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Welcome Father Chris Koehn, Our New Pastor!

As Father Chris Koehn joins one of the largest parishes in the Diocese of Raleigh, he will, as the most common phrase in the bible says, ‘Be not afraid!’ His sense of calm is because he is used to having a large family, and his new St. Francis family will be familiar as he begins his newest, but not first, pastoral role: “My dad is one of eight children, and my mom one of 10 children. I have three older brothers, four nephews, three great-nephews, and two great-nieces. So I am used to lots of family.” Even a family like St. Francis, springing from many different traditions, is not unusual for someone whose father is from Kansas and whose mother is from Liverpool, England.

When asked about his spiritual journey and call to vocation, Father Chris says, “The path to a vocation is one of ‘invitation.’ I was invited to go to high school seminary and again invited to go to seminary after college.” While not ignored, Chris chose a different path, but only at first. After college, he went into business with his family. “My business life started in public accounting and then transitioned with my brother into construction project management,” says Chris. “We traveled renovating hotels, usually spending a year or two on each project. I was lucky to live and work in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. The work and travel allowed me to be a parishioner in many places and use my hospitality knowledge in ministry.” Still, his faith remained crucial in his life, and even those he worked with knew it. “My coworkers always encouraged me to go to daily Mass during my career, as they reported I was nicer and easier to work with upon my return from Mass,” says Chris humorously. 

The invitations to vocation, however, continued. “The third invitation to be a seminarian came at the age of 46. With an early retirement from the business world began a new vocation journey with the seminary in Boston.” Ordained in 2018 and serving at St. Thomas More and St. Mary Magdalene previously, he says, “Now the invitation is to serve the Community of St. Francis.” This previous life experience makes Father Chris a bit unique. Father Jim Sabak says, “Chris will be a welcomed and very different type of pastor from those in recent memory. Having lived a fulfilling life before he responded to God’s call, he comes with a sense of vitality and joy expressed in an infectious gregariousness. I look forward to sharing his joy with the joy that makes St. Francis a unique and extraordinary faith community!”

Our schools are essential to St. Francis, and Father Jim is a strong advocate of that ministry at our Parish. Father Chris comes from parishes with schools and believes that “Catholic schools are a service of the parish.” He adds, “The church is in the model of family, and our schools are the family of the church teaching our children.” He finds Catholic Schools to be a natural extension of every family’s role in caring for children. “We are one family, parish and school, and the church always desires to be part of our family,” he says, and “Parish schools are a very active part of family life.” Father Chris believes serving a school community mirrors serving the parish community. “We are ministers to the students, but also the faculty,“ he points out, and finds that, like ripples in a pond, “Then it expands into the lives of the students, faculty, and staff.  So we have siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and all those in their families connected to us.”  

He is excited when looking ahead to his appointment as pastor of St. Francis. “My assignment at St. Francis allows me to experience the great things the parish is known for: The witness of the faith in social justice, intentional hospitality, knowledge of our faith, and celebration with participation at the liturgies.” He realizes that, like all parishes, we are in the same position when ministering to any church community. “When we come to Mass, we bring everything connected to us,” he points out. “Priestly ministry, and the ministry of all the baptized, is to serve the whole person. Each day in parish life, there is a family in need, deep need, and we are called to be present and actively providing support, to be there, to love.” When listening to Father Chris, it already seems like he has an innate sense of the community. He says he was given a clear mission by Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama for St. Francis that fits hand-in-glove with the hopes he has as pastor, “My hope is to be able to fulfill the instruction Bishop Luis gave me in the assignment to St. Francis, ‘to bring joy!’” 

The St. Francis of Assisi community is known as an open and welcoming place. We are excited to welcome Father Chris Koehn as our new pastor. We look forward to his joyful leadership and notable experience and share in his enthusiasm for his new role. Welcome!!

Author: Mike Watson