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Tucson priest killed in freeway crash on I-19
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Tucson priest killed in freeway crash on I-19

Father Raul Valencia of Saint Monica's Parish blesses those in attendance with holy water before Joey Sanchez, right, leads a procession with a statue with San Juan during the 19th Annual El Dia de San Juan Fiesta on June 24, 2016, near the Mercado San Agustin west of downtown Tucson, Ariz. The event honors St. John the Baptist, traditionally regarded in the Tucson area as bringer of the rains and the beginning of monsoon season.

The pastor at a south-side Catholic church was killed Friday morning in a crash near Sahuarita, officials confirmed.

Father Raul Valencia, pastor of St. Monica Roman Parish, died in a crash on Interstate 19, the Diocese of Tucson said Friday afternoon. He was on his way to Nogales to visit family, said Steff Koeneman, a spokeswoman for the diocese.

The Department of Public Safety reported a fatal two-vehicle crash on the interstate near Duval Mine Road about 8 a.m., but the agency has not publicly released the name of the person who was killed.

Valencia, 60, was born in Nogales, Sonora, Koeneman said. He had been the pastor of St. Monica, located near West Valencia Road and South 12th Avenue, since 2011.

Father Raul Valencia

Before becoming a pastor, Valencia was a dentist with a private practice in Nogales, Sonora from 1986 to 1997, Koeneman said. He received his doctorate in the University of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, in 1985.

Valencia was assigned to St. Monica from 2003 to October 2004. He was then reassigned to St. Jude Thaddeus, in San Luis, Arizona, near Yuma, where he served as a minister, parish administrator then a pastor before moving back to Tucson, Koeneman said.

Valencia served as liaison with the Encuentros Matrimoniales for a three-year term beginning in April 2007.

He was ordained in 2003, by Gerald F. Kicanas, who was Tucson’s bishop at the time.

He is survived by his mother, Norma Garcia, and five siblings: Lourdes Reyna, Edmundo Valencia Garcia, Denisse Mogollon, Yemille Garza and Maritza Mayer.

Funeral services are pending.

Father Raul Valencia of Saint Monica's Parish makes the sign of the cross as he blesses those in attendance before Joey Sanchez, left, leads a procession with a statue with San Juan during the 19th Annual El Dia de San Juan Fiesta on June 24, 2016, near the Mercado San Agustin west of downtown Tucson, Ariz. The event honors St. John the Baptist, traditionally regarded in the Tucson area as bringer of the rains and the beginning of monsoon season.

Raul Valencia Garcia, left, with Jose Manuel Padilla Elguezabal, Adolfo Martinez Escobar and Bardo Fabian Antunez Olea rehearse for their ordination at St. Augustine Cathedral with the help of Fr. Miguel Mariano Jr., far right, in 2003.

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