Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Called according to his purpose
Deacon to serve as pastoral life coordinator

April 21, 2021

By Deacon Kevin Mastellon
Contributing Writer

CLAYTON – “I don’t look at this as a new career as much as a new opportunity. Most people 63 years old are looking down the road to retirement. I’m looking down the road to help the church grow, to bring it back if necessary. I want to reach out to people who have felt alienated for some reason and bring them back.”

Deacon Neil Fuller is preparing to become Pastoral Life Coordinator (PLC) of the newly linked parishes of St. Mary’s of Clayton and the Roman Catholic Community of Alexandria with worship sites at St. Cyril Church in Alexandria Bay and St. Francis Xavier Church, Redwood. The appointment is effective July 1.

Fuller will become the second PLC in the diocese. He joins fellow deacon, Brian Dwyer of Chateaugay who oversees the churches of the Catholic Community of Burke and Chateaugay in northern Franklin County.

“I think it is a solid model,” Dwyer said of the position of pastoral life coordinator. “You need the right people in place to make it work; I’m not saying it will work everywhere, there are challenges, but it can work.”

A pastoral life coordinator, sometimes called parish life coordinator, is defined in Canon Law as “another example of lay ecclesial ministry, although it differs in kind from other roles because it exists simply because of the shortage of priests.”

A Catholic conference of bishops document also speaks to the role of the PLC: “Parishes should normally be led by ordained priests. However, in some places and cases, where there are not enough ordained priests, Parish Life Coordinators are appointed as long as the current shortage of priests exists.”

So, the job is technically temporary. A PLC is no longer needed when there are a sufficient number of priests available for appointment as pastors in parishes. Neither Dwyer nor Fuller thinks that will happen in the foreseeable future.

Deacon Dwyer counts on Father Thomas E. Kornmeyer as the Canonical Priest for the parish with worship sites in Chateaugay, Burke, Fort Covington and Constable. Father John J. Looby, a retired priest of the diocese, also assists with the Mass schedule and the institution of sacraments.

Part of the transition for Dwyer was moving his family into the parish rectory.

“That was a big change for the community,” Deacon Dwyer said.

Another huge impact on the community was the necessity to close a number of churches.

“When I started in May 2019, there were four parishes and six worship sites,” Deacon Dwyer said. “By the end of December that year, we had closed one parish and two more worship sites, and I had a vote in closing Holy Family School in Malone, which ironically my kids were going to. It was not easy but had to be done.”

Deacon Fuller comes into his job in the parishes of northern Jefferson County with better prospects.

“I’m not going to have to do what Brian faced,” he said. “The church in LaFargeville (St. John’s) will already be closed. I don’t have to close any schools. The situation is different. I know he (Deacon Dwyer) is very, very busy.”

Deacon Fuller expects his biggest challenge will be meeting the people of the Alexandria Bay and Redwood churches and becoming familiar with their unique practices.

“I expect to be at one Mass in each location every weekend,” Deacon Fuller said.

The two retiring priests will remain in residence at their respective homes in Clayton and Alexandria Bay. Father LaBaff will become the Sacramental Minister (Canonical priest) for the newly linked parishes of Clayton and the Community of Alexandria. Father LaBaff will remain as Dean (Vicar Forane) of the Jefferson and Lewis Deanery), and Father Comstock will live in the rectory in Alexandria Bay.

I expect both of them will respond if someone needs to speak with a priest,” Fuller said.

Educational preparation
Both Deacon Fuller and Deacon Dwyer are ordained. They have successfully completed the four-year deacon formation program prior to ordination. The diocese requires a master’s degree in Church Management or its equivalent for the position of PLC. Fuller needed to complete his undergraduate degree. He received financial assistance for that from the Sisters of St. Joseph Foundation.

The two deacons are completing their master’s degree studies. Deacon Fuller is technically the Interim Pastoral Life Coordinator until he completes the course work and his thesis is accepted.

Deacon Dwyer, 46 years of age, and his wife, Monique, have five children aged 5 to 16. Deacon Fuller is 63. He has one son and two stepsons, all grown and living elsewhere. Deacon Fuller is married to Dee Streets Brabant Fuller. The couple has three grandchildren.

Deacon Fuller will retire from his job as Elderly Nutrition Program Manger for the Jefferson County Office for the Aging. He is also pastoral associate at St. Mary’s and St. John’s. He leaves those positions to become the new PLC.

“I hope to do a lot of good in the next ten years,” Fuller said.

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.