As Holy Cross priests and brothers, we are educators in the faith working in the ministries of education, parish and mission. Fr. Eric Schimmel, C.S.C., at André House, and Fr. Don Fetters, C.S.C., from the District of Peru, are covering the mission work of Holy Cross for us. Fr. Charlie McCoy, C.S.C., is manning the educational beat for us. Today, we cover our parish bases with a new monthly contributor to our blog, Fr. Jim Fenstermaker, C.S.C., the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, Mass. As we learn in his post today, Fr. Jim's life in Holy Cross has led him to several different ministries, but now he loves his work as a parish pastor … and this year he will be sharing that ministry and joy with us here at Spes Unica.
As a Holy Cross religious who has devoted much of my priesthood to parish ministry, I am looking forward to writing this monthly blog for the next year. I can think of no ministry as comprehensive and varied as parish ministry, nor a life more exciting and fulfilling as that of a parish priest.
I met the Congregation of Holy Cross Priests and Brothers at Holy Cross High School in New York City, and participated for three years in the undergraduate formation program at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. After a couple of years teaching religion at a nearby Catholic high school, I re-entered the Congregation and continued my formation, eventually completing my M.Div. studies at the University of Notre Dame.
In my first and third parishes, St. Stephen’s in South Bend and Our Lady of Good Counsel in Brooklyn, New York, I immersed myself in ministry to the Spanish –speaking and African-American communities, with a brief placement in between ministering at Most Holy Trinity Parish in Saco, Maine. All three parishes, each quite different from the others, afforded me wonderful experiences of pastoral ministry and helped shape me into the parish priest I am today.
After nine years in Brooklyn as parochial vicar and then pastor, I was asked by the then-Eastern Province of Priests and Brothers to serve as the director of vocations. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak to young people about a church vocation and, in particular, about the Congregation of Holy Cross. During those six years I lived with underclass students at Stonehill, serving as a resident priest and chaplain to the students. I was then named director of campus ministry at Stonehill, continuing to live with the students. After four years of this enjoyable ministry to the wonderful students of Stonehill, the province asked me to become pastor of Holy Cross Parish in South Easton, five minutes from Stonehill, where I am now beginning my fourth year.
Holy Cross Parish was founded by the Congregation in 1966 when the diocesan parish in North Easton was no longer able to meet the pastoral needs of the growing population of the Town of Easton. It is now a parish of 1,300 families with a reputation for uplifting liturgy and quality ministry, especially in the areas of faith formation, youth ministry, health ministry, and social outreach. Like so many other Holy Cross apostolates, people in the parish experience a strong family spirit that binds them into a community of worship and service dedicated to the parish’s mission, in the words of Blessed Basil Moreau, C.S.C., to “make God known, loved, and served.”