July 2, 2017
I felt a little different getting out of bed yesterday morning. I think Fr. Jim’s shoulders felt a bit lighter while mine felt a bit heavier. That is, until I remembered what Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Keeping focused on Jesus makes all the difference. Please know of my continued daily prayers for you as I have prayed for the past two years.
I am really excited to now be the 9th pastor of Holy Cross Parish in its 51st year. I will depend on your continued prayers and support as we walk by faith into the future years ahead of us. We will welcome the new (although both older in age and history at Holy Cross Parish) Fr. Jim Preskenis, C.S.C. next weekend. He is making his way here from St. Rita’s Parish in central Florida, hopefully leaving the hot and humid weather behind!
Enjoy these summer weeks as we celebrate our country’s birth this week and enjoy the ongoing life, liberty and pursuits of happiness we know as citizens. Pray that our ability to celebrate both our faith and freedom always coexist in this great land. I will keep the tradition of my elders and return to writing the pastor’s column on Labor Day weekend.
Thank you for a truly memorable farewell last weekend, from the blessing and wonderful music at each of the masses to the beautiful chasuble given me as a parish gift and the reception on Saturday night. I was moved by the number of parishioners who came to the reception and by your words of appreciation at the reception or after the Sunday morning masses. I will cherish the memories of the weekend, most especially your kind words for my years as your pastor. It was one of the privileges and joys of my thirty-three years of priesthood to be part of the Holy Cross Parish community for those nine years.
A number of you asked how you can stay in contact with me. Since my sabbatical in Texas is only four months and I don’t yet know my next assignment, the easiest way would be through my CSC email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. (You’ll notice it’s nearly the same as my parish email address, changing “easton” to “usa” in the second part of the address.) I look forward to staying in contact with so many of you who became an important part of my life in my time here at Holy Cross. Please be assured of my prayers and friendship that remain with you.
In Holy Cross,
June 25, 2017
Family has been on my mind recently for three interrelated reasons.
Father Brad and I recently attended the assembly of the U.S. Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Close to 300 priests and brothers of our province working in the United States along with a representation of those in Latin America and Africa spent a few days at Notre Dame renewing friendships and our fellowship in Holy Cross while also benefitting from some excellent presentations by speakers who discussed the community and apostolic aspects of our lives as Holy Cross religious. Due to the expense and the logistics of bringing people to Notre Dame from great distances, this assembly occurs only once every several years, and so is a cherished opportunity of us as brothers in Holy Cross to renew ourselves as members of the Holy Cross family.
Along with my CSC family, my blood family has also been on my mind lately. Last Thursday was the first anniversary of the death of my niece Christina, and so my sister Joan and my family have been especially in my prayers and thoughts at this time. In addition, my sister Ann and her husband Mike, who traveled from Georgia to New York to be with Joan and my family in New York, are now with me this weekend to share in my farewell from Holy Cross Parish. Father Brad very thoughtfully reached out to my family, and Ann and Mike are able to be here presenting the rest of my family. It means so much to me for them to be here, although I told Ann that her presence isn’t going to make this emotional weekend any easier for me!
And my Holy Cross Parish family is uppermost in my thoughts at this time. I feel so privileged and blessed to have been able to serve a full nine years as pastor. Of course, the longer my stay, the more connections I’ve made with so many of you, whether accompanying you in times of joy and celebration or loss and sorrow, in times of struggle or accomplishment. In most cases, I’ve simply enjoyed your friendship and support as I’ve been present to you in a variety of ways as pastor. I’ve laughed with many of you as we shared so many happy moments or your reactions to my New York accent even after nine years here! In the past few weeks I’ve had pastoral team members and parishioners tell me how much parishioners truly love me and will miss me, and I’ve been experiencing some of that as parishioners have been anticipating my departure. I can honestly say that I never realized the extent of those sentiments, and I deeply appreciate them. Of course this isn’t going to make it any easier to get through this farewell weekend!
I give thanks for all of you who contributed in one way or another to the life of Holy Cross in the past nine years, through the various commissions, committees, organizations, ministries, programs, activities… of the parish in which you participated or in some way supported. Whatever success I may have had as pastor was possible because of your support for our efforts to continue to develop Holy Cross as the vibrant parish it was before I arrived and which it will ever more fully become in the future. Without getting too specific and thereby omitting anyone, I am especially grateful for those who served on the parish pastoral council over these years as your representatives, and in particular to the chairpersons of the council, thankful for the excellent counsel I received from them over the years.
