35 years of guiding faithful on life's path

NEIGHBORS

May 23, 2000|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IF YOU ASK the Rev. Edward C. Connelly when he decided to become a priest, he'll become very thoughtful and then answer, "I really don't know." Growing up in an Irish-American Catholic family in Bangor, Maine, it seemed that the church was always there. He remembers Aunt May Finnegan giving him holy cards and saying that one day he would be a priest.

But there was so much else to do in life. His sister, Betty Haman, remembers little brother Eddie as a spirited child who loved life and embraced it with gusto. When Betty would tell Eddie to do something, he would point his finger at her, firmly say, "No," and go on his way.

One day, Betty ran into the house, screaming and in tears. What, her mother asked, could possibly be the problem? "Eddie said he put a spider in my hair!" wailed the girl. Her mother looked through the hair carefully. There was no spider. But Eddie had had his joke.

When he grew older, he attended the University of Maine. His parents hoped that he would become an accountant. As a teen-ager, he still wasn't sure what he wanted to do. But he soon discovered that accounting was not for him.

So he left college and tried to decide what would come next. A talented musician, he auditioned successfully for the U.S. Air Force Band and spent four years in Washington, playing the saxophone and clarinet.

During his Air Force years, he often spent weekends visiting his sister, who had moved to New Jersey. Betty remembers one weekend when her brother looked a little serious.

"Betty," he said, "there's something I need to tell you." She thought he was going to announce his engagement to a girl he had been dating. Instead, he told her that he had decided to become a priest.

She laughs: "I was so surprised that I almost fell off my chair."

Connelly went back to college, then on to the seminary. Thirty-five years ago, on May 22, 1965, he was ordained,

After studying theology at the University of Notre Dame, he taught at St. Mary's Seminary & University in Baltimore for several years. He went on to parish work at St. Pius X Church in Baltimore, and for the past 13 years has been pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Crofton.

During Connelly's time at Seton, the parish has grown dramatically. Membership now numbers more than 1,800 families. He has headed several major projects, including overseeing the planning, financing and building of the Parish Center. He also managed the parish's Heritage of Hope Campaign, to provide for local and archdiocesan capital needs, and is involved in planning the new interparish school on Waugh Chapel Road.

But Connelly's heart is in his role as a pastor, sharing with his congregation its spiritual journey through life.

Marianne Horeff recalls one incident that especially touched her. She was one of the leaders of an 18-month parish program that involved an enormous amount of organizing and administration. She remembers one stressful planning session, just before the program was to begin. Everyone was running around, desperately trying to get things done.

In the middle of the hubbub, Connelly "stopped short" and looked at her, Horeff said. "How is everything with you?" he asked quietly.

"In the middle of all the bustle," she remembers, "he knew I needed a hug. He knew what was important."

Connelly is known as a talented writer. Josephine De Toro likes to read the messages he composes for the weekly bulletins. "I used to think he just printed things other people wrote," she said. "Then I realized he was writing himself. He has such a wonderful way with words!"

Hundreds of people at Seton have stories of Connelly's generous response to their problems. Because of the nature of pastoral work, most of those stories remain private. But time and again, he has helped someone deal with a difficult decision, or face serious illness, the loss of a loved one, financial problems, family upheavals and social injustice.

Then there is Father Ed's sense of humor. Thirteen-year-old Bryan Kuzma says, "He is always happy, and he always tells me jokes."

On Saturday night, the Parish Center was full of well-wishers celebrating the 35th anniversary of Connelly's ordination. Everyone came to share memories, to offer thanks for years of service and wish for many more.

Vacation Bible School

Four area churches are planning to join in an annual summertime Vacation Bible School on June 26-30. Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton will be the host of this year's ecumenical session, joined by families from St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Community United Methodist Church and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church.

Registration forms are available in the church offices.

Volunteers are being sought to work during Bible school. Information: Cindy Collins, 410-721-8251.

Leg up on fund raising

They call it Flamingo Insurance.

For the past few weeks, the Youth Appalachian Service Project at Crofton's Community United Methodist Church has been selling "flamingo policies" in an annual fund-raiser.

Church members had a chance to pay to protect themselves from the onslaught. But the enrollment period is over. Now, uninsured members could awake in the morning to find a pair of pink flamingoes in the yard.

Where do they come from? For $5, you can send a pair of pink flamingos to an uninsured CUMC member. (The parish office has a list.)

If you find flamingos nesting in your yard, they will stay only a week. But you can have them removed immediately or forwarded to another unfortunate family for - you guessed it - five bucks. It is a lot of fun - and a great way to raise money for the youth group's summer trip to Appalachia to help the needy.

Information: 410-721-9129.

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