The Rev. Jose de Jesus Sanchez

The Rev. Jose de Jesus Sanchez is the new pastor of Greenwood’s Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.

The Rev. Jose de Jesus Sanchez hasn’t been sleeping that well since moving to Greenwood about a week ago.

He’s adapting to a new town, a new house and a new bed, but probably what’s keeping the Catholic priest up at night is the responsibility he has assumed as a first-time pastor.

“It’s going to be different. I need to supervise everything ... and make good decisions for the good of the people,” said the 35-year-old pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.

Born in a small farming village in central Mexico, Sanchez  is the second oldest of nine children. He entered seminary right out of high school.

In his mid-20s, he moved to the United States to further his studies, initially focusing on learning English.

After a year in Missouri, Sanchez didn’t think he and the Midwestern climate were a good fit — “too much snow, too much cold,” he said.

He returned to Mexico, hoping to serve as a priest in his native country. But after a few months, he was persuaded by a vocational director for the Diocese of Jackson to reconsider.

Sanchez spent the next five years studying in Louisiana, first in Covington, then in New Orleans, to prepare for the priesthood. He was ordained on May 31, 2014, at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Jackson.

He was assigned first to Meridian, where he spent four years as the associate pastor at St. Patrick and St. Joseph churches. For the past two years, he has also served as vocational director for the diocese.

Sanchez has been able to stay in the United States on a work visa and is in the process of applying for permanent residency.

He preached his first services at Immaculate Heart, a parish of 182 families, last weekend. He said he has felt welcomed by the staff and parishioners, whom he acknowledges are having to adjust to having a pastor whose accent and customs are different from what the majority-white congregation has been used to.

“I think we are going to be a good team,” he said.

“I am happy right now to be here, hoping that we will become the family that God wants us to be.”

Sanchez said he is following what he believes is the will of his creator.

“I see it as a sign of faith, trusting that it is God who sent me down here through the bishop.”

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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