Just as Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare of Assisi were united in ministry 800 years ago, their new namesake parishes will be led by a diocesan priest who has been long influenced by the Franciscan tradition.
On January 4, Father Matthew McClain becomes pastor of both Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare of Assisi parishes in Butler County. Saint Francis of Assisi Parish brings together the former parishes of Saint John in Coylesville, Saint Joseph in Cabot and Saint Mary of the Assumption in Herman.
Saint Clare of Assisi Parish was established through the merger of the parishes of Saint Joseph (North Oakland), Mater Dolorosa (Chicora) and Saint Wendelin (Carbon Center).
Bishop David Zubik has assigned to the clergy team two Capuchin Franciscans who have served in the area— Father Ward Stakem and Father Jim Kurtz. Rounding out the group is diocesan priest Father Lou Pascazi.
Father McClain previously had led Saint Wendelin and Saint John parishes.
“We’ve been preparing to hit the ground running,” Father McClain said. “We are one clergy team but these are distinct parishes and we will respect all the work that went into these mergers.”
The model of ministry, called multi-parish pastoring, provides an opportunity to promote stability and growth in the new parishes. Diocesan staff will assist with pastoral planning resources.
Father McClain’s uncle, Capuchin Father Bob McCreary, helped him to discern his calling to the priesthood. He was ordained in 2002, initially serving in the parishes of Saint Alexis, Saint Bonaventure and Saint Peter in Slippery Rock, and as diocesan vocations director.
“Father McClain is well prepared to take on this new chapter of ministry,” said Father John Gizler III, regional vicar of the diocese’s North Vicariate. “He knows the Capuchin spirit and community, has a pastor’s heart and connects with people in many ways.”
“Communication will be key to staying on the same page,” Father McClain said. “The parishioners and staff have been great. We will get to know people over time.”
The new parishes will continue to use the six church buildings, which will retain their previous names.
There is a lot of territory to cover, Father McClain said, adding that his team is up to the challenge.
Father McClain can count on the strong faith of the people, Father Gizler said.
“These are some of the oldest parishes in the diocese, deeply rooted in their communities,” he said. “They are proud supporters of their parishes and of Saint Wendelin School.
“They are faithful in so many ways, and have a wonderful sense of what it means to be a disciple.”
PHOTO BY JIM JUDKIS