Thanks for the many expressions of welcome I have received since it was announced in May that I would be serving your parish as its new pastor. I am slowly getting acclimated back to the world of the parish after an eight-year hiatus as a professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. I haven’t set off any alarms in the buildings (yet!) and have only gotten lost twice (so far) finding other staff members on the campus.
Fr. Jairo (high-row) Maldonado joins us as parochial vicar. He was ordained last June 6 after completing his studies for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He is a native of Colombia, South America. I know you will find him to be a great addition to the pastoral leadership of the parish.
Fr. Jim Sabak, O.F.M. will continue in residence at St. Francis although he will no longer have parish responsibilities in light of his full-time ministry as Director of Worship for the diocese. He will continue to have a presence in the parish however, just not as a member of the parish staff.
Our house is now known as a rectory, the term used by diocesan clergy for their parish home. Since Fr. Jim will be in residence with us, we toyed with the idea of calling our home a frectory, a combination of a friary and a rectory, but decided that would be too confusing.
The two most frequent questions I have been asked so far are: 1) What do we call you? and 2) Will we lose our Franciscan identity with the transition to diocesan clergy? In response to the first, I answer to almost anything, but most people formally address me as either Fr. Michael, Msgr. Michael, or Msgr. Clay. Fr. Jairo prefers to be called Fr. Jairo.
While the leadership of the parish will no longer be in the hands of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), our parish patron is still St. Francis of Assisi. We will continue to follow the example of il poverello (his nickname in Italian, “the little poor man”) and embrace his vision and way of life as best we can. It was bittersweet that the Franciscan
friars departed St. Francis of Assisi after 33-years of ministry with you without a proper send-off in light of COVID-19. Once this is behind us, I will be inviting Frs. Patti and Kluge back to St. Francis for an appropriate gathering to thank them, and through them all the Franciscans who have served you, for their ministry among you. It’s the least we can do for all they have done for this wonderful parish.
I look forward to serving you for many years as your pastor and to the day when we can gather more freely and casually to grow in friendship and service to the Lord, His Church, and our world.