“I like small-town atmospheres. Miami was a small copper-mining town,” Luczak said. “Then I was in Nogales. I still had three years left in my term there and I was planning on staying there for at least those three years. But the bishop asked me to come here.”

In effect, he traded posts with Our Lady’s previous pastor, Rev. Marcos Velásquez, who had served in Nogales before coming to Maricopa and then returned to Nogales in 2019.

Being in the Catholic church all his life, Luczak had always felt a close relationship with God. He and his three brothers and two sisters attended Catholic school until the eighth grade.

“My dad was a police officer; he’s retired. My mom stopped working when she had six kids. She went back to work once my youngest brother was in school,” Luczak said.

After spending the first 19 years of his priesthood in the mining town of Miami,  Luczak became the headmaster of Sacred Heart Catholic School in Nogales for three years.

“The principal ran the school, and there was a really good school board there,” Luczak said. “I was in charge, but I can’t really take credit for running the school.”

Photo by Victor Moreno

Luczak sees a lot of opportunity and room for growth at Maricopa’s parish and has enjoyed his months in the community.

“He’s a good priest, a good homilist, but he also has a strong business background,” said parishioner Ken Lepper.

Saying Our Lady of Grace may be the only parish in the diocese with such an extensive development plan, Lepper said the new pastor has the experience to face the challenge of developing The Crossing and leading the church forward.

The Crossing is the parish’s 20-acre property surrounding the church. Our Lady parish of Grace plans to develop it with mixed- use commercial and residential components.

While being fiscally responsible and first taking care of some of the parish’s debt, Luczak looks forward to future projects such as a parish hall for board meetings and a large enough facility for classrooms.

“We’re using the high school for our classes, so it would be nice to have classrooms on-site, especially for a DRE (Directors of Religious Education),” Luczak said.

Taking over the role of pastor from Velasquez was no small ordeal but an honor, according to Luczak. Having known each other for more than 30 years, the two priests have become good friends with an understanding of their influence on the parish. Velasquez left the parish well organized and in good standing for his replacement, Luczak said.

“I’ve always admired and respected him,” Luczak said. “It was a little intimidating coming here kind of in his footsteps, and when I was in Nogales, I was kind of in his shadow there, too.”

Father Jay’s chosen profession has been a rewarding one, with the most memorable moments being with the people he has met along the way. “Wherever God’s people are is a good place.”

The 59-year-old says said his motivation has hardly faltered. And that motivation, he said, is “Jesus. Trying to please him. Do what he wants me to do. God’s will.”

While he describes his time with the people of the church as warm and welcoming, Luczak admitted he doesn’t know how long he expects to be in Maricopa. In a lot of ways, he said, it isn’t up to him.

“I was expecting to be in Nogales until I retired,” Luczak said. “So, I really don’t know.”

When asked about keeping his faith through all the years, hardships and the unknown, Luczak’s answer was quick and simple.

“I’m not always positive,” Luczak said with a laugh. “But you have to pray. Trust God and remember it all comes down to love.”

This story appears in the February issue of InMaricopa.