I believe I left you when I left you…in 1985. I went to care for Msgr. Louis Morton who was dying of cancer. His body was weakened and weakening but his mind was sharp and his will was strong. He greeted me by saying that I was succeeding one priest and two nuns. But they didn’t work very hard so I could do what they did! I taught the religion classes for 2nd, 5th and 6th grades and led the High School youth group, In the year and a half before he died, I got to do all the preaching and, for the last year, all the Masses. He told me not to preach each September when he gave the finance report. Some years before I got there, he led the parish in constructing a new church and purchasing a new (1939) rectory. He was a former chancellor of our diocese and a great friend of Father Bob Shea with whom I worked while at St. Mary.
After Msgr. Morton’s death I temped at St. Mary in Goldsboro. Mercifully, it was the shortest assignment I have ever had. Got to know the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters from Scranton, PA. As in so many other parishes, the religious women gave heart to all they did and all they got us to do. While there I learned that, for recipe purposes, one turkey egg equals one-and-a-half grade A jumbo chicken eggs! Our youth group made pumpkin bread for Christmas gifts for all of our shut-ins.
One glorious year in Chapel Hill where it was good to see High School kids I had met in Wilmington and Morehead as they went to UNC. Liz Colbert from Morehead and Steve Whitesell from here and Chris Dolan whose father was a New Hanover County Commissioner. I learned that in Chapel Hill you didn’t have Weddings on football weekends (no hotel rooms for out-of-town guests!) But we made up for it by having three Weddings on a Saturday which was difficult. But the real killer was three rehearsals on a Friday night!!
And then…I became a pastor. The home church was St. Paul in Henderson with two missions- St. Catherine in Oxford (10 miles to the southwest) and St. Joseph the Worker in Warrenton (25 miles to the east-northeast) Weekends were busy but Christmas Eve!!!! 5pm- Kidnight Mass in Henderson; 7pm- Christmas Eve in Oxford; 9pm- Christmas Eve in Warrenton; Midnight- Midnight Mass in Henderson. Only one Christmas Day Mass at 10am in Henderson. Happily, while I was there, all three communities were growing (outgrowing our church buildings) I told the people in Henderson and Oxford, since both properties were hemmed in by not-for-sale land, we would merge and build a new church. St. Paul and St. Catherine begat St. James! When I called the Bishop to tell him the name that the people had chosen he said, “Which one? The greater or the Less?” I answered that we would be: St. James, the Greater Parish!! Continue next week…