BRATTLEBORO -- The Rev. Rich O'Donnell realized his calling many years ago. Now, his vocation is calling him farther north.
O'Donnell, the priest at St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church on Walnut Street, recently told the Reformer he is being moved to Christ The King School (part of St. Anthony's Catholic Church) in Burlington starting Monday, July 1. Brought in to St. Michael's to help rejuvenate it's Catholic school five years ago, he said he will leave behind a family-like collection of parishioners and friends he has grown close to.
O'Donnell, a Bellows Falls native, said the transfer had been in discussion for six months but the official decision was made about five weeks ago. Transfers are not uncommon for Roman Catholic priests.
"I wish (my time here) was longer but I got a lot done in that time," he said. "Brattleboro has been excellent. I've truly loved Brattleboro. The parish was phenomenal and was very good to me. They have treated me very well.
"I have a lot of close friends here and I'm certainly going to miss them and the parish as a whole," he continued. "It's a very special place to be. But I always look forward to new things. So I'm excited, but there is always sadness in leaving."
The Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano, the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, made the decision to transfer O'Donnell after consulting with him and the Priest Personnel Committee. He said O'Donnell's skills will be helpful at the grammar school associated with Christ The King.
"Father has done a wonderful job in Brattleboro," the bishop told the Reformer. "He has demonstrated his ability to go forward to use his expertise in this new challenge."
O'Donnell, 35, has been a priest for eight years and said he was sent to St. Michael's five years ago because its school was on the verge of closing. He said the school has since then been straightened and has seen a big increase in enrollment. St. Michael's Principal Elaine Beam was not available for comment. O'Donnell is also the chaplain for the Brattleboro fire and police departments and said he hopes to maintain a relationship with them after he moves.
O'Donnell is a 1996 graduate of Bellows Falls Union High School and said he had felt his calling as a student but explored it much more as an undergraduate at Boston College. He then attended seminary at Mount St. Mary's University to start the process of becoming an ordained priest.
"It's been great. It's everything I thought it would be and then some. I get to be a part of people's lives during very special moments," he told the Reformer.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.