Father Jaime, Holy Angels Catholic Church
By Andy Armano
This series focuses on individuals who give to our community and make a positive impact on the lives of others. Often it is through our personal adversities that we discover who we are and transform the challenges into strength.
Father James Forsythe, affectionately known as Father Jaime, is the pastor at Holy Angels Catholic Community, a Catholic Church with progressive values, where all people are welcome to grow in faith and love. Father Jaime brings his life’s spiritual journey to guide him in his role at Holy Angels, a “home for hearts seeking acceptance and love.”
Andy Armano: Thank you for sitting down with me to share some of your story. Has the church been lifelong for you?
Father James: Yes. I’ve been 37 years I think as a priest. I was ordained in 1983 in the Arch Dioceses of Kansas City. After seven years, I left the Roman Catholic Church and was with MCC in Colorado/South Dakota before joining the National Catholic Church in 2002. I moved here (Florida) around 2008.
AA: Did you feel when you were younger that you had a calling?
FJ: On March 2, 1976, I was working in a gas station and I was involved in an accident and I lost my left eye. I woke up from surgery about 8:00PM. Then, about two o’clock in the morning the nurse was in the room. I said, “Did I lose the eye?” She said, “Yes, you did.” I said, “I thought so,” and went back to sleep. Now, I will swear, till the day I die, that somewhere between when I first woke up at eight and I woke up again at two, I heard the voice of God simply saying, “You’re gonna be okay.” And for me it was my first personal experience with God.
AA: What do you see as the Mission of Holy Angels?
FJ: What we do here, really, is simply to help us get in touch with God’s love. Our little slogan outside reads “Love Without Judgment.” Anyone is welcome here. We really want to reach out to people and say, “You know, you’re family here. You’re welcomed here. This is a place where you can find love, safety, and acceptance. We don’t stand on rules.” And if they’re here, they can receive communion. They don’t have to be Catholic, and they don’t have to be Christian. All they have to do is just be here.
AA: I find it game-changing when you speak of putting emphasis on spirituality and inclusiveness.
FJ: There is a lot of the Roman Church that we really hold dear, especially the Eucharist. A lot of the Catholic spirituality is very, very special, and very unique, and very powerful. But when a church focuses on dogma and rules, all of a sudden the church becomes more important than faith.
AA: You know, one of the things that I’ve found personally, and I tend to see in other people, is that the beliefs that you grew up with are really hard to change. Even though logically, as an adult, or even as a teenager, you say, “Oh, I don’t believe in that,” but fundamentally it’s really hard to change those beliefs on a gut level.
FJ: We have to unlearn all that. You know, if your refrigerator is filled with rotten food, you got to get rid of it before you can put the good food in. So we do a whole process of unlearning.
AA: I always say, “Oh, I’m not religious. I’m spiritual.” What I’m really meaning is, I’m accustomed to being excluded from a social structure found in many organized religions. I don’t want to adjust to a certain set of beliefs that don’t match my experience.
FJ: You know, I did a wedding on the beach, a couple months ago. I told them that anyone is invited to come to Communion. One of them said, “You know, I’m not Catholic.” I said, “Neither were the Apostles.” You know, that Communion is just a chance for you to encounter God – even if you believe it is just a meal, a thanksgiving, or whatever. I just think that way, you’re invited, and whatever happens to you in that moment, that’s up to you.
AA: How do you define forgiveness?
FJ: Forgiveness is the ultimate expression of love. And what “I forgive you,” really means is that who you are is more important than what you’ve done. I really believe that we’re spiritual beings who spend a short time in a physical body. And when we judge people, we judge on their actions. Where God, even in the scriptures, “man judges appearances, God judges the heart.”
AA: I have heard it said that being angry at someone hurts yourself, too.
FJ: You know that’s the hardest thing to do? To forgive ourselves. Because we’ll usually give a lot of people a lot more leeway than we give ourselves. And so forgiveness can also be a very self-loving act because when I forgive someone, I free myself.
AA: Tell me a little more about the history of Holy Angels.
FJ: Holy Angels has probably been around for about 25 to 30 years. It was first started by Bishop Terry, who is our now retired pastor.
AA: It’s part of the National Catholic Church?
FJ: The National Catholic Church of North America. And Holy Angels parish, we are the mother church, so we are the biggest of all the churches. There are probably about, well, there were seven other churches, but we just ordained three more people, so they’re gonna be starting ministries. But we are, my joking way of putting it, is that we’re Roman Catholics who roamed too far. I really think that we are different because we’re really trying to move into the whole spirituality of the Catholic belief. Because it’s beautiful.
AA: Yeah, I like that. We just hit on the heart of this right there. Thank you.