A Family Celebration Filled with Joy

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

TRIANGLE, Va. — Hundreds gathered Nov. 3 at St. Francis of Assisi Church for the priestly ordination of Francis Critch, OFM. Weather and distance failed to prevent the many family members and friends of this Canada native from attending the ordination to the priesthood at the parish where Francis has been stationed since June.

Family members traveled from Canada to attend the Mass and several had special roles in the liturgy.

The 11 a.m. Mass on Saturday, celebrated by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., was concelebrated by Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, Thomas Conway, OFM, HNP director of post-novitiate formation, and two brothers of Francis — Fathers Cecil Critch, of Canada, and Gerard Critch, of Naples, Fla.

“The journey to this moment began with my family,” said Francis in a message in the ordination program. “I am forever grateful to my mom and dad who formed me and called my vocation forward through their tireless love and faith. To my three sisters, Yvonne, Brenda and Ellie, and my five brothers, Cecil, Gerard, Pat, Calvin, and Wally, ‘Thank you’ for giving of yourselves and encouraging me throughout my life. There have been times where the road was a little rough and separation seemed endless but as a family, we continually returned to our roots.” A photo of Frank and his mother is included above.

Expressing Gratitude
In the Nov. 4 parish bulletin, Frank added: “I have been guided by my brothers, who by their courageous and faithful witness have provided for me an example of what it means to be witness to the Word of God and to serve God’s people. I thank you for your patience, trust and understanding for being partners on this journey. I will be forever grateful for what you have taught me and what you have shown by your lives.”

Most of Frank’s family members came to Virginia from Newfoundland, Canada, where Frank was born and grew up. They flew to the United States just days after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, which Frank acknowledged in a message in the bulletin. “To friends and family members who have traveled far and through the storm, ‘Thank you.’ May your trip home be less dramatic.

“The past week has been a bit of drama with the hurricane, and I’m sure Kevin Downey, OFM, will continue to say that this has been like a bad rerun of Bridezilla,” added Frank in the bulletin message.

The Mass included a variety of people — both friars and laypeople — with whom Frank has become close during his years of formation. The masters of ceremony were Christopher Coccia, OFM, and Jeffery Jordan, OFM. Lectors were Mario Gomez, OFM, of Boston, a classmate of Frank, and Tricia Barber, principal of St. Francis School in Triangle. The psalmist was Julianne Wallace, who studied with Frank at Washington Theological Union, and the altar ministers were student friars John Aherne, OFM, George Camacho, OFM, Ross Chamberlain, OFM, GeraldHopeck, OFM, Michael Reyes, OFM, and Jeffrey Upshaw, OFM, all residents of Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md.

Friars from a variety of HNP ministries — in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina — attended the special Saturday Mass. Several stayed for Frank’s first Mass on Sunday. David Schlatter, OFM, contributed the sounds of his Bells of Remembrance to the day.

Interning in New Jersey
Frank, 51, who joined the formation program of Holy Name Province in 2008, earned a master of divinity degree from WTU in May while ministering at the Triangle parish on weekends. He served internship assignments at both St. Francis Parish and at St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J.  Frank professed his final vows as a Franciscan on Aug. 25.

“I was blessed by my internship at St. Mary’s and the friars who served with me there,” Frank said in the program.

The Triangle community expressed its support of Frank in a welcome in the ordination program. “Our parish has been on this journey with Br. Frank for the last four years, We remember him during his first assignment to our church when he would join us for weekend Masses. He would frequently work with the children in our children’s liturgy program, among other duties. When he left, we were not sure if we would see him again. His return to the parish was a blessing, as is his continued work with our children.” The parish also distributed a prayer card for the occasion.

The joy of the occasion was evident not only through the messages but through the strength of the prayer, song and homily of the Mass. The enthusiasm of the congregation could be felt by visitors.

“It was wonderful to experience this ordination, especially for a friar who is so well respected,” said Barber.

“What a day it is when a man you know is called to serve,” said Cardinal McCarrick in his homily. “Br. Frank has been called to be with Jesus in a special way. Frank has been called to serve and to preach the Gospel.”

Marking the Mystery
“Never in your life will you be alone,” he said to the new priest. “I wish you great joy because it is that, more than anything, that marks the mystery,” said the cardinal, who in May ordained two other Holy Name friars — Stephen DeWitt, OFM, and Daniel Horan, OFM.

John O’Connor, who was pastor of the Triangle parish from 1991 to 2003, said in closing remarks, “On behalf of the friars of Holy Name Province and the friars who serve up and down the East Coast and in countries around the world, I want to offer congratulations to Frank. It is always a privilege for me as Provincial to be at celebrations like this, especially for someone who is as special as Frank.”

Frank dedicated the ordination program to the memory of several people important to him — his father, Janet Sarsfield, who directed music at St. Francis Parish for more than three decades, and to recently deceased Flavian Walsh, OFM, former assistant novice director, “whose guidance, wisdom and words continue to form my ministry as a Franciscan.”

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. She and Octavio Duran, OFM, provided photos.