I give thanks for all who served on the pastoral team with me. Deacon George, who has been one of the backbones of our parish, a truly caring and effective minister of word and service, was so supportive of me as pastor and became a true friend whom I will miss. I was also fortunate to receive the support and encouragement of Deacon John Connor who served at mass and visiting the sick for the few years between his joining the parish and his need to retire from diaconal ministry due to health issues. I am so grateful for Chris Iannitelli’s pastoral sensitivity and wise counsel over the years, and the dedication and great care he has always demonstrated in his ministry of directing the liturgical music at our parish. I was privileged to work with two wonderful directors of faith formation- Anne Tarallo who loved our parish children and teens as much as anyone could and who worked so hard on behalf of our parish and faith formation program, and Marie Chabot who has continued that care of our parish children in striving to offer them the most effective religious education possible with a great dedication to her ministry at Holy Cross. John Barata, Steve May, and now Patria Ferragamo each enhanced our youth ministry program with their particular set of skills and abilities, along with their enthusiasm and zeal, each striving to invite our parish teens to deepen their faith and relationship with Jesus.
I could not have asked for a more helpful and supportive parish secretary than Gail Shea, who is so dedicated to our parish and caring for our parishioners. It was a pleasure working so closely with her over these years, as well as with Debbie Kelley, always cheerful and so cooperative, who has done so much to support our parish in the areas of finances and communications. Bob DiFabio, of happy memory, was so dedicated to maintaining our parish facilities and grounds, taking great pride in his work. PJ Celia has continued to care for our parish with enthusiasm and a desire to maintain parishioners’ pride in our beautiful grounds and clean facilities.
And I was so fortunate to work with two wonderful associate pastors (parochial vicars), Father Larry and Father Brad. Their support, as well as their counsel and insights, and their suggestions for how to accomplish various parish activities and priorities, were instrumental in helping the parish to grow and develop over these nine years. I grew in friendship and affection for these two fine priests and brother religious as I worked and lived with them. Holy Cross was fortunate to have Father Larry here for seven years, one of the longest serving parochial vicars in recent memory. The parish is very fortunate to now begin the next stage of its mission with Father Brad as pastor. I simply ask that he not outdo me too quickly, so that you will miss me for at least a short time!
I give thanks to God for the opportunity to minister to and with you here at Holy Cross Parish over the past nine years. You will hold a special place in my heart as I leave with so many cherished memories of my time with you. You will often be in my prayer, that God will continue to bless you in the significant ways you strive “to make God known, loved, and served.”
Always yours in Holy Cross,
June 18, 2017
Below is the speech entitled “Thirst for Truth” presented by OA graduating senior Will Hogan at our recent Baccalaureate Mass:
First I would like to say thank you and acknowledge Fr. Brad, Fr. Jim and Deacon George for all they do for our church. You know, as someone who has lived in other towns and been part of numerous other churches, it is a gift to have folks who have as much passion as you do for your church and it is clear how much time each of you spends every week preparing your homilies – and we are eternally grateful for that.
For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Will Hogan. I’ve been a resident of Easton for only four years, but my faith has played a role in my life for as long as I can remember. I remember being a little kid in my hometown parish of IC in Marlborough, MA thinking that the bells rung during the blessing of the Eucharist were literally being rung from heaven, and wondering how God could make them sound that loud from so far away. Eight years after that mind boggling incident, my family and I packed up, moved to the small town of Easton, MA. Moving was tough, and I was definitely nervous to start up a new life in a new town going to a new school as a freshman. I say with the utmost confidence that had it not been for faith, I’m not sure the transition would have gone as smoothly as it did.
Perhaps one of biggest turning points for me happened during summer of 2015 when seventy other kids and I embarked on a road trip to the boondocks of the Appalachian Mountains for ASP (Appalachia Service Project). I’ve had profound faith experiences before, at Steubenville East (adoration). But there is something so powerful about simple interactions such as ASP that show just how willing and capable we are to love others without much given in return. For those of you that don’t know, ASP is trip of a lifetime repairing houses in the Appalachian Range in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. Here you realize how important a family and love is when you see it is the only thing that a lot of people have going in their lives. I truly believe that trip created an inseparable bond between those that embarked on it because of that love and support we all saw firsthand. You see, the best part about the trip was that the most important virtues of our faith were being lived out without us even being remotely pushed to perform them.
And now we are all preparing to embark on our next journey. In just three short months, we will no longer be full time residents of a town we all call home. We live in a world of chaos, where compromise and compassion are almost nowhere to be found. And you know what has been lost in the translation of our faith- making our faith more engaging in modern culture. Today in modern culture, the obsession with self has become insane, and we are all guilty of it.
