Diocesan Priest Becomes Pastor at Italian Heritage Parish
For the First Time in 89 Years …
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 4, 2022
ROCKFORD—On the evening of July 19, Father Carl Beekman, a priest of the Diocese of Rockford, was installed by Bishop David Malloy as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish before about 100 people of the parish who came to witness the historic event.
The installation might seem to be routine, except that St. Anthony Parish — considered a home parish by many of Italian heritage since its beginnings in 1909 with native-Italian Father Anthony V. Marchesano as its first pastor — had been served by Conventual Franciscan priests since 1933. Its most recent pastor, Father James Ciaramitaro, OFM Conv., was the beloved pastor at St. Anthony’s for 12 years.
In his homily, the bishop spoke of the unity to be fostered in a parish by the pastor, by parish leaders and by the lay faithful themselves. Works that encourage such unity among each other in a parish, among a pastor and parishioners, among bishops and priests and diocesan Catholics, points to “an act of grace that goes on there,” Bishop Malloy said, noting the different personalities, different experiences, different gifts and weaknesses of all involved.
Bishop Malloy explained that he received a letter from the Conventual Franciscan Order some 18 months ago stating that the order would have to cease its service to St. Anthony Parish due to lack of vocations. He noted the sadness of such a change and encouraged his listeners to pray harder for vocations. “We need to pray about this because (they were) such a gift,” he said, expressing thanksgiving to God for the gift of those Franciscan priests.
“We look at the magnificence of this church … what a jewel it is … and we begin now a new phase. We do that all the time at work, in family … So it is that we continue to evolve because we are living organisms,” he added.
In his homily, Bishop Malloy explained the various steps of the ceremony given by the Church for the occasion. He began by formally presenting Father Beekman to the parishioners gathered for the event that evening.
“There will be a number of symbolic presentations” to the new pastor, the bishop said, starting with the presentation of the clergy — in this case Father Ricardo Hernandez of St. Bernadette Parish and Deacon Peter Addotta of St. Anthony Parish — symbolic of the unity of the clergy.
After that step, the parish staff was presented to Father Beekman who shook hands with each. Other groups formally presented included the parish council, the finance council and parish trustees.
“All of this … points to way beyond them standing in front of each other and shaking hands,” Bishop Malloy explained before adding a description of the following solemn part of the ceremony, when the priest professes before the bishop and congregation his acceptance of the Catholic faith. 
“He will then take the oath of fidelity, in which he promises that his work in administration, in ministry to you … (will be) faithful to all the laws of the Church, the practices of the Church, to keep you in that unity that we talked about,” the bishop said. “We’ll conclude with the signing of the document by which I then entrust formally to Father Beekman the task … for the spiritual care of the people of this parish.”
Each step as described was followed, documentation was signed by the new pastor, the bishop, and the last document also by two witnesses — trustees of the parish.
The Mass continued and concluded. Father Beekman took a few minutes at its end to thank the choir and the “beautiful” music and all who had come, choking up a bit as he said, “Thank you for taking the time to come here. It’s very humbling, especially Bishop. Thanks for putting up with me again tonight and installing me … it’s just very humbling, very great … thank you.”
Bishop Malloy concluded the evening by first taking a few moments to express his thanks for the Franciscans who served the parish for so many decades including Father Ciaramitaro who was “the incarnation, the personification in these recent years of that (Franciscan) presence and that contribution.”
The bishop then recalled a hymn sung by third graders at another priest installation that thanked the pastor “for coming to share his life with us.”
“This new phase, this sharing of your lives with him, and his life with you, this is how the Church works,” Bishop Malloy said. “And it takes work and it takes prayer and it takes laughter … all of the different celebrations that you’ll have, all of that is the life of the parish and I’m very, very grateful for it.”
He ended by asking those present to participate in the new Eucharistic Revival, the program throughout the United States to “stir up again the embers of our faith,” and also to pray for Ukraine, saying, “We need to keep our prayers and our faith looking wide …”
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