St. Charles Church's Rev. Gregory reaches 40-year milestone
09/30/2013 12:38:53 AM EDT
09/30/2013 02:03:08 PM EDT
Rev. Gregory has spent almost 25 years serving Catholics at St. Charles Church, the same church he was baptized in. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
PITTSFIELD -- Rev. Peter Gregory was destined to become pastor of St. Charles Church.
The 74-year-old city native was baptized at St. Charles, his parents were married there and he presided over his mother's funeral at the church in late April 1989-- three weeks after arriving at the Catholic parish on Briggs Avenue.
"It was very painful, but it was meant to be -- it was a sign," recalled Gregory.
The death of Armetta "Mickey" Gregory was also a learning experience for the veteran clergyman.
"It made me know what grieving was about and gave me the compassion, empathy and understanding to be a better priest," he added.
Nearly 25 years later, Gregory's pastoral beginning at St. Charles remains a key moment in his four decades serving Catholics from Pittsfield to Europe.
This year Gregory is celebrating his 40th anniversary of being ordained a priest -- a number of religious significance.
"Forty years is a biblical number of completeness and wholeness," he said, referring to Jesus fasting for 40 days, the forerunner to Lent during the Easter season.
Following the ordination on July 7, 1973, Gregory was named the associate pastor at St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield. He would later hold several other ministerial positions in the Springfield and Albany, N. Y. area before heading overseas to Belgium in 1983. Gregory spent five years as pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Brussels, as well as teaching in Belgium, before returning to the states as chaplain of Mercy Hospital in Springfield.
On April 1, 1989, Gregory was named pastor of St. Charles, one of four remaining Catholic parishes in Pittsfield that has roughly 5,000 communicants.
Longtime church member Eric Brassard, 37, was a 12 year-old altar server when Gregory arrived at St. Charles. He feels fortunate his children, ages 9 and 5, also get to share in the priest's wisdom and spiritual leadership, especially during Sunday Mass at 9:15 a.m.
"We're pretty lucky because Father Gregory makes us feel at ease," Brassard said. "For example, he brings the little kids up to the altar and explains what's going on."
Gregory also serves as chaplain to several groups, including the Pittsfield Fire Department. Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski praised Gregory for working closely with the department on 9/11 remembrance events and being a phone call away, when needed.
"He's always at the ready to help us and willing to sit down and counsel someone," Czerwinski said, "He is a priest for the people."
Prior to entering the priesthood, Gregory served full-time in the Air Force from 1962-66, continuing as a reservist until 1995. He credits the military training with giving him structure, discipline and the experience of the outside world which has served him well as pastor.
Gregory says he's also learned to rely on talented parishioners to help lead the church.
"I never saw myself as an authority figure -- we're all one," he said. "Without the people, there wouldn't be a priesthood."
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