Immaculate Heartbreak

Three months after a fire gutted Phoenix's oldest Hispanic Catholic church, its pastor is feeling the heat and parishioners are steaming

Like Hernandez, he says he was loaded down with work by Madrid, who spent little time at the church and seemed to have little interest in his duties. When Hejdak began to complain, he says, Madrid ostracized him, ordering parish staff workers not to talk to him or assist him in any way.

Things came to a head, according to Hejdak, when he asked the secretary at St. Anthony to place a call to the bishop on his behalf, because he needed help with his English. At Madrid's insistence, she refused, he says.

He also clashed with Piña, whom he describes as "a very strange man."

Juanita Encinas, a Chandler activist and former United 
Farm Workers leader, lobbied for Hernandez's 
appointment by the diocese.
Juanita Encinas, a Chandler activist and former United Farm Workers leader, lobbied for Hernandez's appointment by the diocese.
Parishioners say St. Anthony has never recovered 
from a devastating 1994 fire.
Paolo Vescia
Parishioners say St. Anthony has never recovered from a devastating 1994 fire.

On Tuesday, April 11, Madrid and Hejdak argued over what Hejdak considered to be the abusive treatment he was receiving. He says Madrid attempted to fire him on that day.

Three days later, on Friday, April 14, the two priests met with O'Brien, and it was agreed that Hejdak would be reassigned.

Sodari was infuriated when he found out how Hejdak was being treated. In response, he quit his post on St. Anthony's Pastoral Council.

"Whenever I asked [Madrid] about it, he would say, 'That's between Father Andrzej and myself. No one else should get into it.'"


Many parishioners interviewed for this story think Saúl Madrid and Martin Piña are involved in a sexual relationship. However, New Timesfound nothing to substantiate claims of such a relationship.

Still, the perception has only added to the ill will directed at Madrid, particularly from those who were upset by the dismissal of Hernandez and Hejdak.

At the very least, Madrid's critics are convinced that Piña is a harmful, overbearing force at Immaculate Heart and St. Anthony.

"He's always getting people agitated," Sodari says. "He'll hang around the church and talk grossly to people."

Indeed, records show, tensions between Piña and church members have resulted in Phoenix police being called on more than one occasion.

Unhappy with what she perceived to be Madrid and Piña's poor treatment of Hernandez and Hejdak, Sara Perez, a 50-year-old Immaculate Heart parishioner, left three hostile phone messages on Piña's answering machine in February and March of this year. After the first message, Piña called the police.

On the morning of March 12, when she turned up at the St. Anthony parking lot with a video camera -- she says she wanted to document the interior changes at the church, and send the videotape to national Catholic officials -- Piña again called the police, telling them that he feared for his life.

Madrid also spoke to police officers after the incident and said he was "very concerned about what she may be capable of doing to him or the church," according to a March 14 police report.

As a result, officers informed Perez that she would be considered a trespasser if she again set foot in either of Madrid's churches. Perez hasn't attended Mass at Immaculate Heart since then.

State records show Madrid and Piña not only share a lease on a vehicle, they have been involved in the same business, an apparent violation of the church directive for priests to "avoid all greediness and carefully abstain from every appearance of business."

Lupe Enriquez, owner of Pelazzo Hair Salon in west Phoenix, met Piña as a client at her old salon, No Appointments. She says Piña introduced her to Madrid, telling her that they were cousins.

She says Madrid suggested that she go into business with him, adding that the pastor put up $2,000 cash in March 1999 to back the salon, at 6701 West Thomas Road.

Enriquez says that shortly before Pelazzo opened, Madrid changed his mind, and told her Piña would take his place as her business partner.

"He told me, 'Lupe, I'm having some problems here at the church and it's not wise for me to be recognized as the owner, so is it okay if Martin handles everything?' So he made Martin an owner."

State Board of Cosmetology files list Piña and Enriquez as co-owners of the salon as of March 1, 1999, with Madrid and Enriquez shown as lessees of the property. In a document dated February 25, 1999, and signed by Madrid, he and Enriquez promise to pay $1,000 a month, beginning March 1, 1999, for three years. The paperwork gives no indication that Madrid is a priest and lists his home address as 909 South First Avenue, the address for St. Anthony.

Enriquez says she had a miserable experience working with Piña, so she bought him out as a business partner in May of this year. State records confirm that she removed Piña as owner of her salon and took Madrid off the lease.

"He wanted to run the salon and boss me around like I was an employee, not an owner," says Enriquez, who was recently questioned by federal agents for three hours concerning Madrid and Piña's financial relationship.

She says agents asked her about the possibility that the hair salon was being used to hide money that Madrid and Piña may have been taking from the church. She says she told agents she had no evidence of that.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Phoenix Concert Tickets
Loading...