Men in the Breach: Police officer protects souls on duty, protects unborn off duty

James Sinohui, a patrolman for Avondale Police, stands near the Arizona Peace Officers Memorial Oct. 27. Sinohui sees his profession as a way to bring Christ’s light to the world. He also protects the unborn via a new coffee company. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
James Sinohui, a patrolman for Avondale Police, stands near the Arizona Peace Officers Memorial Oct. 27. Sinohui sees his profession as a way to bring Christ’s light to the world. He also protects the unborn via a new coffee company. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Sure, he’s a cop who likes coffee, but the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

Both are a means, however, of living out his faith in his daily life. James Sinohui’s involvement with law enforcement and the latest roast also afford others the opportunity to make moral decisions, too. That’s not to say he was always a solid Catholic man — or even Catholic.

Sinohui was baptized as such, but his parents left for a Protestant church by the time he was 10. Sinohui eagerly returned to the Church as he went through marriage preparation.

Still, it wasn’t until he was a father of three girls that the native West Valley man had his “re-version.” It was a good seven or eight years ago. Fr. John Lankeit, who at that time was pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson where Sinohui grew up, gave a “Catholicism 101” homily.

It was an “Aha!” moment that sent Sinohui on the path to an active parish life that had him serving fish fries, chairing the annual fiesta and attending daily Mass with his wife on his day off. Sometimes he’d squeeze in Adoration in uniform on his lunch break.

Earlier this year he began carrying holy water with him while on duty. He has sprinkled it a few places where evil clearly exists. The Avondale police officer has served for two other West Valley agencies and, in 19 years, has worked everything from undercover gangs, to SWAT to K-9 units to school resource officer.

These days, Sinohui is a patrolman. He embraces the opportunity to engage the public and educate them verbally or through resources. The St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner has found himself much more compassionate in recent years. He recalled a recent encounter with homeless men who were homosexual. One of them just learned he had HIV.

“I looked at him [like] this poor guy, he’s hurting,” Sinohui recalled. He asked the man if he believed in God, and when he said yes, Sinohui gave him a Miraculous Medal and offered a Rosary for him that night. “Here I was more concerned for his soul.”

When Sinohui saw underprivileged kids playing basketball, he got them connected with the right resources to play on a team. He sees his on-duty calls as an opportunity to be Christ’s light.

Sinohui knows prayer and action yields good fruit. Once he returned to the Catholic Church, he began praying for his parents — a lot of Rosaries. They had divorced at one point, but got back together and his mom even returned to Confession after a two- or three-decade absence.

Hearts can change to want to do the good “if we truly engage this culture and we engage it with the Word of God by our actions and by our prayers and we’re able to live what the Church teaches,” Sinohui said.

A faithful partner

He began getting more formed in his faith via the Kino Catechetical Institute, a Cursillo retreat and becoming certified alongside his wife, Milinda, to review the FOCCUS pre-marriage inventory with engaged couples. She made her Cursillo two weeks later. The couple was also recently certified to be foster and adoptive parents through Catholic Charities.

The Sinohui family poses during a Día de los Muertos festival at St. Mary's Basilica Nov. 6. (courtesy photo)
The Sinohui family poses during a Día de los Muertos festival at St. Mary’s Basilica Nov. 6. (courtesy photo)

The other new venture that has their heart: Universal Cup Coffee — because of widespread love for the drink. The couple launched it Oct. 14 as a private label, organically grown, locally roasted coffee company.

“But we all know our true universal drink is the blood in the Eucharist,” Sinohui said.

Sinohui will be the first to point out the company’s Catholic roots. It came to fruition following a summer pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, the only U.S.-Catholic-Church-approved Marian apparition. Its red logo harkens to when the Vatican imprinted official documents using liquid wax. The steam rising out of the cup central to the logo is an interlocking “X” and “P” calling to mind the first two Greek letters when spelling “Christ.”

Ten percent of proceeds from Universal Cup Coffee benefit area pro-life organizations on a rotating basis — currently Maggie’s Place.

“We truly want to engage the culture and do our part to respect the dignity of life,” Sinohui said.

He sees the coffee venture as one more avenue of living out his call as a Catholic man: “to take our family and anyone else to heaven.”