Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Parishioners at St. Joseph’s in York Bid Bittersweet Farewell to Capuchin Friars

For the past 44 years, the Capuchin Franciscans have served St. Joseph Parish in York.

“You loved us, you embraced us, you formed us. And for this, we Capuchins thank you,” Father Bob Marva, OFM Cap., Provincial Minister of the Province of St. Augustine, told parishioners on Sunday, June 18.

Father Marva gave the homily that day, during a farewell Mass which was the culmination of the Capuchin Franciscans’ withdrawing their priests from the parish as they are called to other efforts. The parish is now under the care of the Diocese of Harrisburg, with Father Kyle Sahd as pastor. The change took effect on June 26.

Although the Capuchins will now serve elsewhere and form a history there, Father Marva said the religious order is grateful for the relationship with St. Joseph Parish that dates back to 1979, when Bishop Joseph Daley welcomed the congregation to serve at the East York parish.

During this time, the parish moved from its previous location downtown to its current site in East York, and undertook the construction of the current church, which opened in 1996.

“We’ve been able to grow in, and share faith together to be an example to the whole Diocese of Harrisburg of what a vibrant Catholic parish can and should be. Thank you for allowing us to be part of this journey of faith, discipleship, and apostleship together,” Father Marva said.

“For allowing us to share in your lives, in your faith and in your church, we Capuchins are truly grateful,” he said.

The farewell Mass for the beloved friars and their parish and school community was Bishop Emeritus Ronald Gainer’s final public Mass as Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

“All of life’s farewells are sad, whether they’re big farewells or smaller ones,” Bishop Gainer said at the Mass. “Our sadness needs to be permeated by sincere gratitude.”

Father Stephen Fernandes, OFM Cap., who had served as pastor of St. Joseph’s since 2015, echoed the same thoughts that day.

“So we take our leave with sadness yes, but as Father Bob said, with gratitude,” he said. “To all of you for your generous support in so many ways…let us pray for one another during this transition. With God by our side and trusting in him, we can go where he calls us to go. I love you all,” he told parishioners.

After bidding farewell to the friars, several parishioners talked about the special relationship between the parish and the priests.

“Oh, how we love the friars!” said Nadine Seltzer. “They were with us in the joyful times and in the sorrowful ones. They’ve been just a part of our life here. My favorite memory was when Lisa and John (her niece and husband) got married here. It was a beautiful and perfect day.”

Seltzer’s niece, Lisa Jenkins, said she also really enjoyed the spirit of the Capuchins. Jenkins went to St. Joseph School and grew up in the parish.

“I was so excited today to see the friars who used to serve here – especially Father John Daya. When I walked into the church and saw him, it made me so happy. He was one of my favorite pastors just with his demeanor and the way he spoke,” she said.

Parish Manager Erin Maiolino was philosophical about the change and thankful for the relationship.

“They were beloved for sure,” she said of the friars. “I don’t want their leaving to be looked at as a loss because this is a really good thing for them and their charism, but also for the parish as a whole – it’s always good to see things from a different perspective.”

“As our dear former pastor Father Louis Petruha, who passed several years ago, would always say: ‘I’ve taken you as far as I can take you!’ I think that sums up the Capuchin mission here; they’ve taken us as far as they can take us,” Maiolino said.

Prior to the Mass, Father Fernandes shared a story with The Witness that sums up the ups and downs of the transition.

“When I was sent here eight years ago, I arrived here a day before our parish carnival. And when am I leaving? The day after this year’s parish carnival. So I think God has a sense of humor and a message in that. Sometimes it’s been a merry-go-round and sometimes it’s been a rollercoaster, but I have been blessed,” he said of his ministry at St. Joseph’s.

“There’s a great community here and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. They will remain close to my heart. The parish is bolstered by a strong staff and school.”

“Today’s Gospel is about Jesus sending out the Twelve on mission, and we are going into mission territory from here,” said Father Fernandes, who is now serving at a Hispanic parish in Columbus, Ohio. “We go where the Lord sends us. It might not always be what we want or when we want, but it’s in His time.”

(Lisa Maddux is a freelance reporter for The Catholic Witness. Photos by Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)

By Lisa Maddux, Special to The Witness

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