FP: I grew up in Maine’s most northern town: Madawaska. Madawaska is a small border town on the St. John River at the northern tip of Aroostook County (what Mainers call “The County”). I graduated from MHS and attend Franciscan University in Ohio where I studied in a cross disciplinary program and graduated with a B.A. in Theology. I worked on a farm for three years: the farm in Kansas was devoted to organically raised open pollenated varieties of wheat, corn and milo. I also raised large gardens and learned to drive a tractor on a conventional wheat and corn farm. I taught middle school for a year before entering St. John’s Seminary. While in Boston from 1999-2004 I earned a M.A. in Philosophy from Boston College as well as completing the academic requirements (M.A. in Theology) and pastoral internship requirements at the seminary before being ordained in May of 2004.
BS: What brought you back to your home state of Maine?
FP: After high school I lived and worked in a few locations and always felt a strong pull back to Maine: its natural beauty, people, places and seasonal rhythms seemed to be embedded in my psyche. When I made the decision to study as a priest for the Diocese of Portland, I was also making the commitment to live and work in Maine because the diocese and the state are coextensive and I could be asked to serve anywhere in Maine. I try to maintain an active lifestyle in my free time by enjoying sports that correspond to the season; for example, Nordic skiing in the winter and hiking in the late winter and early spring; cycling and camping the spring and summer. You might be surprised to discover that I am in the middle of restoring a 1973 VW bus which has turned out to be an adventure!
BS: What motivated you to pursue priesthood?
FP: One key moment was when I was in Denver, CO for an international youth pilgrimage and I took to heart the words of Pope John Paul II who prayed that young people: “Would have the courage to give a definitive ‘yes’ to the service of God.”
BS: I understand you also work at Central Maine Medical Center? How do you split your time between the hospital and Bates? What is the nature of the work you do at CMMC?
FP: Together with my time at Bates, I work at CMMC as the Catholic priest-chaplain which allows me the opportunity to visit with patients and families as I make daily visits to Catholic patients. Often my conversations are cordial and marked by empathy and encouragement; many times I have the opportunity to offer patients Holy Communion or the Sacrament of the Sick, which is a special anointing and prayer for those who are seriously ill or infirm due to age. A great many times I am edified by the deep faith of people facing suffer with peace and courage. Half my week is spent at CMMC and other time is split between Bates, where I wish I could be more often, and parish responsibilities. I lovingly describe my time as split between the aged and infirm on the one hand and the young and vivacious on the other.
BS: I believe you’ve worked on college campuses before. What draws you to this kind of a community?
FP: College-aged students are in the midst of discovering their vocation in the Church and the world and I consider it an important time to walk among you as a kind of older brother willing to offer my perspective as a disciple of Jesus in the company of young people assimilating the faith offered them by their families. I find the hope and generosity of young people an inspiration to me and a challenge to keep striving to live an authentic life measured by the love of God and neighbor.
BS: What are your impressions of Bates thus far?
FP: I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bates since arriving in August. I have been personally grateful for my welcome by the Multi-faith chaplaincy and staff (Bill, Emily, and Liana). I have found the students to be friendly, considerate and respectful. My interaction with faculty and staff has been cordial and I applaud the sense of mission and professionalism I have observed. My interaction with the Catholic students would make any parent proud and is a source of deep gratitude for the generosity of young people who have “their feet firmly planted on the earth and their hearts and minds raised to heaven.”
BS: How do you hope the Catholic Program at Bates will grow? What do you envision over the next several years?
FP: I am very encouraged by our attempt to reintroduce Mass on Campus at the Peter J. Gomes chapel. I hope this effort will grow and develop. I hope that I will be able to meet students “on their own turf” in order to hear their questions and hopes. I hope that my interaction with students would be characterized by the virtues of a true friendship. I truly hope that Catholic students at Bates would develop as much religiously as they are intellectually and socially. In particular, the compatibility of faith and reason is a challenge that can be met by young Catholics in a way that is both a source of personal growth as well as formation for a lasting contribution to every sector of noble human activity. I urge young Catholics at Bates and all to hear and respond to the appeal of Blessed Mother Teresa: “Make of your life something beautiful for God.”