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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

081417 hoare‘The Lord has given me great peace in coming here’

CHARLOTTE — St. Matthew Church has a new pastor: former parishioner, catechist and high school youth minister, Father Pat Hoare.

Father Hoare volunteered at the south Charlotte parish in the 1990s before a job transfer took him to Baltimore, Md., and before he discerned a call to the priesthood. He returned to the church for his ordination to the priesthood on June 2, 2007, by Bishop Peter Jugis. So what is it like coming back to his old parish as its new pastor?

“I will say that the Lord has given me great peace in coming here,” Father Hoare said. “I am a high-energy person. That’s also fed by my high anxiety. Those kind of things work together usually for good."

The south Charlotte parish that Father Hoare now shepherds has flourished since it was established in 1986, growing exponentially as the area around it has developed. The parish now comprises more than 11,000 families – by all accounts, making it the largest parish in the United States. There are eight Masses offered every weekend on the main campus, and "St. Matthew South" in Waxhaw offers three more Masses every weekend. The parish counts 7,000 volunteers in its 100-plus ministries.

Says Father Hoare, “What has been amazing is that there is so much going on, so many moving parts, so many people that I need to talk to. All of those things are happening. I really have not felt any anxiety about it, which is amazing. That certainly is a grace.

“Adding to that grace is that the staff is wonderful. The people I have met, the parishioners, have been so welcoming. They naturally miss their pastor of 18 years. There’s that ‘I wonder what this is going to be like’ kind of undercurrent.

“All I can do right now is to be present, to say hello to people and try to communicate to people as best I can that I am here to try to lead them, to love them, to pastor them as best as I can.”

“As Pope Francis says, we should have the smell of the sheep. I already smell like them (as a former parishioner), I don’t have to acquire that. I already know I smell like them!” he joked.

He said it has been a joy for him to encounter parishioners he knew years ago when he lived and worked in Charlotte and volunteered at the parish as a catechist.

“There are people here who have come up to me and asked if I remember them or their children (he taught). I do remember them. That’s kind of neat, too, to have that grounding in the parish. It’s not like I’m a complete outsider.”

Father Hoare noted that St. Matthew’s south campus in Waxhaw provides a great opportunity to do something unique for his parishioners.

“In the 21st century, when we drive to church now and parishes are spread out, the fact that it’s 10 miles away doesn’t bother me. We look at how we can use that campus as part of our mission of our church in a unique way, that responds to the needs of our parish and the local community.”

Father Hoare noted that his new assignment is going well. “It’s only been three weeks, but it’s been a great three weeks so far.

“What I am trying to discern now is, ‘OK, Lord, you put me here, so You must have some plans in mind for me and for the parish, and there must be a reason I am a part of that.’ I am just trying to discern that.”
— SueAnn Howell, senior reporter