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Local priest answers higher calling

When members of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Henderson dedicated their new parish center last week, the Rev. Gregory W. Gordon could have taken a breather and relaxed a bit.

Instead, Gordon, the founding pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, next week begins a cross-country drive to Washington, D.C., where he’ll embark on a five-year assignment at the Vatican’s Apostolic Nunciature.

The Apostolic Nunciature is, in effect, the Vatican’s embassy in the United States and other countries with which the Vatican has diplomatic relations. In his new assignment, Gordon, 46, will serve as a secretary to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio to the United States.

Gordon says he’s not sure how he came to be tapped for the position. But he does know that Sambi called Las Vegas Bishop Joseph Pepe in January to ask “if he would consider releasing me for a five-year term to work in this important work for the universal church in the United States.

“I prayed for the longest time,” Gordon says. “After about six weeks at prayer, I did discern that maybe the Lord was asking me to accept this type of priestly work.”

Even if, he adds, it is “a change from the parish work that I’ve always been doing and that I love.”

Gordon was born in Philadelphia and moved to Nevada with his family in 1972. Gordon recalls that the move was the result of a trip he and his family took to the Grand Canyon that year.

According to Gordon, his father, the late Dr. William Gordon, a pediatrician, was considering relocating either to the suburbs of Philadelphia or to another state. During that trip, Gordon says, driving across Hoover Dam “kind of opened his eyes” to the notion of moving west.

In December 1973, the family moved to Boulder City, where Gordon graduated from Boulder City High School before heading off to college in Philadelphia. Two years into his collegiate career, Gordon began to discern a call to the priesthood.

“That coincided with the first visit of Pope John Paul (II) to the United States,” Gordon says. “I had the opportunity to hear him and visit some of the sites at which he spoke. I think that really helped to cement at least a desire to be open to seminary and the priestly calling.”

Gordon studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania and The Pontifical North American College in Rome. On Jan. 16, 1988, he was ordained a priest in what was then the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas.

Gordon’s resume includes a six-month assignment at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Elko as a deacon, and, after his ordination to the priesthood, associate pastorates at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, St. Anne Catholic Church, Holy Family Catholic Church and Our Lady of Las Vegas Catholic Church, all in Las Vegas, and St. Christopher Catholic Church in North Las Vegas.

Just more than three years ago, Gordon was appointed founding pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 2300 Sunridge Heights Parkway, in Henderson.

Gordon says he has always envisioned himself as a parish priest.

“That was always it,” he says. “My discernment to enter the seminary was based on the parish priests that I had worked with and served with and who I admired.”

On Tuesday, members of St. Francis celebrated the dedication of the San Damiano Parish Center, marking completion of the first phase of a building program that will include the construction of a permanent church building, a rectory and a school complex.

Gordon notes that the congregation opened the San Damiano Center on Jan. 6, “and Archbishop Sambi called me on Jan. 19.”

So, he jokes, “I didn’t get too many days to enjoy this beautiful (building), at least in peace.”

Gordon says that, while he’s looking forward to his new assignment, he’ll miss serving at “a very blessed parish.

“Every family here has become an extension of my family, and to leave everyone who I’ve come to love and respect and work with is very difficult, not to mention my own immediate family, many of whom still live in Boulder City.”

Gordon counts among his most meaningful accomplishments here “those things that I saw transforming people’s lives.

“For instance, the sacraments — baptizing new Catholic Christians; confirming young adults in the faith; marriages, beginning the domestic church in so many households here in Nevada,” he says.

“They’re the biggest accomplishments in my life and, I think, any priest’s life. The things that look bigger — (for example) the building of churches — they’re the means to an end.”

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