Fr. Andrew Reitz, OFM
Born in Olean, N.Y., Fr. Andrew Reitz, OFM, professed his first vows in 1965 as a Franciscan and was ordained a priest in 1971 by the late Bishop Joseph Bernardin. His first assignment took him to Long Beach Island where he ministered for 13 years. From 1984 until 1996, Fr. Andrew was involved in formation ministry for the province, when he returned to become pastor of the Long Beach parishes.
Sometimes I wonder how I ever ended up in the Franciscan Order. I was one of those public school kids. From kindergarten to 12th grade, I went to Allegany, N.Y., Central School where every Wednesday afternoon, school ended early so that we could go to religious instructions (taught by the Allegany Franciscan Sisters) at St. Bonaventure Church. Looking back, I realize that I was surrounded by Franciscans with friars ministering in our parish, St. Bonaventure University nearby, the Allegany Franciscan Sisters’ Motherhouse down the street, and St. Francis Hospital in Olean. Even though the Franciscan presence was strong and my parents, brother and I were regular church goers, I had plans to go to college, become a language teacher, and spend time in the beautiful country of France, which fascinated me.
Things don’t always work out the way we have them planned. I first began to think about the friars when I was graduating from high school, but I thought, “That can wait.” Well, it couldn’t wait. I began college at St. Bonaventure University and knew very quickly that I had to do something about this “feeling” that would not leave me. Of course, I kept thinking, “Why would God want me to consider a vocation to the friars? Why me?” I did pursue the question, and here I am today — a friar for 35 years.
This has been a wonderful life for me. I have learned so much and have been privileged to serve people in a number, of assignments. After ordination in 1971, I was assigned to St. Francis Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J. This is a unique parish, which serves many people both in the summer months and the permanent community in the winter. I ministered with a group of friars, Franciscan sisters, permanent deacons and laity for almost 14 years. The parish grew and grew. There were 800 permanent families when I first arrived and more than 2,400 when I moved in 1984.
The second part of my life as a friar was given to working in formation. I expected to be involved with this for a few years and return to “active” ministry. I started in post-novitiate formation, then to my surprise was named director of formation for six years and finally I settled into being novice master for the remainder of my formation career. Twelve years later, I returned to “active” ministry.
I think that God has a sense of humor because even though I had ministered on Long Beach Island for nearly 14 years, where did I end up? Back on Long Beach Island. Here I am now four years later — the pastor of this large parish with four churches and a very active community center. It is a great place to be. It has changed over the years and there are many new challenges because the parish continues to grow and the needs of the larger community are there for the center to meet through its many outreach programs. Both summer and winter are active times here even though our summer population reaches almost a quarter of a million.
What I do I like most about being here? Even though this is a beautiful spot where we are surrounded by water and the beauties of nature, it is the people here and the staff that I work with that makes the difference. There are many ways to minister here and many needs, but working together makes more things happen. Our people are willing to offer their time and abilities. I also enjoy being close to the people that we serve. You cant go anywhere—in the grocery store, at Wal-Mart, at the movies—without someone yelling, “Hello, Father!” I am fortunate to live with three dedicated friars, Fr. Francis DiSpigno, OFM, Fr. Kevin Daly, OFM, and Br. Bob Frazzetta, OFM, and to minister with four Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, In fact, one of these four, Sr. Kathleen Murphy, OSF, prepared me for First Communion back in Allegany, New York. I am grateful to God for my vocation to the Franciscans. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.
— This essay was written in 2000 when Fr. Reitz was assigned to the Long Beach Island community. It appeared in the September 2000 issue of The Anthonian magazine.