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Bishop Burbidge announces 39 clergy changes; four parishes to get new pastors

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Bishop Michael F. Burbidge released a list of 39 clergy appointments May 13. 

Among the list are four new pastors:

Father Michael J. Bazan, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, will become pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Church in Clifton.

Father Christopher P. Christensen, parochial vicar of St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax, will become pastor of St. Rita Church in Alexandria.

Father Daniel N. Gee, pastor of St. Rita Church in Alexandria, will become pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal.

Father Stephen Holmes, parochial vicar of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester, will become pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas.

Two diocesan priests will retire: 

Father Thomas J. Lehning, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Church in Clifton; and Father Lee W. Gross, dean of students at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., who will reside at the St. Rose of Lima Priest Retirement Villa in Annandale.

The diocesan mission in the Dominican Republic will see some change as Father Jason Weber returns from the Bánica mission in the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic, to serve at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, with care for the St. Gabriel Mission in Manassas Park. And Father Jeb S. Donelan, parochial vicar at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria, will head to Bánica.

Father Edward R. Horkan returns from his Canon Law studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington to become vice-chancellor and defender of the bond in the diocesan Tribunal in August.

The newly ordained transitional deacons and the soon-to-be-ordained priests now have their assignments, and several order priests are rotating in and out of the diocese.

Fr. Bazan: into hospitality, building community

By Leslie Miller

Father Michael J. Bazan, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas since 2004, has been appointed pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Church in Clifton, effective June 24.

After 17 years at Sacred Heart, “they finally got used to me,” joked Father Bazan, 69. “This is the longest I’ve ever lived in one house in my entire life.”

Born in Utica, N.Y., he is the second of six children. As a child he lived in Falls Church and Fairfax; he graduated from Woodbridge High School in 1970.

After high school, he worked as a sous chef for two years before joining the U.S. Air Force. He still loves to cook. “I’m big into hospitality and welcoming people into the church,” he said.

“I like social functions and like to be with people. My main gift is building community, not building buildings,” he added.

He served in the Air Force from 1972 to 1977 and was stationed in Texas, California, West Germany and New Jersey. He attended Brisson Seminary, the college seminary for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, in Center Valley, Pa., then attended St. Pius X Seminary in Erlanger, Ky., and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

After a diaconate assignment at Church of the Nativity in Burke, he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop John R. Keating May 12, 1984.

Father Bazan served as parochial vicar of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls (1984-88); Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria (1988-92); St. John the Evangelist Church in Warrenton (1992-94); and Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria (1994-96).

He served as pastor of St. John the Evangelist (1996-2004) and was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas in 2004.

Jovial and outgoing, Father Bazan said he loves golf and other sports, and enjoys attending football and baseball games. For 30 years, he was on the diocesan basketball team, the Earthen Vessels.

He said he makes an effort to be friendly and welcoming to parishioners. “That’s important for a priest,” he said. “On Sunday mornings, I’m out there welcoming everybody to Mass, not hiding in my office.”

Asked if there is anything else his new parishioners should know about him, Father Bazan said, “Don’t be afraid to invite me to dinner. I’ll eat anything but hot dogs.”

Fr. Christensen: ‘ecstatic’ to lead St. Rita

By Zoey Maraist

It’s always hard to leave a parish, said Father Christopher P. Christensen. But the parochial vicar of St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax is thrilled to become pastor of St. Rita Church in Alexandria. The current pastor, Father Daniel N. Gee, has been named pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Father Christensen. “St. Rita — it’s a beautiful parish, a great community and really I’m honored that the Bishop asked me to be the pastor there.”

Father Christensen, 37, was born in Washington state and grew up as one of three children in a military family. They moved to Woodbridge in 1992 and Christensen attended St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School. In 2002, he graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria.

He studied philosophy and Japanese at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and was part of the U.S. Navy ROTC program. After graduating, he served in the Navy for two years, including on the USS Blue Ridge. 

In 2008, he entered seminary at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Paul S. Loverde June 7, 2014, at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. He served as parochial vicar of St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg (2014-15); the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington (2015-20); and St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax (2020-21). 

Ever since he received the news he would be pastor of St. Rita, he’s been praying for the parishioners daily, he said. “I can’t wait to get to know them and love and serve the Lord with them."

Fr. Gee: looking forward to biking the Shenandoah

By Leslie Miller

Father Daniel N. Gee, pastor of St. Rita Church in Alexandria since 2010, will become pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, effective June 24.

“It’s hard to leave after 11 years, but sad as it is to leave here, it’s wonderful to go to a place where you know some people,” said Father Gee, 53, who served for two years as chaplain at Christendom College in Front Royal before being appointed to St. Rita. He once described the parish as “a hidden gem” in Alexandria, filled with “happy people who love their faith.” 

But as a runner and avid bicyclist, he said he looks forward to riding his bike in the Shenandoah Mountains on Skyline Drive.

Fluent in Spanish, he noted that he started the Spanish-language Mass at St. John the Baptist when he served at Christendom College more than a decade ago, after returning from five years in the diocesan mission in Bánica, Dominican Republic.

Assisting Father Gee at St. John the Baptist will be the current assistant chaplain at Christendom, Father Thomas K. Shepanzyk, who was appointed parochial vicar.

“We will do everything we can to serve the people out there,” said Father Gee. “I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running.”

Father Gee was born in Portsmouth, Va., one of four children in a military family. He attended W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax (1982-85) then moved to Coronado, Calif., where he graduated from Coronado High School in 1986. He attended the University of Oregon (1986-89) then transferred to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

Father Gee was ordained May 20, 1995. He served as parochial vicar of All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas (1995-99) and Our Lady of Angels Church in Woodbridge (1999-2003).

He was assigned to serve in Bánica in 2003. After five years in the Dominican Republic, he returned to Virginia to serve as chaplain of Christendom before going to St. Rita.

Fr. Holmes: great devotion to Sacred Heart

By Leslie Miller

Father Stephen Holmes, parochial vicar of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester since 2018, will become pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Manassas, effective June 24. 

“The older you get, the harder it is for the priests to leave, but you’re grateful for what you’ve been given,” said Father Holmes, 57. He has spoken of his great devotion to the Sacred Heart, and, after three years at one Sacred Heart, agreed it seemed serendipitous that his first assignment as pastor would be at the only other parish in the diocese bearing the Sacred Heart name. 

“My theme song going into this is going to be ‘Getting to Know You’ by Julie Andrews,” he joked, adding that his new parish will soon discover “I like to sing — loudly. But nobody will ever accuse me of being Pavarotti.” 

Friendly and outgoing, he said he also likes to talk, “which is part of my charm and also my flaw.” He loves preaching and said he tries to keep his homilies from getting too long. 

He believes he has “a reputation as approachable and gentle, especially when I hear confessions. You don’t want to make it harder for them, you want them to feel loved and forgiven.” 

Father Holmes was born in Richmond Hill, N.Y., and has six brothers and two sisters. He grew up in Long Island, N.Y., and in Florida, where he graduated from Northeast High School in Fort Lauderdale in 1982. He served five years in the Navy (1985-90), stationed in Norfolk, and served aboard a nuclear-powered submarine.

After the Navy, he attended Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, graduating in 1995. 

He attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., and served as a transitional deacon at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale. He was ordained June 10, 2000, by Bishop Paul S. Loverde.

He served as parochial vicar at St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax (2000-03); All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas (2003-07); St. Veronica Church in Chantilly (2007-10); St. Ambrose Church in Annandale (2010-13), St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg (2013-18) and Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester (2018-21).

Father Holmes is looking forward to meeting his new parishioners and asks them “to pray for me to be a good servant and a good shepherd.”

He noted they will never have a hard time finding him, because it’s hard to miss his big yellow Jeep. “When the yellow Jeep is here, I’m generally around,” he said.

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021