Mount Pleasant staff reacts to Father Federline’s death
By Melissa Williams Brown
Parishioners of the Mount Pleasant parishes of St. Pius X and Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary experienced many losses since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Popular festivals were canceled, holiday celebrations were put on hold, fish fries were drive-through only, missals and holy water disappeared, the choir’s voices fell silent, and far too many parishioners passed way.
And on Nov. 8, Mount Pleasant’s faithful were dealt another blow when their beloved pastor, Father Thomas A. Federline, lost his battle with the virus that changed so much in a year’s time.
“Father Federline was a new pastor who was trying to get acclimated and getting to know his new flock. He struggled with that because he wanted to get to know his parishioners but couldn’t,” said Joe Klocek, facilities and business manager for both parishes.
“Before you knew it, everything was shut down,” recalls Klocek. He talked to Father Federline on a daily basis and describes him as “the holiest priest he ever knew.”
Klocek said Father Federline had a Podcast of prayers. He told Klocek about a different saint every day and stories about each. Father Federline asked Klocek if he could find a calendar featuring a different saint every month of the year. Klocek was able to fulfill his wish.
He said Father Federline had a unique blend of being fiscally responsible and very spiritual.
“We thought he turned the corner. Everyone was hopeful. That turned out not to be the case,” said Klocek.
Linda Amdy, secretary for both parishes, said though Father Federline wasn’t in Mount Pleasant all that long, it seemed quite the opposite.
She said he was so kind, patient and understanding. Father Federline fit right in with the small, close-knit office staff. And though he’s been ill, it’s still a shock for them.
What stuck out most for Amdy is that Father Federline was such a prayerful, spiritual pastor who always went to Mass early to pray.
“When pastors get moved, it’s hard enough. He’s going to be missed in Mount Pleasant. It won’t be the same without himm,” said Amdy.
Christy Cabaniss, pastoral associate and director of faith formation for both parishes, was hired by Father Federline on Sept. 7. Two weeks later, he tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s still such a shock. The last few weeks have been such a struggle. We have all been praying and hoping he would be able to get to some kind of retirement. But eternal reward is the best retirement,” said Cabaniss.
“He was such a sweet, gentle priest who was also funny. He had big plans for the parish. He’s worked so hard,” said Cabaniss.
Barb Golobish, a parishioner of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, who spearheaded the parish’s annual summer festival, said she is going to miss Father Federline.
She told Father Federline how it was the largest fund-raiser of the year and he was looking forward to it.
“He was such a caring and dedicated priest. You could see his sincerity and his love for God and the church,” said Golobish.
She said he gave such comfort to families of loved ones who were hospitalized and near death.
She recalls Father Federline attending a Christian Mothers’ meeting.
“You could hear the dedication in his voice. It was such a shock to find out he was ill. We all kept praying. Apparently God needs him in heaven,” said Golobish.
Kathy Janesko, an active and longtime parishioner of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, is disappointed she didn’t get to know Father Federline due to the pandemic.
She said he seemed very spiritual and attended a Christian Mothers’ meeting and took great interest in all that the group does. She fondly recalls his devotion to praying the rosary.
Connie Barnhart, a lifetime parishioner of St. Pius X Parish and office assistant for both parishes, said “the last six weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions since Father Tom got sick. Each week or so we would get an update of his progress … sometimes good, sometimes bad.”
She said that “all of us continued our prayers for Father Tom. Without a pastor for so long, we felt like orphans. Father Paul Lisik (administrator pro-tem of the two parishes) met with us and lifted our spirits.
“When the news came out that Father Tom passed away, we were shocked. We had all hoped and prayed for his recovery, but God had his own plan. I think Father’s lengthy hospital stay was God’s way of preparing us to be without him,” said Barnhart.
“Even though it is a sad time, we as Catholics rejoice because we know that Father Tom is at peace in the presence of the Lord,” she said.