SCOTTSDALE — Growing up in a strict German Lutheran family, Fr. Doug Lorig got the impression that God was someone angry. Paradoxically, amid messages of condemnation and wrath, he was told that God is love.
“It never made sense to me. How can God make a fist?” Fr. Doug said as he sat in his office at St. Maria Goretti Parish, thinking back over his 32 years as a Catholic priest. Set to retire Nov. 20 — the last day of the Year of Mercy — he said the journey to where he stands now has been guided by God’s providence and the loving hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He credits her for his priesthood that’s touched the lives of thousands and has focused on the mercy of God.
The road to becoming a Catholic priest was winding but grace-filled. He was a social worker for some years, then became an Episcopal priest. His search for the God of mercy continued, even as he and his wife and four children lived in Nogales, Arizona. It was during those years he discovered St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
“She said, ‘He loves us unto madness.’ That was my saint, that’s the girl I was going to sit right next to in church,” Fr. Lorig said. “She’s been my sister from before I was even Catholic.”
Sherry Boas, who knew Fr. Lorig since his days at St. Anne Parish in Gilbert, has remained close to him and said she’ll “miss him immensely.” His priesthood, she explained, has been all about love.
“Our family has been through some rough times, and he has been with us every step of the way,” Boas said. “He is there with his prayers, gentle guidance and his constant reminders that we are loved and cared for, we are not alone, that the rough times will end, and that all that happens to us happens for a greater purpose.”
Fr. Lorig spoke of the five-year process involved with becoming a Catholic priest after he entered the Church in 1979. Following a period of study, he passed all the tests but there was some resistance to accepting a married priest. It hadn’t been done before in the Diocese of Phoenix. He traveled to Mexico City and sat before the tilma bearing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, sobbing.
“I was heartbroken,” Fr. Lorig said. “I cut a deal with her. I said, ‘If you get me ordained, I will serve you the rest of my life.’” It was June 15, 1983. The following April, he received a call from the bishop telling him he would be ordained — on June 15, a year to the day of his bargain.
After that, he spent seven years teaching in Catholic schools, including Seton Catholic Preparatory High School, then went on to build Our Lady of Guadalupe in Queen Creek. That’s where he learned to minister to a mostly Hispanic congregation “when I couldn’t learn Spanish,” Fr. Lorig said. “I still have to read the whole liturgy — I can’t memorize. I learned that you can love a community and they can love you without my being perfect. They remember you, the person, and how you were with them.”
He served St. Thomas the Apostle Byzantine Parish in Gilbert and then became pastor at nearby St. Anne for 14 years. “It was huge. We were registering 110 families a month and we had 1,500 kids in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd,” Fr. Lorig said. But it was at St. Maria Goretti Parish where he said his priesthood really bloomed.
Liz Melton, parish manager, got emotional reflecting on Fr. Lorig’s impending departure. “He is the most humble man I’ve ever met,” Melton said. “I’ve never seen him be anything but humble and merciful with whoever he’s dealing with, whether it’s a parishioner or staff.”
Cindy Troiano, director of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at St. Maria Goretti, offered a similar take.
“He has brought so much peace, comfort and healingl. He is just everything that he preaches. It’s all on love and mercy,” Troiano said.
Fr. Lorig said he will continue to offer spiritual direction by way of email and the occasional phone call. Parkinson’s has taken its toll and his voice isn’t as clear as it once was. Still, his message of God’s love and mercy continues to ring out.
“Mercy is everything,” Fr. Lorig said. His legacy he said, is love, and he hopes he will be remembered as “somebody who always tried to show the merciful love of God.”