In his sermons, Father Charlie forgoes fire and brimstone in favor of Andy Rooney-like humor. His talks also tend to mention such appetizing dishes as noodles with sauerkraut, ice cream pie, mushroom ravioli and other meals he’s consumed that week — including pastries baked by doting parishioners for a roundish priest who admits he’s never cooked a meal in his life and has rarely set foot in a gym.
“God created angel food cake,” he says in one sermon. “And it is good.”
Such is the power of Father Charlie’s pulpit that whenever he offhandedly mentions a fondness for pineapple pound cake, bacon or cheese curds, the packages pour in from around the country.
Since 2008, when he arrived in Laughlin from his home state of New Jersey, where he served as an Air Force chaplain, schoolteacher and parish priest, Father Charlie has begun each sermon by referring to this city 100 miles south of Las Vegas as paradise on Earth….
He’s come a long way from his first sermon decades ago, about which one priest said: “It was read, it was read poorly and it wasn’t worth reading!”
His sermons — compiled into three self-published books with such titles as “Live! Love! Laugh! Laughlin!” — are also spiced with jokes he gleans from the internet. On Father’s Day, for example, Father Charlie said: “My father only hit me once — but it was with a Volvo.” It got the laugh but then evolved into a meditation on the role of God as a loving father.
Some anecdotes even target his flock. Father Charlie once told of a visiting priest who was shocked by all the sin he’d witnessed in Laughlin, commenting on “all those pathetic old people putting money into machines and they don’t know God!”
Father Charlie replied: “Those pathetic old people are my parishioners!”
The casino Masses were started in 1992 by Father John McShane, who sometimes encountered bits of skimpy showgirl costumes on the carpet. Even after the parish church was built in 2003, the Riverside services continued. Each weekend now features two church Masses and three inside the casino — one on Saturday and two on Sunday.
“We’ll never leave here,” Father Charlie says, adding that some parishioners attend the casino Masses only. “Once we close those doors, you’re in a church….”
The above comes from a Dec. 25 story in the L.A. Times.