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051217 st thereseDonates $35,000 to Jesuit Refugee Service in their honor

MOORESVILLE — Amid smiles, tears and much applause, the four Jesuit priests of St. Thérèse Parish took the stage at a special celebration in their honor April 29 in the Parish Life Center. Hundreds of parishioners attended one of two celebrations that day to express their thanks for the many years of service the Jesuits have given to the Church in western North Carolina.

Starting July 11, 2017, the parish will revert to the care of priests of the Diocese of Charlotte. The Jesuit order is turning the parish back over to the diocese because of lack of manpower to continue serving the parish.

051217 Therese Jesuit Jesuit Father Frank Reese rejoices as parishioners applaud for him in celebration of his 90th birthday.St. Thérèse Church has seen explosive growth since its founding. Established in 1956, the Mooresville parish has been among the fastest-growing parishes in the diocese in recent years. It now ranks as the diocese’s third-largest parish with 4,041 registered families, behind St. Matthew Church in Charlotte (10,000-plus families) and St. Mark Church in Huntersville (5,400 families), according to diocesan statistics.

During the evening celebration April 29, Father Vince Curtin, pastor, and Fathers Frank Reese, Dominic Totaro and Don Ward humbly accepted a $35,000 check to Jesuit Refugee Service from parishioners. According to organizers, the amount donated surpassed the original goal by $10,000.

Janet Manzullo, a parishioner for 11 years, serves on the parish finance council and helped organize the JRS donation. She also served as emcee for the celebration. “Father Vince said, ‘We don’t want a gift. The pope has asked us as Jesuits to double our efforts with Jesuit Refugee Services, so I would rather you do that and give a gift.’

“They are so loving and they are so giving. They don’t want anything in return. They are such a great example to me and to our community here of giving and loving. They are wonderful people. They were key to our growth,” Manzullo said.

“Thank you very much,” Father Curtin said after the check presentation. “We all have said together what a gift it is to be here among you. This is a terrific Christian community. Just keep on keeping on. It’s wonderful. We want to say a personal farewell. We’re going to have some more parties. This is the start of the season!” he joked.

Father Curtin then took time to recognize Father Totaro and Father Reese, who are celebrating special events this summer. Father Totaro marks 50 years a priest in June and Father Reese is celebrating his 90th birthday. Each priest was given a special plaque to mark their milestones.

Marsha Beck and her husband Dick have been members of St. Thérèse Church for the past 25 years. “We have loved the Jesuits here for their understanding of humanity and their generous spirits. They have set us aglow at St. Thérèse, and we cry at their leaving.”

Denise and Ray Pausback, parishioners for 24 years, are also sad the Jesuits are leaving. “The Jesuits are very community minded, so we’ve done a lot more volunteering under this leadership,” Denise Pausback said. “We’ve done much more community outreach. We’ve become much more involved in the Christian way of life. The Jesuits bring that to the table.”

Parishioner Marilyn Schammel agreed. “We’ve enjoyed having the Jesuits here and we are sad that they are leaving,” she said.

“This is a very bittersweet moment,” Manzullo said. “We’ve been avoiding this moment for almost a year. But we’re very happy for our priests moving on to their next step. We look forward to hearing lots of good things that they will continue to do like they have done for us here.”

Looking at all four priests she continued, “On behalf everyone here, we can’t thank you enough for what you have done, for what you have built and what you have given to us. We thank you very much.”

Father Curtin will move to Portland, Maine, to serve as senior priest at Our Lady of Hope Church. Father Totaro will move to Washington, D.C., to serve as a consultant on the Spiritual Exercises at Gonzaga High School. Father Ward will move to Richmond, Va., to serve as priest in residence at Sacred Heart Church. Father Reese will join the community of senior Jesuits at St. Claude de Columbere House in Baltimore, Md.

Jesuits will continue to staff two other parishes in North Carolina: St. Peter Church in Charlotte and St. Raphael the Archangel Church in Raleigh.
— SueAnn Howell, Senior reporter

Pictured: Jesuit priests of St. Thérèse Parish accept a $35,000 donation to Jesuit Refugee Service in their honor April 29.(Photos by SueAnn Howell | Catholic News Herald)