Longtime Palm Desert priest Monsignor Howard Lincoln is stepping down from Sacred Heart Church after decades of service to the parish.
Lincoln characterized the change as a retirement of sorts for him. After 20 years there, he hopes to move on to carry out community service here in the valley.
"I was going to leave actually last year and the bishop asked me to stay on one more year because of the pandemic," Lincoln said. "It's a bit unusual for a priest to be at one parish for 20 years. I'll be 75 by then. And I think it's time to move on to maybe a different aspect of my life, but also it's fair to the parish. Maybe 20 years is enough of me; let's go to somebody else, who, in many ways is really more capable than I am."
His replacement, Father Gregory Elder, is currently a priest at St. Martha Catholic Church in Murrietta.
Lincoln said, unusual and rare as it is for Catholic priests, Father Elder is married and has children and grandchildren.
This is made possible by a rule brought on by Pope John Paul II, Lincoln said, that allowed episcopal priests, who are permitted to be married, to convert to Catholicism.
In a statement to News Channel 3, Father Elder wrote:
"I count it a singular honor to have been appointed as Pastor at Sacred Heart Church. I am grateful for the trust which our Bishop, Alberto Rojas and Bishop Emeritus Gerald Barnes have placed in me.
I must say that following such an excellent priest as Msgr Lincoln is a daunting task. Fr Howard has been a guide and mentor to me in my service in the previous parishes I have served in the San Bernardino Diocese and I am grateful to him. I ask for the prayers of the people in this community as I take up this post in July of this year. May God bless Msgr Lincoln for his long and faithful service."
Lincoln said the transition is set to take place this July.
News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia has more on this story tonight at 10 and 11 p.m.