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Match made in heaven

Our Lady of the Angels pastor now calls Charlestown home

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October 22nd, 2013
Our Lady of the Angels pastor now calls Charlestown home
charlestown-chapel.jpg

From the moment Father Leo Larrivee first set foot on St. Charles Seminary in 1969 until the day 20 years ago when he accepted the position of pastor at Charlestown s Our Lady of the Angels Chapel, he has always felt a connection to the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community. But now, his love for the historic community has taken on new meaning as he proudly calls Charlestown home. From my earliest days of working here, I always felt it would be a great place to live, says Father Leo. A priest of the Society of St. Sulpice, Father Leo had planned to teach at St. Charles Seminary after graduating, but lost the opportunity when the seminary closed in 1977. We all wondered what would happen to the chapel, says Father Leo. If John Erickson hadn t moved forward with his plans to build Charlestown, there s no telling if it would still be here today.

Coming home

In 1994, while teaching at St. Mary s Seminary in Baltimore, Father Leo got the call he had previously been hoping for: the Sulpicians, who owned Our Lady of the Angels, were looking for a new pastor for the chapel. My superior, Father Ed Frazer, said he always felt I had a special connection with older people and thatCharlestownwould be a good fit. So when I heard about the opportunity, I jumped at the chance. It was later than I had hoped, but I felt I had finally come home, says Father Leo. The chapel is used now more than ever by the Catholic parish, Protestant community for ecumenical services, and for the community s concert series. In 2009, Father Leo wrote a book chronicling the history of Our Lady of the Angels titledA Celebration in Color and Light. Over the last two decades, he has performed 34 baptisms and 95 weddings in the chapel many he fondly recalls today. My very first wedding in the chapel was for two residents, Ann and Andy Koerner, says Father Leo. There was another time during a baptism rehearsal where I was worried about getting a resident s hair wet. The resident turned to me and said, It s no problem, and took her wig off. Surprised, I said to her, Maybe we should skip that part during the Mass. As the years passed and Father Leo neared retirement age himself, he began to entertain the idea of moving to the community. I was tired of driving across town from my apartment near Loyola College every day, he says. I was looking forward to the time where I could sit and watch the snow and not worry about driving in it. In 2011, he joined the priority list and put his plans into action. Years ago I visited a Charlestown resident who had a recessed balcony, and I remember thinking that if I ever moved here that would be just the kind of apartment I would want, he says. Less than two weeks later, he received a call that an apartment with a recessed balcony was available. I could not believe how fast it happened, and maybe that was just as well, says Father Leo. I just put myself on automatic and went with it.

Perfect ending

A year and a half later, he says it was the best move he has ever made. I have loved every day of it, especially last winter when I woke up to a beautiful coating of snow in the woods, says Father Leo. At first, people thought I was crazy moving in that I wouldn t get a moment s peace, but that hasn t been the case at all. The people who live here have always been like family to me. They have been very respectful of the fact that my office and the chapel are my public spaces, and my apartment is my personal space. While he hasn t given up his day job, when he s not working Father Leo now does what other Charlestown residents have been doing for years living life to the fullest! I walk every morning, swim three to four days a week, go to dinner with friends I couldn t be happier here, he says. I hope to be here for the rest of my days, however many that may be.

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