While a lot of people that live in first world countries are caught up changing their relationship status on Facebook, millions of people battle for their lives just so they can live their faith. I know you may think there is nothing I can do about this. But if we all showed the love we experienced in Appalachia, this world would be a much better place. And I know everyone here is capable, because you showed that same support and welcoming love to a skinny freshman from Marlborough just four years ago.
June 11, 2017
Below is the May Easton Journal article, “Thank You Fr. Jim,” written by Anne Tarallo:
The Pastoral Team at Holy Cross Parish in South Easton has had the pleasure of providing monthly columns called “Misperceptions” for the Easton Journal readers aimed at clarifying, explaining, and sharing the tenets, and practices of the Catholic Church, and for that we are most grateful. Sharing the faith with the readers is a privilege for the team and for the parishioners of Holy Cross.
For our May Column, I would like to stray a bit and devote these words to someone very special who has served Holy Cross Parish for the last nine years. Fr. James (Jim) Fenstermaker, CSC, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross and Pastor of Holy Cross Parish arrived here in June of 2008 and has faithfully served the parishioners and the Easton community ever since. For the Congregation of Holy Cross, the policy for a pastor’s parish tenure is six years with a possible three year extension to nine years. The last nine years have flown by and now, sadly, it is time for Fr. Jim to move on.
Described as a “good soul” by Holy Cross Music Director Chris Iannitelli, Fr. Jim served as Pastor, friend, confidant, business man, spiritual leader, champion of youth, chaplain, and the epitome of a Catholic priest. The role of pastor requires a vast job description that includes all aspects of protecting and nurturing the spiritual, communal, financial, and catechetical (educational) needs of the parishioners and greater community. Fr. Jim embraced his ministry with much love and with the zeal to successfully lead a spirit-filled, extremely active parish community.
As the spiritual leader, Fr. Jim is charged by canon law to hold the Eucharist as the central core of community of faithful and to proclaim the entirety of the Word of God to the parishioners, educating them in the faith. Fr. Jim cares deeply about the quality of the liturgy (Catholic Mass) and has always taken great care with preparation of the entire liturgy, most especially his outstanding homilies. Fr. Jim has shared the special moments of the Sacraments with hundreds of families. Likewise, he has shared the difficult times with families and has been there to comfort, console, and pray with those grieving or facing difficult times.
For the social community, Fr. Jim has presided over a vibrant parish community. He values the social nature of the community and was constantly searching for more ways to bring the community together to get to know each other and to socialize. With his great big smile and thick Brooklyn accent, Fr. Jim has always been a huge presence at all Holy Cross events. In addition to the many events hosted by the parish, Holy Cross has always been concerned and involved with the needs of the community. Fr. Jim is great supporter of the parishes outreach efforts to those in need, rolling up his sleeves whenever needed.
Leading a parish as leading any organization requires the care and maintenance of the buildings and grounds, assuring quality staffing to serve the needs of the parish, and managing the daily operations of the parish. Parishes depend on weekly donations, fundraising and special fund drives to operate. Fr. Jim has been steadfast when it comes to being a great steward of the parishioner’s treasure.
As the Catechetical leader of the parish, Fr. Jim has been an incredible support for the Faith Formation programs at Holy Cross. Having had the pleasure of serving with Fr. Jim as the Faith Formation Director, I can certainly say that the spiritual formation of the youth of the parish has been a top priority. Whether stopping into classrooms, addressing the teens preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, joking with the children after mass, or showing off his fish tank, Fr. Jim will always be a beloved Pastor to the parish youth. As one family with three children described Fr. Jim as “kind, nice, funny, welcoming, always smiling, makes church feel like home, and they all feel loved by him when they speak with him, and we all enjoy his homilies!”
Fr. Jim is a friend to all. Whether joining the “Forever Young” group for lunch, dining with parishioners in their homes, chatting in the office, following family activities and children’s milestones, being there in times of illness and sadness, or jamming on his guitar with the teen music group, he has forged countless friendships in the parish.
In addition to his tireless service to the parish, Fr. Jim also serves as the Chaplain to the Easton Police Department and the Knights of Columbus. While speaking of Fr. Jim’s service to the Police department, Police Chief Gary Sullivan shared his thoughts, “Three years ago, we endured a great loss of a brother police officer and Father Jim stood by our side as we mourned the loss of our friend. Father Jim is a true friend to everyone at the police department, and has made himself available to us countless times.”
So to Fr. Jim we say a great big THANK YOU. You will be missed by so many. We all wish you the very best in your future assignments and in the many ministries that lay ahead. While this column is normally called “Misperceptions,” there is no misperception here, Fr. Jim, we love you and again we thank you!!