Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A good priest in my former parish

Below is an article on the newest Rector at St. Mary's Church in Charleroi, PA, my former parish. I am grateful to have such a wonderful successor to care for the flock there in Charleroi. This is an article from on-line edition of the Pittsburgh Diocesan Newspaper. http://www.pgh.anglican.org/news/local/ilgenfritzbio/document_view

The Rev. William Ilgenfritz’s road back to southwestern Pennsylvania has had a lot of twists and turns since his baptism at St. Stephen’s in McKeesport in 1946. The one-time U.S. Steel employee originally left the area to work with troubled teenagers in Kansas. Before coming back in November of 2004 to serve as the rector of St. Mary’s in Charleroi, Fr. Ilgenfritz had been ordained, ministered in five states, become the national vice president of Forward in Faith North America (A body for Episcopalians known as Anglo-Catholics who put a heavy emphasis on the theology and tradition of Christianity before the protestant reformation) and seen God’s faithfulness to him and to the Christians he served time and time again.Now, Fr. Ilgenfritz is just glad to be back. “I’m really a Pittsburgh boy,” he said. As a national leader of Anglo-Catholic Episcopalians, as well as a parish priest, Fr. Ilgenfritz often finds himself wearing several hats. It’s a situation he’s used to. Ordained a deacon in 1981, he worked as a bi-vocational clergyman for a number of years. On one hand, he supported two rural parishes in northwestern Pennsylvania. On the other, he worked with abandoned, abused and neglected children as the executive director of the Children’s Aid Society.It soon became clear to Fr. Ilgenfritz that the two parishes he was serving needed the full-time support of a priest, so he talked to his bishop about being ordained to the priesthood. According to Ilgenfritz, Bishop Donald Davis of what is now the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania told him “If you believe God has called you to the priesthood, there aren’t any shortcuts. I want you to quit your job and go back to seminary.” After much prayer with his wife, Lois, Fr. Ilgenfritz enrolled at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge in time for the fall 1983 semester. He spent the next three years commuting every week 150 miles each way between his home and his family and parishes in the Clearfield area. According to Fr. Ilgenfritz, his time at Trinity broadened him. While he remained Anglo-Catholic in his theology and worship, “I now had something I didn’t have before, which was an understanding of God’s Word written,” he said.After being ordained a priest in 1986, Fr. Ilgenfritz spent the next two decades serving throughout the United States. That included working as a curate at Fox Chapel Episcopal Church in 1988-89, serving as the chaplain for St. Jude’s Ranch For Children in Nevada, ministry at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Brownwood, Texas, work as an inner city parish priest in Baltimore (where Fr. Ilgenfritz also served as chaplain to the Baltimore City Police Department) and then to north of Philadelphia, where he served as rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Whitehall until taking the position at St. Mary’s.
Things They Don’t (But Should) Teach in SeminaryWhen Fr. Ilgenfritz first felt a call to ordained ministry, he thought he was signing up for something out of the 1940’s Bing Crosby movie Bells of St. Mary’s.“I had the Fr. O’Malley mentality… that as a priest you just walk around in a cassock and pray with people!” laughed Fr. Ilgenfritz.The reality, he said, has caused him to seriously consider offering a supplemental course for new priests. Curriculum on his list of skills that must be taught but don’t make it into seminary classrooms include “restarting a boiler” and “fixing a toilet,” and a host of other less than glamorous but necessary duties that “happen because we’re part of a family. As a priest, you’ve got to take that cassock off , roll up your sleaves and get to work!” said Fr. Ilgenfritz.For almost all of those years, Fr. Ilgenfritz has been active in the organizations and groups that became Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA) in 1999. In his current role as vice-president, Fr. Ilgenfritz helps lead the organization and represents it through writing and speaking. He also serves as the dean of the Anglican Communion Network’s FiFNA convocation of churches. While Fr. Ilgenfritz, with all members of FiFNA, is unable to support the ordination of women as priests or bishops he made clear that the disagreement didn’t mean he wasn’t willing to work with the Anglican Communion Network, which does support the ordination of women. “We have differences regarding the ordination of women, but both organizations find in Christ Jesus what is true and real and what is worth living out,” he explained.As Fr. Ilgenfritz settles into his new work among the people of St. Mary’s, he said it feels good to be back in the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. St. Mary’s, he said, has welcomed him with open arms and given him plenty to do. During any given week, he said, the parish holds two Bible studies, feeds about 40-50 poor or homeless Charleroi residents at “Mom’s Place,” a ministry staffed by parish volunteers, and keeps a regular schedule of services. This fall, he’s planning a series of inquirers classes for the church’s expanding congregation. In everything, Fr. Ilgenfritz says he focuses first and foremost on loving the people God has given him charge over. “A parish won’t grow if people don’t believe their rector loves them. And if you don’t love your people, you shouldn’t be doing this anyway,” he said.