Profile: Lawrence Ford Marks 25 Years as a Friar

Karen Karaszewski Friar News

This is the ninth in a series of profiles of HNP friars commemorating anniversaries of Franciscan profession in 2016. They will be honored by the Province at a special Mass on June 23. The previous issue of HNP Today featured Patrick Fereday, OFM.

Twenty-five years ago, Larry Ford, OFM, would not have expected to find himself on the Upper West Side of Manhattan as the pastor of large, multilingual parish and guardian of a group of friars. While it is challenging at times, he describes his current assignment as his most fulfilling.

One could say that Larry was a Franciscan since the day he was born. The friars of St. Bonaventure University were an extended family during Larry’s childhood in nearby Olean, N.Y., and they had a significant impact on his life.

Larry’s parents, Lawrence and Susan Ford, moved to Olean from Bridgeport, Conn. “My father attended SBU as undergraduate, and then was hired as the first director of SBU’s Reilly Center. He eventually become the director of personnel. In total, he worked at St. Bonaventure for 35 years.”

The young couple was anxious to forge their place, create a family and invest themselves in the growing community. The Fords formed close ties within the Olean community, with fellow university families as well as with the friars. Larry has fond memories of that time during the 1970s and 80s when the community and university were growing. The eldest of five children, he was immersed in Franciscan life in Western New York. He attended St. Mary of the Angels Grammar School and Archbishop Walsh High School in Olean.

“We got to know the friars in and around the university and as my dad’s bosses,” he said. “At the same time, we got to know them through their parish work as sacramental ministers at St. Mary of the Angels. Most significantly, they used to come to our house to socialize. Our house became a community gathering place.”

Frequent visitors to the Ford home included James Toal, OFM, who now lives in Florida, and the late Crispin Maguire, OFM, Theophilus McNulty, OFM, Francis Storms, OFM, and Gervase White, OFM.

Larry observed early on the positive aspects of living in community. Even when the friars may have been frustrated with each other, they would always point out a skill, attribute or talent that was positive, often saying “no matter what we feel about ‘him’, he does this better than anyone of us, or reaches that group of people in a way that none of us can.”

“This has continued to be the best, hardest and most frequent lesson I’ve had to learn,” Larry said.

Focus on Higher Education
Following graduation from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1987 with a degree in industrial relations, Larry worked for the Marriott Corporation near Washington, D.C. One year later, he joined Holy Name Province as an affiliate (postulant). He was received into the novitiate in 1990 and professed simple vows one year later in Brookline, Mass.

While in formation, Larry lived and studied at Holy Name College. He ministered during the summer in 1991 at St. Anne’s Parish in Fair Lawn, N.J., where he worked with Jeremiah “Moose” McGinley, OFM, and the late Evan Banks, OFM, and Reginald Redlon, OFM. During the summer of 1992, he completed a 10-week clinical pastoral education session at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Boston and identified his skills as an administrator.

He completed a pastoral internship at Siena College from 1994 to 1995, professing solemn vows that year. He moved to Gemelli House in Silver Spring, Md., and in 1996, he earned a Master of Divinity Degree from the Washington Theological Union, the same year he completed a Master of Science in Administration of not-for-profit organizations at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Business. He said he was able to accomplish this by taking graduate courses at Notre Dame during several summers, courses at the University of Albany during 1994 and1995, and graduate business classes at University of Maryland in 1995 and 1996.

On May 18, 1996, Larry was ordained to the priesthood at St. Anne’s Church. His first assignment was at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, where he celebrated Mass and heard confessions, and also worked as the business manager, working closely with Kevin Mullen, OFM, Brice Leavins, OFM, and the late Mark Murphy, OFM. He enjoyed the administrative work that involved systems, structures, behind the scenes logistics and all things that make life in a big house possible.

Combined with the public ministry of confession and preaching, Larry said, “It was an ideal and great first assignment. As a young friar and newly ordained priest, it was my privilege to learn from them and care for my older brothers. I loved the camaraderie of working together.”

Staying in Boston, he began doctoral studies at Boston College while working for the next two years as an administrative fellow at the Lynch School of Education. His focus continued on an academic track.

He returned to his alma mater, Notre Dame, in 2000 to serve as interim director of the Master of Science in Administration program. In 2001, Larry came back to Boston College to continue coursework and for the next several years, served as a friar in residence at Holy Name College and Siena College.

Parish Ministry
In 2009, he began his role as parochial vicar at Holy Name of Jesus Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, his first assignment at a parish.

The smaller friar community and large multicultural parish was a new environment for Larry and, at times, he questioned whether it was the right fit for him.

“The great thing about the friars, we give each other the time to develop and second chances. As much as I missed working around college people, I enjoy the responsibility of a place like this,” he said.

In 2014, he became pastor of Holy Name, which in 2015, merged with St. Gregory the Great. In addition to serving as guardian of six friars and three who are attached to the house, Larry manages a combined parish staff of 18 people. “Serving as guardian has been the greatest privilege of my life,” he said.

He refers to Holy Name Parish as a church of second chances; people giving the church a second chance and then also receiving a second chance from God and their faith. Larry is also a member of the Presbyteral Council of the Archdiocese of New York, and interim president of the board of CREATE, Inc., in New York City.

He mentions two aspects of Holy Name Province that are a source of pride to him. The size, strength,  and history of the Province provide a confidence, even perhaps overconfidence that extends flexibility and an adventurous spirit to try new things.

“The second aspect, perhaps more recent and certainly true for me, is the Province’s theme of second chances. Guys grow up and mature and become different than they were,” he said. “Sometimes it takes place in different ministerial professions, sometimes in different fraternal relationships. If a friar is failing at one thing, he can succeed at another.”

Friars who have had an impact on his life, Larry said, include Bill Beaudin, OFM, Brian Belanger, OFM, Daniel McLellan, OFM, Daniel Nelson, OFM, and the late John Piccione, OFM, and Larry’s classmates Francis Di Spigno, OFM, Patrick Fereday, OFM, and  John Leonard, OFM.

Karen Karaszewski is a freelance writer based in Western New York.

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