By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer
Msgr. Richard T. Bolger, 72, is pastor of St. David Parish in Willow Grove, Montgomery County. Ordained a priest for the Philadelphia Archdiocese in 1966, he has served at St. David Parish for the past 17 years, since June 1992.
Q. What aspect about being a pastor do you most appreciate?
A. Just being a part of the daily lives of the people. You don’t know from one phone call to the next, or from one doorbell to the next. You could go from a happy moment to a sad moment very quickly, and have to adjust – from a wedding to a baptism to a funeral.
As a priest, you’re involved in many lives. You believe and trust in the Lord.
Q. What are among the biggest challenges of being a pastor?
A. One of the things you learn as a priest is how fallible our judgments can be – of other people or of other people’s actions. Sometimes, people are hard to read. You can’t be judgmental.
You get a greater understanding of the human condition. You can make a judgment that is so wrong, because you don’t know what they’re going through. Being human beings, you know that there are people that, in some way, you’ve either hurt or, through our own weaknesses, have not treated them as they should have been treated at that time. Therefore … you don’t get a 100 percent approval rating. You have to be aware of that. You’re certainly sad for that because, ultimately, you don’t want to draw anybody away from God.
On other occasions, it’s touching when someone says, “Father, what you did for me had such an impact on my life.”
Q. What are among the highlights of St. David Parish?
A. A highlight here is having the parochial school, along with Our Lady of Confidence Day School (a day program for children between the ages of 4 and 15 who are mentally challenged and developmentally delayed).
That, in my estimation, is the best of both worlds.
We’re blessed because of the Immaculate Heart sisters who are not only in the parochial school, but in the CCD program, that’s run by one of the sisters.
We’re blessed with the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and our parish nurses, and the great work they do. Their assistance to parish life gives you the opportunity to respond to people’s needs directly.
We’re blessed because we have a newly ordained priest, Father Anthony Rossi. And of course we gave one, Father Michael Speziale, who is from here. We got one for one.
In many ways, we’re an ordinary parish but we’re blessed with many people who step forward.
Q. What are among the most grace-filled moments of your priesthood?
A. When Cardinal Bevilacqua called the priests in at the time we were being made pastors, he said he knew I would like to work with special ed, but that he was naming me a pastor. Not too many years after that, we got Our Lady of Confidence School here.
It was providential in that they were on the grounds of Little Flower and looking for a new site.
The part of the building they’re in hadn’t been used for years and was in disrepair. The Archdiocese rehabbed it. And there, every day now, you have these children in a beautiful setting.
The way in which they have interacted with our own parochial school children has been a great blessing for our school children to have experienced this. Hopefully, it will have a great impact upon their understanding of those with special needs, and the special gifts that those children are.
Q. How does your typical day begin?
A. I get up at 5 – I’m an early riser, fade in the afternoon. I say part of the office, then open the church at 10 after 6 for the 6:30 Mass. I get a little breakfast afterward. The quiet time of the morning is when you can get some things done before the day breaks open.
Q. How have your parishioners made your life richer?
A. This is my life, this is my home. The people are an extension. I have no immediate family. [They are deceased.]
I’ve been here 17 years. Over the years, I’ve baptized them, married them, buried them. The first kids I baptized [here] now are juniors and seniors in high school. I’ve seen so many of them go through the parochial school.
The blessing is the affirmation I have received through my years here.
Q. What are your thoughts as you reflect on your four decades in the priesthood?
A. I always wanted to be a priest. There is nothing else I would rather be. I thank God that I’ve been given 43 years as a priest. I’m grateful for the priests of my youth, the priests I was stationed with, my priest friends both living and deceased. The fraternity of the priesthood is something I’m so proud to be a part of.
CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.