By Judy Tacyn
As he sat stoically in the parlor of the St. John the Evangelist parish center, the Rev. Jim Proffitt settled into the comfortable high-back chair he’s used for the last 10 years as pastor of the Severna Park Catholic church. As he prepared to leave the St. John community, Proffitt reflected on the flood of memories he’ll take with him on July 1, as he begins a new assignment as director of clergy personnel for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“There are so many wonderful memories; many are connected to worship, such as celebrating baptisms of little ones, receiving adults into the Catholic church, our beautiful liturgies at Christmas and Holy Week,” said Proffitt. “But there are also days visiting classrooms in the school and receiving questions from the children, the fun we shared as a community at our annual galas, welcoming the kids back to school on the first day as part of the lineup with the faculty. The list is endless.”
A recent memory that Proffitt will forever cherish took place on June 9, during the Pentecost Sunday masses when he invited anyone who recognized a transformative experience of God in their lives in the past year. Approximately 300 people stood and stepped forward, a moment Proffitt called “truly grace-filled.”
Earlier this year, the archbishop of Baltimore, the Rev. William E. Lori, assigned Proffitt to his new role. Proffitt will work closely with Archbishop Lori, a leader he respects on many levels.
“The archbishop put himself out there in introducing and strengthening reforms and doesn’t hesitate to own any mistakes he’s made along the way,” Proffitt said. “I really believe he is trying so hard, and as I find myself interacting with him more frequently, my respect for him continues to grow.”
Proffitt will serve as liaison between Lori and the priests and deacons of the greater Baltimore area.
“I will be working to match the gifts of our priests and deacons with the needs of our parishes, promoting the health and wellness of our clergy,” added Proffitt, “offering them opportunities for ongoing formation and spiritual growth, and being a support for them when they face challenges in their ministries.”
Proffitt acknowledged that change is scary because in his 28 years of priesthood, he’s served only in parish ministry, 18 years pastoring two parishes after his first 10 years serving in three other communities.
“In all truthfulness, I am saddened to leave parish ministry, but when we take our suffering of loss and join it to God’s plan, it ceases to be suffering and becomes sacrifice, to paraphrase Fulton Sheen,” Proffitt said.
During his 10 years as pastor at St. John, the community has seen many physical and spiritual changes. On a physical level, Proffitt said the construction of the Parish Activities Center is probably the most obvious accomplishment during his St. John tenure.
“When I see the kids in there during school for their physical education classes, my heart delights in their energy. Likewise, when groups meet — such as our Walking With Purpose women’s bible study, parish leadership summits, confirmation classes, and youth groups,” he added. “It’s provided an avenue for ministry in our parish, whereas we were limited before.”
Proffitt also noted the reconfiguration of the church gathering space to include an oratory for personal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and the Good Shepherd Room, which is filled with children during weekend masses while their parents attend.
On a spiritual level, Proffitt said, “I am particularly thrilled at the success of our offering of Alpha. Hundreds of people have completed Alpha over the past three years and we are really seeing the fruits as people have continued in their faith journeys by becoming engaged in the parish ministries, entering the Catholic faith (13 people were baptized or received into the church this past Easter), and returning to serve on the Alpha team. I’m particularly happy that we are now offering Pub Alpha in collaboration with our friends at Brian Boru this summer.
But most of all,” continued Proffitt, “I am proud when people comment about how welcoming our community is to them when they visit or move into our community. That truly warms my heart.”
Proffitt knows that the pastor is just one small part of a thriving community, and he’s quick to acknowledge the dedicated work of others.
“The common thread in all of this, and a deep source of my pride, is how much of what happens at our parish is lay-driven,” he added. “Faithful parishioners who have a conviction to live out their calling as disciples of Jesus Christ are inviting, welcoming, and walking with others who are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives. That’s why the church exists.”
The Rev. Michael Rubeling, an associate pastor, was assigned to St. John two years for his first parish assignment under Proffitt’s guidance. He called the opportunity “a blessing.”
“For myself as a young priest, coming to St. John has been an amazing gift,” Rubeling said. “Through his leadership and courage, Father Jim has led this parish in becoming a more mission-oriented community, a community ready to reach out to those who may not know Jesus and His love for them. Not many young priests get to experience a parish like this, and get to witness a great pastor leading such a community.”
Stacy Golden, director of evangelization, is one of the lay people Proffitt has relied on most in recent years.
“Father Proffitt invited me to join the staff three years ago to join him in creating an invitational community,” Golden said. “It has been a blessing to watch the community grow in faith. Beyond being my boss, Father Proffitt has coached and pastored me along the way. The journey has been amazing and I hope to continue his legacy in the efforts of evangelization. I will miss him very much and this community has thrived with him as our shepherd.”
The cleric almost tearfully added that he will miss the day-to-day encounters with parishioners and the connection with the community in celebrating life moments such as baptisms, funerals and weddings.
“Pastoring energizes me in ways I can’t put into words,” Proffitt said. “I hope to have at least some of that as I help out at St. Joseph Parish in Cockeysville, where I will be in residence, and in other parishes that need some assistance on weekends.”
Proffitt hopes that his St. John legacy is nothing other than he was a priest and pastor who proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ and pointed others to God.
“If that isn’t the case, then I’ve failed miserably,” he said. “If this community continues along the path toward being mission-focused and reaching into the community, that is success in my mind.”
As for the St. John community he’s loved so deeply over the past 10 years, Proffitt added, “Saying farewell has always been difficult, but there has also always been grace and blessing to follow, so I have no reason to believe this will be any different.”
Rubeling summed up Proffitt’s departure perfectly, saying, “He will be sorely missed, but he has his mission from Jesus Christ to serve the priests of Baltimore in a new way, and he will do amazing at it.”