WITTENBERG — Fr. Patrick Lloyd has devoted his life to fostering communities.
From the upscale suburbs of Houston to the most poverty-stricken reservations of South Dakota, to four linked parishes of northeastern Wisconsin, Fr. Pat, as he prefers to be called, has embraced parishioners and ministered to their very diverse needs.
“I will miss the interactions, but it is time,” Fr. Pat said.
That came to an end on Sunday, June 14, when the priest retired from what is known as the Four Parish Catholic Family, made up of St. Anthony, Tigerton, St. Mary, Marion, Holy Family-St. William, Wittenberg, and St. Mary, Leopolis.
“He will be missed,” Deb Brandt, pastoral minister, said. “He has taught us and shepherded us well through the years and is a very compassionate and caring individual.”
A member of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Pat originally came to the Green Bay Diocese in 1992, serving Holy Rosary Parish in New Holstein prior to being named to Four Parish Catholic, serving about 800 families, in 2010.
It was a time of transition for the four parishes, which had gradually come together over the previous decade after a history of operating independently. The churches have a joint parish office and educational programs, but each continues to operate independently, and that made it a challenge to recruit a new priest after the previous pastor was reassigned.
“It was difficult to recruit a priest because of the stress of operating four parishes,” Brandt said. “Fr. Pat saw that we had a need and thought that he could help.”
Fr. Pat said the key has been allowing the parishes their individual identities but fostering a shared sense of identity.
“Although they maintain their own identity, they know and understand one another and have a fuller sense of being an extended family,” Fr. Pat says. “They see the church isn’t just the parish, the church is much broader.”
The fourth of 11 children, Fr. Pat was born in Glenolden, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, on St. Patrick’s Day, 1942. His father, William, was a cabinet-maker while his mother, Margaret (née Dougherty), was a homemaker and devout Catholic.
While he was a student at St. Agnes School in West Chester, Pa., Fr. Pat received an invitation from the Priests of the Sacred Heart to attend Divine Heart Seminary located in Dinaldson, Ind.
“I was always interested in being a priest,” Fr. Pat said. “At the high school seminary, you’re exploring the possibilities. It’s a process of looking at the choices.”
Also known as the Dehonians, or by the initials S.C.I. or S.C.J., the Priests of the Sacred Heart is a religious congregation of priests, founded in Saint-Quentin, Aisne, by Léon Dehon in 1878. His dream was to establish a religious community of men committed to continuing Christ’s work of rebuilding the world into God’s kingdom of justice and love.
The message appealed to Fr. Pat, who continued his studies as a novitiate in Ste. Marie. Ill. He completed his bachelor of arts degree at Kilroe Seminary, Honesdale, Pa. and was ordained in 1969 at Sacred Heart Monastery in Hales Corners, Wis.
The next two decades were spent in various religious settings, largely split among schools and churches.
Fr. Pat first returned to his high school seminary, serving as teacher and vocation recruiter at Divine Heart. From there, he began a long association with various Native American reservations, working as chaplain and residence director at St. Joseph’s Indian School and pastor at St. Mary Parish located on the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in central South Dakota.
While on the reservation, Fr. Pat was instrumental in building the new church. “It’s still standing,” he said.
After four years, Fr. Pat moved to a very different sort of community, assigned to St. Matthew Parish, a 2,000-family congregation in Houston, Texas. He remained there for five years.
“It was like night and day, one extreme to the other,” he says.
In later years, the priest served two stints at Christ the King Church in Southaven, Miss., where he helped the rapidly-growing parish construct a large church. He returned as chaplain to St. Joseph’s Indian School, and assisted with the care of retired priests and brothers at the Sacred Heart Monastery in Hales Corners, in addition to his duties at Holy Rosary Parish in New Holstein, and, most recently, the Four Parish Catholic Family.
The widely divergent mix of assignments has given him a unique perspective, he said, including the many differences between Native American and more traditional white congregations.
“On the reservations, you see the effects of poverty and alcoholism plus prejudice, isolation and harsh weather,” he says. “Their needs are much more difficult than the suburbanites.”
“But the Indian people are good people,” Fr. Pat stresses. “They all have extended families, usually led by a grandmother, and are very supportive of one another.”
He has kind words for the Green Bay Diocese as well.
“I am appreciative to the diocese for allowing me to come in and be part of the ministry,” he says. “I have been well-impressed. They are a wonderful group of priests, very prayerful and dedicated.”
There will be many things he will miss about active ministry.
“Celebrating Mass with the people is an experience of community of faith and communion with God and Christ,” Fr. Pat says. “Within the church, there is nothing all parishioners have in common but shared faith. That is what holds them together.”
Following retirement, Fr. Pat will be based at Pinellas Park, Fla., home to a Priests of the Sacred Heart community of about 10 members.
“We will share life in common, prayer, Mass and adoration,” he said. “It’s our calling to be men of prayer, reflective and contemplative.”
And after a lifetime serving the Lord through churches and schools, in suburban churches, small parishes and on Native American reservations, he hopes to catch up on his reading, tackling St. John Paul II’s massive “Theology of the Body.”
He has other plans as well. “I might go fishing too,” he says.