The people of St. Joseph Parish in York demonstrated their love and gratitude for the Capuchin Franciscan Friars who have served their parish and school for 40 years with an anniversary Mass on Sept. 7.
The celebration extended to nearly 20 Capuchins who have previously served St. Joseph’s, and who returned to the parish to concelebrate Mass with Bishop Ronald Gainer and Father Thomas Betz., OFM Cap., Provincial of the Capuchin Friars’ Province of St. Augustine based in Pittsburgh.
Father Stephen Fernandes, OFM Cap., pastor of St. Joseph’s, said the celebration was generated entirely by a committee of parishioners who wanted to show their appreciation for the order’s ministry.
“They have a great love for us friars, and, in turn, we are grateful for what they do for us,” he said. “After Masses, all the friars from the parish come and greet the people who are leaving the church, and meet them together as a community. We also make it a point to go to the school and have lunch with the students.”
Community and connection with the parish parallels the communal life of the order, which was founded in 1536.
“Our charism has always been to try to recapture the spirit of Francis of Assisi, especially in the contemplative dimension, so living in community is important to us,” Father Fernandes said. “We have a communal prayer life; we pray morning, evening and night prayer together, we take our meals together.”
Currently, three Capuchins live at St. Joseph’s Friary.
Father Fernandes, who has been pastor of St. Joseph’s for four years, spoke of the legacies of former pastors Father John Daya and the late Father Louis Petruha, who died in March of this year.
“Father Louis was seen as an enduring fatherly figure for his gentle ways and always being open to the people and their needs. He’s certainly left a legacy here from his 13 years,” he said. “Father John was here for 15 years and was also so well loved by the parishioners. When he was transferred, the parishioners worked to pay off the debt as his farewell gift.”
In his homily during the Mass, Bishop Gainer noted that the Capuchin Franciscans arrived at St. Joseph Parish in 1979, at the invitation of Bishop Joseph Daley.
During the course of those 40 years, 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.
Tonight, we celebrate 40 years of the ministry of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars and their ministry here, to continue to make St. Joseph’s the vibrant, alive community of faith and service that you are,” Bishop Gainer said.
“In the Bible, 40 years is considered a generation. You might say that we celebrate today the first generation of the Capuchins’ wonderful care here, and we look forward to the continuing of their presence and their ministry here.”
Following the anniversary Mass, the parishioners gathered with the friars for a potluck dinner of international cuisine, reflective of the ethnic communities at St. Joseph Parish.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness