Fr. Fitzpatrick finds fulfillment teaching far from home

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RVCJ

Fr. Paul Fitzpatrick made sure all his books are with him to help him as he teaches scripture in Chaminade.

For as long as Fr. Paul Fitzpatrick can remember, he has always loved the scripture. He loved reading about it, learning about it and teaching it. However, when Chaminade President and co-member of the Marianist Church Bro. Bernard Ploeger called him in 2009 to teach scripture in Chaminade, he found himself slightly hesitant

The job offer was to teach scripture to the permanent deacons of the Diocese of Honolulu and to CUH undergraduates. Fitzpatrick is a well-traveled man, and he was going to be doing something he loved and is well-trained for, but still had to think things through because the New York native would be traveling close to 5,000 miles away from home.

“This is such a move,” Fitzpatrick said. “I found it very rewarding, and yet it is hard being five time zones away from where my whole life was. I moved up and down in the East Coast and it’s not like Baltimore where, if I wanted to visit my family in New York, it was a four-hour drive. If you’re in Boston, it’s a four-hour drive.”

Ultimately, he knew the job was a good fit for him and accepted it. After hauling 37 boxes of books and two steamer trunks of his other belongings, he moved to Hawaii and has been teaching scripture in Chaminade since he arrived in 2010.

Fitzpatrick was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1946. When he was 4, his family moved to Long Island where he grew up. He went to Chaminade High School in Long Island where he was introduced to the Marianist Church, an order he would be happily serving to this day.

His next stop was Dayton, Ohio, where he would attend a scholasticate, a college-level community where those preparing to teach with the Marianists gather together. He stayed there until 1968.

After graduating, he lived and taught in Baltimore for 12 years, Florida for eight and a half years, Puerto Rico for three years and in the Boston area, for 12 years.

He also went abroad to Rome for his graduate studies for three years and spent a semester in Israel.

“When you come from a different area of the U.S., just coming from the mainland to Hawaii, it’s a real enculturation when you have something to offer here from the culture there,” said Bro. John Campbell, who lived with Fitzpatrick in Florida and is a recent retiree as a counselor and psychologist in St. Louis High School. “You learn from each other. (Fr. Fitzpatrick) does that. … Personally, he is a fantastic teacher, and he also has a spiritual dimension that influences his life.”

The Marianist brothers ordained Fitzpatrick as a priest in 1977. It was the uncommon route for a Marianist member. They are a community of about 1,500 members worldwide and is about two-thirds brothers, one-third priests. Most of the people usually join the Marianists to serve people in ministry as a brother rather than to be a priest. Fitzpatrick loved being a brother and the apostolic missions he did as a brother, but according to him, being a priest suits him well.

“I knew it was right for me to be a priest,” Fitzpatrick said. “It gives me a forum to get connected to people and serve them. I’m very satisfied as a priest and I think it was the right decision.”

Not only is he able to serve the people, but by celebrating the Holy Eucharist and hearing confessions, he is able to serve the brothers of the Marianists through such sacraments.

Aside from his duties as a teacher and a priest, he puts effort into helping people in Israel, which he has visited 17 times. Through his travels, he saw the hardships that the people of that region experiences. He donates what he can to various groups that help the people afflicted by the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

“The government there is unhealthy and unjust,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m very concerned about the injustice, and I try to support them with what money I’m allowed to give.”

Now 65, Fitzpatrick says he plans to spend about nine more years in Chaminade teaching the deacons – a job that he says has been fulfilling for him. The Diocese of Honolulu will soon bring in one more group of deacons to whom he will be teaching scripture and inter-religion studies. Another group will be recruited and brought to Honolulu by 2016, and he will be teaching them as well. He has volunteered to be a pastor in Amman, Jordan in the summer of 2013.

“I am happy to be part of the Marianist and their mission.” Fitzpatrick said. “My work here supports the effort of the order and we make a significant contribution to the life of the church. We make a significant contribution to the world in which we live.”