Immaculate Conception Church in Elkton, Md., and its mission church, St. Jude in North East, Md., are now in the pastoral care of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
Oblate Father James R. Yeakel began his ministry March 1 at the parish during a Mass concelebrated with Father Anthony Giamello, a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington, who was serving as administrator.
In a letter to parishioners, Bishop Malooly announced that the Oblates’ provincial, Father Jim Greenfield, accepted pastoral care of the parish for the Oblates and requested Father Yeakel serve as pastor.
The bishop in his letter to parishioners called Father Yeakel “well suited to continue the good pastoring of Immaculate Conception Church,” and added, “I know that you will welcome Father Jim Yeakel and the gift of Salesian spirituality that all Oblates bring to their ministry.”
Bishop Malooly appointed Father Giamello chaplain of St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington and associate pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Castle.
Father Giamello, in his letter to parishioners before his transfer, welcomed Father Yeakel and noted the Oblates, whose DeSales Centre Oblate Community is nearby in Childs, Md., have often had a priest helping at the parish, most recently Father Tony Larry.
Bishop Malooly’s letter noted that the Oblates have been in Childs since 1907, when they opened a novitiate there.
“As Bishop, I see [Oblate ministry at Immaculate Conception] as a natural extension of the Oblate presence at Childs, as well as that of the Oblate Sisters.” Oblate ministry at the parish will “consolidate their Salesian presence in the Elkton area and be an asset to the entire diocese.”
Father Yeakel said this week that Father Giamello and associate pastor Father John Solomon have been “incredibly hospitable in welcoming me and the parishioners have been likewise.”
The new pastor said he knows the two diocesan priests at the parish will be missed. “They were good priests for the community here,” he said.
Father Solomon, a diocesan priest, is remaining at the Elkton parish until June, while Father Giamello has begun his duties at Our Lady of Fatima and St. Mark’s.
Elkton is a familiar community to its new pastor.
“When I began my Oblate life it was at the farm over there in Childs,” Father Yeakel said. “And I spent four summers here when we had a camp on the Elk River, Camp Brisson. I have fond memories of that as a lifeguard and sailing instructor. I have fond memories in general of the Chesapeake area.”
Father Yeakel entered the Oblates in 1967 after North Catholic High School in Philadelphia and will be ordained 35 years this May. He received a master’s in theology at the former DeSales School of Theology in Washington, D.C., and holds a doctorate in clinical social work from Virginia Commonwealth University.
He has also worked at St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring, Md., and at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York.
Most recently, he was associate pastor of Our Mother of Consolation Parish in Philadelphia.
“My first goal is to learn everything about the parish,” Father Yeakel said.
That parish education began last weekend when he celebrated three Masses, was called away to anoint a parishioner, and celebrated a Mass at Immaculate Conception School on Wednesday.
The Oblate ministry Father Yeakel is beginning at Immaculate Conception isn’t the first. In addition to Father Larry and other Oblates who have helped at the parish over the years, a previous pastor from 1938 to 1946, Father George Cresswell, was also an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales.