Fort Myers parish lauds new pastor

FORT MYERS  |  The St. Francis Xavier Parish community was in a celebratory mood the third Sunday of Advent, Guadete Sunday, as its pastor was formally installed Dec. 11.

Bishop Frank Dewane presided the installation Mass of Father Anthony Hewitt. The bishop said the installation of a pastor is a strong punctuation mark in the life of any Parish. “It is a time to take pause; to reflect on the past; and to begin again,” he said.

He said it was appropriate the installation took place on Gaudete Sunday, which means rejoice. It marks the midpoint in Advent and celebrating priests wear rose-colored vestments. The change in color encourages the faithful to rejoice as they spiritually prepare, especially through prayer and fasting, for Christmas.

“Let everyone rejoice in this moment,” the bishop said. “As pastor, Father Anthony will be asked to serve in many capacities. Each pastor brings different gifts and talents to the Parish. This means no two are alike. But always remember to listen to father and know that each decision he makes will be weighed with the good of all in mind. Sometimes the answer is no, sometimes it will be yes. No matter what, support him as you move forward, united in your faith journey.”

Bishop Dewane said that the presence of the faithful is a clear sign of support for Father Hewitt and ensures that he will succeed as pastor of St. Francis Xavier.

Originally founded as a Jesuit mission in 1889 about a half-mile from the Caloosahatchee River, it was originally called Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mission. In 1890, the mission was renamed in honor of St. Francis Xavier and received full parish status in 1910. The current church was built in 1961. The parish has about 1,500 registered families and a Catholic school.

As part of the installation process, Bishop Dewane cited the compelling needs for a pastor and introduced Father Hewitt. For the profession of faith, Father Hewitt recited an additional part solely for him before all joined in the prayer. At the conclusion, additional words from Father Hewitt concluded the prayer. As a new pastor, Father Hewitt then recited the oath of fidelity in which, with hands upon the Gospels, he promised to “adhere to the teachings, which either the Roman pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise authentic magisterium.” The installation also includes prayers to provide the new Pastor wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to lead the parish.

The ceremony concluded with the signing of documents by the bishop, the new pastor and two official witnesses of the parish community, who serve as witnesses for all of the parishioners. Present for the installation were several members of Father Hewitt’s family, including his mother. Following the Mass, a reception was held in the parish hall.