CLARKSVILLE (KDKA) — The 9 a.m. weekday mass at St. Thomas Roman Catholic Church in Clarksville is sparsely attended.
There are only three parishioners in the pews, but each is a daily communicant who depends upon Fr. Francis Frazer and Deacon Tom Raymond to continue the tradition.
“I go every day. We always go every day. I just love the Mass,” says Denise Lawrence, a Greene County resident.
But the challenge of keeping the church alive in Greene County has become tougher and tougher with fewer and fewer parishioners and less than a handful of priests.
There are five Roman Catholic parishes, a total of eight churches, but only three priests to attend to them all. Still, Fr. Fran’s mission is more than just survival.
“More than keep it alive; I think to revitalize it in some ways,” said Fr. Fran.
And meeting that challenge means Fr. Fran is a cleric in perpetual motion, crisscrossing the county every day and attending to parishioners like Helen Kuczykowski who has asked Fr. Fran to give her last rites.
Fr. Fran says the work is too important not to thrive.
“God won’t let that happen. He has a different plan, I’m sure, and part of this is his plan, I’m sure,” Fr. Fran says.
The plan harkens back to Deacon Tom, a retired businessman who once worked for Polaroid and then had a calling to the religious life.
As part of a pilot program to be used in other parishes, he’ll now be taking over the administrative duties – payroll, maintenance, budgets – freeing the priests up for their pastoral duties.
“Administrative stuff, worried about budgets I’m not going to miss that. I’m not going to miss that,” Fr. Fran said.
And that means Fr. Fran can concentrate on the caring of souls, like giving home Communion to Agnes Haiden who is blind.
The rest he says he says is not up to him.
“No, I can’t do it. Three of us can’t do it, the whole community has to do it,” says Fr. Fran.