‘Faher’ Charlie Urnick provides his priestly services at Don’s Celebrity Theater, tucked inside the thrumming Riverside Resort Hotel and Casino. It’s there that gamblers and whoremongers slink away from their slot machines and high-stakes cards games just long enough to be absolved of their sins, drink communion with all the reverence of a shot of whiskey, and go back to the gambling floor to continue in their vices.
Urnick is the minister at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, which is a few miles from the casino. Most of his work takes place in the Casino, however. It seems he’s innocent enough to the Casino owners, who consider him no threat to their customer’s addictions. Being quickly absolved of sins and blessed allows someone to get back to the gambling floor that much more quickly. On special occasions, Urnick will even bless them in the name of Saint Cayetano, a 14th Century Italian saint who serves as the Roman Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of Gambling.
The priest cites Pope Francis in defense of offering what he believes is the body and blood of Christ in a hall of iniquity.
“The pope says priests should be where the people are. There are 11 casinos in Laughlin, so this is where we have taken our services. And to those who might say that God could not possibly be here, I say he is.”
The Los Angeles Times reports, “As the collection basket passes, some toss in casino chips and slot machine receipts, which Father Charlie gladly accepts. He’s even designed his own souvenir chip the parish sells for fundraising. Some refer to him as the “chip monk.”
The LA Times again says at the end of service the priest says these words, “Don’t forget to visit the bar on the way out.”
The newspaper then reported the words of a Mass attendee who slid back into his electric wheelchair and headed for the door, “It’s off to the casino. Let’s hope I don’t lose the farm.”
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