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Valley priest: Pope Francis bringing Catholics back to church

In this picture provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis meets with an Argentine interreligious group, at the Vatican, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. According to Vatican Radio, the group, made up of 15 jews, 15 muslims and 15 catholics, had just returned from a pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine, where Pope Francis is scheduled to travel in May. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

PHOENIX -- It's been one year since Pope Francis took his position as head of the Catholic Church and a Valley priest said that he has seen an uptick in Catholics returning to the church.

Father John Muir of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Church in Anthem was among the thousands of people who were in St. Peter's Square when Pope Francis first appeared on the balcony. Muir said that Francis has made Catholics more excited about their faith.

"Pope Francis is such a powerful symbolic figure," he said. "He's really encouraged Catholics to get back to basics and to not worry about what's not really essential to who we are as Catholics. I think he's also encouraged us to follow his example of being someone who takes their faith seriously and puts it into practice."

Muir said, since Francis became Pope, there's more people in the pews at his church.

"We've seen probably a 30 to 40 percent increase in people coming to masses," he said. "Many of these are Catholics who were not that energetic or excited about their faith. They seem to be catching this ‘Pope Francis Fire.'"

Muir said some have been reassessing the priorities of the Catholic religion in their lives.

Muir said he's also seeing members of his church starting to do more volunteer work in their community.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I am married to my wife Rene', who is a librarian in the Washington school district. During free time, I may be found playing basketball in the driveway with my son, Devin. He's also keeping me busy with school, Little League, and playing in chess tournaments around the Valley.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: Doug Oldham gospel concert in the 1970s at the old East High School in Phoenix.

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Northern Hills Community Church in Phoenix. We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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