This is the 11th in a series of profiles of friars commemorating their anniversaries of profession in 2012. The last newsletter issue featured Sebastian Tobin, OFM.
POMPTON LAKES, N.J. — A dedication to urban ministry is the way Frank Sevola, OFM, likes to describe his vocation with Holy Name Province.
“I’ve almost exclusively done urban ministry,” said the priest who is celebrating 25 years as a friar this month. His past assignments at churches in New York City, Hartford, Conn., and Providence, R.I., have all been in urban centers, he said.
This dedication to urban ministry was somewhat by choice, he said, and somewhat just how it turned out. As a new friar, he was drawn to the urban ministry setting and spent his first two years at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Hartford, when the friars began staffing the parish in 1991.
“Urban ministry settings are usually ‘set’ in the middle of the city where there are wider opportunities for different kinds of city ministry than a suburban parish. There are usually diverse things going on, and it is easy for us to tap into that.”
He added that urban ministries usually draw people from a broad area. “People come from all over the place. The downtown working crowd will come for daily Mass, and they’ll often come back on the weekends. It’s a nice surprise.”
Pastor of St. Mary
While his current assignment as pastor of St. Mary Church in Pompton Lakes in northern New Jersey is in the suburbs, it has a lot of the same characteristics of urban ministry. The large parish supports many kinds of ministries, including a vibrant school.
“When I thought about where I wanted to go, Pompton Lakes was on my radar screen,” said Frank, who was assigned to St. Mary last year, after his term as pastor of the parish in Providence ended.
“St. Mary is a big, challenging parish with a lot going on. I love parish work, especially here, with its diverse ministries.”
With a staff of 65, including school personnel, St. Mary is certainly an active community. “We’re a large suburban parish and, in some ways the same as an urban ministry. We draw a diverse group of people. The ministry is challenging, open and welcoming, just like it was in Providence.”
Frank grew up in Fredonia in Western New York, and graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 1982 with a degree in history. Even as a child, his thoughts were of becoming a priest, but his parents, Frank and Rosemary, encouraged him to attend a liberal arts college and see if he still felt called to the priesthood.
“I grew up near a church and always thought I wanted to be a priest. I made the decision to go to college and see if the priest vocation stayed with me. I chose Bona’s,” he said. It was at SBU where he first met the friars and knew the call to religious life was real. “I knew that if I was going to be a priest, it would be with the Franciscans.”
Frank completed his philosophy requirements at SBU and attended Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C., and was ordained in 1991 in Silver Spring, Md.
After spending 1994 to 1995 as assistant director of vocations for the Province at its New York office, Frank took a leave of absence from the Order. In 1998, he obtained a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix, where he lived at the time. While on leave, he said he decided to pursue his interest in business and found a program that would help round out his theology degree. “I use that degree every day in one way or another.”
When he returned to life as a friar, Frank was assigned back to Hartford, where he stayed until 2002.
He was then assigned to St. Francis Chapel in Providence, R.I., where he was guardian and executive director. He would stay in Providence through 2011, and where he also served as pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
He said that all his assignments have been rewarding, and he is grateful to the Province for the opportunities. “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity for my own personal growth and development and the great chances to minister in diverse places.” He is also grateful to his mentors, including Jerome Massimino, OFM, his guardian and pastor while in Hartford, and Daniel Riley, OFM, one of the first friars he met.
In his free time, he enjoys vacationing at the beach, and tries to make a summer visit to Cape Cod, Mass., and a winter trip to Florida. He also enjoys seeing his parents, who still live in Fredonia, and his nearby two sisters and nieces.
Serving on the board of trustees of SBU takes him frequently to the area where he grew up, giving him the opportunity to visit his family after meetings.
A cooking enthusiast who likes to experiment with recipes, Frank enjoys making meals at the friary, and often whips up Italian specials, grilled dinners, and a “mean risotto.” “I like to cook. I find it fun and relaxing and a great way to care for the friars I live with,” he said.
He laughs when he says that people might be surprised to find out that he enjoys the domestic part of his job at the friary. ‘“I enjoy keeping the house at the friary looking good and making sure that the other three friars are happy there.
In his spare time, Frank said he reads, rides his bike, and simply hangs out.
Is he surprised that the 25 years have gone by so quickly? “Yes and no. It is surprising that it’s 25 years already when I think about where I was 25 years ago, but it also seems like yesterday.”
He would like to be remembered in this world as someone who cared about other people. “And as someone who loved being a friar, enjoyed the fraternity with other friars, and as someone who did a little bit of good ministry.”
“I love living in community and celebrating Sunday liturgy at St. Mary. I love having a school as part of the ministry – it adds a whole wonderful dimension to the place.”
Frank will be honored with other friars commemorating 25 and 50 years of profession in 2012 at the Province’s June 21 jubilee celebration in New York City.
— Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.