F ather Michael Flannery, who has served Whitehall and the surrounding communities’ Catholic population, led his final weekend Mass at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church on Sunday.
Flannery, who has spent the last five years as the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Whitehall, St. Ann’s in Fort Ann, and the Chapel of the Assumption in Huletts Landing, was reassigned to St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Greenville by Bishop Howard Hubbard last month and will begin serving his new role later this month.
A permanent replacement has not yet been named.
Sunday’s service was similar to hundreds of others he has delivered over the years: traditional, reverent and meaningful, with a dash of humor interspersed. There was no pomp or circumstance to mark the day, nor goodbyes as he had said them already, but it was different in one notable way; Mass started at 11 a.m. instead of 10:30 a.m.
Flannery, who leads Mass at St. Ann’s in Fort Ann every Sunday morning, was late getting back to Whitehall because of a car accident that required him to take a detour through Granville.
His parish excused the tardiness; after all, it was the first time in five years he had been late for a service. And it’s that dedication to faith that has made Flannery beloved by so many of his parishioners.
“He really cares for his people. They relate to him very well,” said Patti Abbott, administrator of religious education and youth ministry at Our Lady of Hope and at St. Ann’s. “He has been a good shepherd of faith in this community.”
Flannery started in Whitehall in July of 2007 and the assignment was a bit of a homecoming.
Although he grew up on Long Island, Flannery moved to Granville when he was 14 and attended school at St. Mary’s Academy in Glens Falls before going to Wadhams Hall Seminary and Catholic University.
His parents, who still live in Granville, are an active part of the church and attend Mass every week.
Abbott describes Flannery’s sermons as traditional. “On the altar he is very serious, but on the outside he has a good sense of humor. His homilies are deep and meaningful and he is very engaging.”
Catherine Manuele shared similar sentiments.
“He’s truly a man of God and of the people. His disposition is always the same and he’s got a very beguiling smile. He always brought something special to his services.
As far as I’m concerned he’s the best we’ve ever had.”
Jim Lafayette, who is grand knight of the local Knights of Columbus, describes Flannery as the “real deal, a true parish priest.”
Lafayette told how upon his father’s death, Flannery canceled his plans to join him at the hospital in Rutland, even though his dad didn’t belong to the same church. “He would do that kind of thing for anyone, not just me,” Lafayette said.
Abbott also talked about how Flannery was there for her family when her parents died and her husband got sick, as well as when her daughter got married. “He’s taken my family through quite a bit, good and bad.”
Flannery was instrumental in the renovation of Our Lady of Hope in 2010.
With help from the community and the Knights of Columbus, Flannery raised $280,000 to renovate the interior of the church, including new windows, flooring, paint and the re-furbishing of the pews.
“He did a great deal for the parish. He brought people together,” Manuele said. “He’s going to be missed.”
Lafayette credits Flannery with soothing the community’s wounds after Our Lady of Angels closed more than a decade ago. He said the closure was a difficult thing for the community and some people were still hurt by it when Flannery arrived in town a few years later.
“He was instrumental in helping bring people together,” Lafayette said.
Although he will miss Whitehall, Flannery is looking forward to serving a new parish.
“It’s been a wonderful five years. It’s been the fastest five years of my life. It’s been especially beautiful because this is my home. It’s given me a chance to reconnect with my friends,” Flannery said. “This community, from day one, has been very warm and hospitable. I’ve said several times this will be a very nice assignment because the community is so supportive and helpful.
“Everybody here has been beautiful.”
Flannery will continue to hold weekday services until July 20. He will begin his new assignment in Greenville on July 21.
An interim priest will be assigned to Whitehall until a permanent replacement can be found. Kenneth Goldfarb, director of communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, said the process can take two or three months.
But Lafayette said he wouldn’t be surprised if a few members from Whitehall found themselves driving south of Albany on Sunday’s.
“He has quite the following. People come from a way to see him. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people make their way to Greenville,” he said.