Father Francis O’Hara, who left as pastor of St. Kevin Church six years ago, is back.
Bishop Thomas Tobin recently named Fr. O’Hara, 78, to fill the parish post following the announcement earlier this month that, because of health conditions, Father Douglas Spina would be on extended medical leave.
“Rather than jeopardize the well-being of St. Kevin’s Parish, I have decided to leave as your pastor so that I may concentrate on recovering my health,” Fr. Spina wrote in a letter to parishioners dated Dec. 17.
Fr. O’Hara, who is officially retired but considers himself as a member of the “senior priests,” sees his role as maintaining work of the church and school until a new pastor is named. He expects to be in the post at St. Kevin until at least July 1 of next year.
“I’m thrilled to be back in this area,” Fr. O’Hara said. “Warwick is such a special place for me.”
Fr. O’Hara acknowledged that the parish school faces financial challenges, but then he noted that schools everywhere, including public schools, have financial difficulties these days. He said with the help of parishioners, “We’re addressing it.”
Fr. Spina sought to address issues relating to the school, but measures taken to reduce costs with a reduction in staff met parishioner resistance.
“I’m here to minister to the people and I’m here to help continue the ministry of the church and the school,” said Fr. O’Hara. As a “senior priest,” Fr. O’Hara said he has been doing weekend assignments, including services at St. Catherine in Apponaug. He was ordained in 1959.
Fr. O’Hara called St. Kevin an active parish with 1,782 families.
The future of the school has been tenuous in recent years with the overall decline in school age students and the recession that has made tuition payments more difficult for families. One proposal made several years ago that met opposition from parents was to convert the school serving kindergarten through 8th grade students to a middle school run by Bishop Hendricken High School. Enrollment picked up slightly following the closure of St. Francis School on Jefferson Boulevard.
In his letter, Fr. Spina writes, “we have accomplished much together. I thank God for this opportunity to have served you as your pastor.”