by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary?
Father Christopher: I entered the Servite Order at St. Philip’s seminary in Milwaukee Wisconsin in September 1944. (I had grown up in Chicago) The war was on, but we seminarians were exempt from military service. It was the beginning of my third (Junior) year of high school. I remained there for four years, at the end of which I took my first vows. From there I returned to the northern suburbs of Chicago, to the major seminary called Stonebridge Priory. I remained there for the entire rest of my seminary training and was ordained from there on the 16th May 1954.
Gordon: Who were the Servite Seven Founders?
Father Christopher: The founders of the Servite Order were, quite uniquely, seven merchants in medieval Florence who, in 1233 A.D. joined together from a mutual love of their faith and a devotion to the Virgin Mary, mother of the Lord Jesus. They left all behind, family and businesses, and retired to a mountain place nearby called Monte Senario. Before long, others joined them, and the Order was officially recognized in 1304 A.D. by Pope Benedict XI and the seven canonized as one by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.
Gordon: What was your first assignment and what did you learn there?
Father Christopher: My first assignment was as a teacher, back where I started in Milwaukee, and after that back to Stonebridge as Master of Novices. I learned to my joy that we had attracted quite a few outstanding fine young men to join us. I also learned how to live with pain because so many of them, even after taking first vows, did not stay with us in the Order.
Gordon: What was your final assignment?
Father Christopher: I cannot answer that without noting that after three years as novice master at Stonebridge I was precipitated across the world to join the pioneering group of Servites in Perth, Western Australia. (I told my elderly parents that if I were asked to go any further, I would be coming back towards home!) Here I fell in love with Perth and the Australian People and have never looked back. I have served multiple commitments: several times as local Australian superior (I succeeded Fra Joseph Loftus who had gone on to become USA provincial and then Prior General!) I have been a “factotum”, serving as parish priest (pastor) of our parish of St. Denis in Joondanna; chaplain at our High School of over one thousand pupils, director of some of the few candidates we have welcomed (and farewelled) here in Australia as well as tasks’ around the house like treasurer and/or sacristan. Besides that, I can boast of having been chairperson of the West Australian liturgical commission, which included leading the preparation of the visit in 1984 of Saint Pope John Paul II. So now I ask the question: ” What does final assignment mean?”
Gordon: What pressing issues in the church face young people?
Father Christopher: (I’ll be brief) Religion itself is the biggest religious problem for today’s young people. Life goes on very well without it, thank you! There as so many things pressing on them that there is no time or interest left.
Gordon What has been the impact of Covid -19 on your parish?
Father Christopher: Some people, mostly older, are resentful, as if someone who didn’t like them has sprung this on them. These folks don’t want to obey the rules, because they are rules.
Gordon: Thank you for an insightful interview.