The Daily Times
SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — It’s not about him.
Yes, the Rev. Edward Aigner acknowledged June 1 that he is retiring at the end of the month after 16 years leading St. Francis de Sales church in Salisbury, the lower Eastern Shore’s largest Roman Catholic congregation.
But the church will go on because it’s bigger than one man, he said.
“They are the church. It’s not a building or a person. It’s the people,” Aigner said in an interview after a typically busy Sunday morning of worship services.
Retiring a few weeks after his 70th birthday “just seemed the right time to let a younger person take on the duties,” he added.
Effective June 25, that person will be the Rev. Christopher LaBarge, 61, the church’s associate pastor for the past five years.
Michele Harris, the pastoral minister, said Aigner was instrumental in building the church into what it is today. Notably, he presided over the construction of a parish center and its subsequent second- and third-floor additions.
Sunday brought the newest parish amenity: a sweeping gray-brick patio at the entrance of the church, which will serve as a gathering place after masses. It was a fitting final project for a leader who placed so much emphasis on strengthening the church’s communal spirit, Harris said.
“He believes that a parish community provides services for everyone,” she said. “Like a family, things are fair and just.”
Stefan Antony, 20, said Aigner “demonstrates a lot of courage and leadership for the church.”
One of the reasons he came to have such a high opinion of his pastor: It was Aigner who gave Antony and the church’s 10 to 15 Malayalam-speaking families the support they needed to host services in the Indian language on certain key dates on the Christian calendar.
Aigner, a native of Philadelphia, was pastor at Holy Name of Jesus church in Pocomoke City and led a prison ministry at the Eastern Correctional Institution before joining St. Francis. He has been a priest for 42 years and doesn’t plan to truly retire anytime soon.
He plans to return to ministering at ECI three days a week and filling in at area church services, he said.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)