Priest celebrates 25th anniversary SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

CHURCH TOASTS PASTOR

April 20, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A man who is legendary for his willingness to "talk about it" sat back and listened Sunday as nearly 500 people celebrated his 25th anniversary in the priesthood.

St. Joseph Catholic Community in Sykesville toasted its pastor, the Rev. Theodore K. Cassidy, with reverence and humor.

"Father Ted comes from the Stephen L. Miles School of Ministry," said Patricia Barbernitz, pastoral assistant for Christian Formation. " 'Still meeting' and 'let's talk about it' are standards."

Her comment generated laughter from the audience and a smile from the man who was the target of the joke.

"I hope I get the last word," he laughed.

Father Cassidy, 55, dodged compliments and wit Sunday with a humility that has endeared him to his parish of 2,000 families since he came to the Liberty Road church seven years ago.

"We should celebrate the life of priesthood," he said. "It is a wonderful gift to the church."

Organizers of the event invited their pastor's family, friends, classmates, former parishioners and fellow religious. They asked guests to take time to thank their pastor for 25 years of service and wish him 25 more years. Invitations, printed with Father Ted's boyhood picture on the cover, gave the priest another laugh.

Some former parishioners traveled hundreds of miles to attend.

"Ted is a special person to me and a good role model in today's church," said Pat McGuane, who came with several members of Sacred Heart Church in Connecticut, where the priest served several years. "He is a humble man whom we all look up to."

James and Susan Trentalange traveled from Father Cassidy's hometown in New York for the service, which began with a Mass celebrated with Bishop P. Francis Murphy, vicar of the Baltimore Archdiocese.

"We came to see Teddy," said Mr. Trentalange. "We have been friends for a long time. He baptized our kids."

Elizabeth W. Cassidy, the priest's 84-year-old mother, and several other family members were among the guests.

Danny Gallagher acted as emcee for the tribute, which included a "This is your life" slide show set to music.

Pictures of a little boy in baggy shorts, playing cowboy with Roy Rogers, brought the house down. The show continued with glimpses into the life of the man who always wanted to be RTC priest. He realized that dream with his ordination to the priesthood in the Marianist order in March 1968.

"We all wish you joy and happiness and love as your silver years turn to gold," said Bill Sapp of the Knights of Columbus, for which Father Cassidy serves as chaplain.

Under Father Cassidy's leadership, St. Joseph's parish is growing rapidly and includes many young families among its creative, "full of energy" people, he said.

Church members said their pastor may claim some responsibility for that level of energy.

"He treats everyone as a genuine friend," said Ms. McGuane, who has known the priest for 15 years. "He never tells you what to do. He asks what you would like to do."

Father Cassidy believes people should "pastor one another" in a community of sharing. He said he is organizing the parishioners into small communities. About 30 groups already meet quarterly with facilitators they have chosen from their communities.

"To be Catholic, I want them to join together in their homes to share Scripture, prayer and life experiences," he said. "It will help all to see how living justly is an integral part of life."

The 11-member parish staff is beginning to see a partnership in pastoring with community facilitators, he said. "Warm friendships of growing and sharing, respect for lay people's gifts and ministries of all kinds are the spirit which gives life to a Christian community today. It let us all find where God is.

"The style of worship that energizes me is the one where people find the grace of God in good human relationships which use people's talents and creativity."

He said he knows how to draw those talents from people. He likes "spirit-filled celebrations often where music accompaniment brings life out of the words of the Gospel." The lengthy readings associated with recent Holy Week services "could have been dull, but the talent of readers made them come alive," he said.

Father Cassidy had his own thank-you gift for his parishioners. He said he would like to commission a life-size bronze statue of a contemporary St. Joseph, which would become part of his "dream and vision for St. Joseph Catholic Community."

Sketches of the proposed statue, which would stand outside the church, circulated at the tribute. The artist, Brother Joseph Aspell, has portrayed a smiling man carrying a child on his shoulders.

A framed drawing of the statue was among gifts given to the pastor, along with $500 check toward its cost from the Knights of Columbus. "Father Ted said 'no gifts,' but we don't always listen," said Larry Brown, past Grand Knight.

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