by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
LEAVENWORTH — Father David McEvoy, OCarm., thought he’d be spending the next year on sabbatical following his 20-year assignment at Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish here.
But that all changed May 26 when he received word that he was elected the next vice prior provincial for the Carmelite Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.
He was officially installed in the new position by the prior general in Rome on June 25 via a Zoom meeting, and moved to province headquarters in Darien, Illinois, after his pastoral ministry at Immaculate Conception-St. Joseph Parish ended July 1.
“I knew it was a possibility. I just didn’t think it would be a probability,” said Father David. “I was definitely surprised.”
The Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary is one of about 20 Carmelite provinces around the world and is made up of about 150 men — from novice to solemn vows — from the United States, Canada, Peru, Mexico and El Salvador.
Elections for the council are held every three years at the provincial chapter (convention) at the end of June. But because COVID-19 restrictions required the meeting to be postponed until 2021, each of the Carmelites in the province voted by mail for the new officers — one provincial, one vice prior provincial and four provincial counselors. The names on each ballot were based on weighted nominations earlier in the year.
Father David said not only was his election a surprise, but the speed of his election was, too.
“I won it on the first ballot with [more than 51 percent] of the votes,” he said.
In his new role, Father David will answer to the newly elected prior provincial, Father Carl Marklez. Early discussions of the work he will undertake have included vocation work and intern director, two things Father David said he feels prepared for after 24 years of parish ministry, 10 years of vocation and formation work, and five years as a novice director.
“I feel as prepared as you can be for any job. I was never a pastor before I came [to IC-SJ], so I just said, ‘God will direct me,’” he said. “That’s how I felt about this.”
“Transitions are always hard, and I learned that I have to give myself at least a year to be comfortable in the new position,” explained Father David. “Some of the best things I ever did was . . . to move to a new position. But when you’re doing it, it is kind of hard because you’re leaving some place that is familiar and everybody knows you and you’ve proven yourself and now you’re going to a place where nobody knows you.”
A familiar place is an understatement as Father David prepares to leave not just the assignment he’s held the past 20 years, but his hometown and his home parish.
Father David was born and raised in Leavenworth, attending St. Joseph School and Immaculata High School. He left for about six years to attend college and graduate school but came back when he was 24 and was active in the parish for the next five years before deciding to become a priest.
“I’ll miss the people. The people of the parish have been so good to me,” said Father David. “And my family is here, my own family and my parish family.
“Then there’s just something beautiful about our churches. The churches themselves have a lot of meaning for me.”
But overall, Father David is ready to give back to the Carmelite community.
“I’m very grateful that the Carmelites allowed me to stay here for 20 years — as long as my mother was here — so that was a real blessing . . . and allowed me to serve in my home parish for so long,” Father David said.
“If I can serve the order,” he added, “I’m happy to do that. I hope that I can be of some concrete service to the men of the province.”