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Father Gregory Elder to celebrate first mass at Sacred Heart Church as Monsignor Howard Lincoln prepares for retirement

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Monsignor Howard Lincoln fought back tears after being asked how he wants to be remembered by parishioners at Sacred Heart Church whom he has served for 20 years.

"That I cared, that I tried my best, that I tried to be there as much as I could," said Lincoln.

Lincoln says serving valley Catholics has been an honor and a privilege.

The church flourished under his leadership.

Since his arrival, the Monsignor estimates the congregation has doubled in size to 7,500 registered families.
Enrollment at the school has also doubled..

"It's a privilege being a priest because you're put in circumstances where you can really make a difference. You can make people feel better and you can proclaim our Lord and hopefully help them just a little bit," said Lincoln. 

The accomplishment Lincoln celebrates most is the church's generosity during his tenure.

According to his "Pastor's Report" provided to News Channel 3,  the church has donated more than $21 million to more than 100 valley groups and organizations. 

Lincoln often rubbed shoulders with professional athletes, celebrities, and political leaders while raising money.  

Father Gregory Elder from Saint Martha's in Murrieta is taking over for Lincoln. 

Part of what makes Elder unique is that he once served as an Anglican priest.

He is also married.

Elder's family includes his wife Sarah, two adult children, and two grandchildren.

"My family I see as the greatest blessing God has given me and I bring that to my ministry, and I can get in the pulpit and talk about problems with children because I've had lots of them," said Elder. 

Oxford educated, Elder says he has big shoes to fill in taking over for Lincoln.

He describes himself as "conservative theologically and liturgically" but "liberal pastorally".

"I really believe that we need to always make the church a place that welcomes everyone. It doesn't belong to Anglos or Hispanics or anybody else. Republicans, Democrats, everybody, gays,, straight," said the priest. 

Elder won't take over at Sacred Heart until July 1st,. but  will celebrate mass at the church Sunday, April 16th.

Monsignor Lincoln will officiate his last Sunday mass June 27th.

His last weekday mass is set for June 30th, which is his last day at the church.

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Tom Tucker

Tom Tucker is a veteran broadcast journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. Learn more about Tom here.

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