Monday, 4 August 2008

Joy at St. Hilary's in Fort Myers

So I travelled down to Ft. Myers (85 miles south of SRQ) last Saturday to preside at their three Eucharists at St. Hilary’s Church in the absence of the Rector, Bob Hennigan, who is on vacation.

The Parish had kindly offered to pay for my mileage and for an Hotel room, as well as the usual Honorarium. (St. Hilary’s has a Saturday Eucharist, as well as two on Sunday mornings, so an Hotel room was essential).

I have a bit of a history with St. Hilary’s. Pittsfield Parishioners Art and Liz Harrington, together with Charles and Naoma Sammons used to winter in Ft. Myers, and they would worship at St. Hilary’s whilst they were there.

And Gwen Sears’ son Charlie and daughter in law Lori (now divorced) were members at St. Hilary’s, so Gwen knew the parish very well.

And thanks to Lori Sears (now Lori Uhrig) I was a candidate for the Rectorship at St. Hilary’s some eleven years ago.

I took my name out of their search as I perceived the Parish to be much more conservative than I.

There were two “token liberals” on the Search Committee. One, a woman, did a moonlight flit with the male youth Minister soon after St. Hilary’s called Bob Hennigan to be Rector.

The other was Tom Mahlstedt “the only Gay in the Village, i.e. Parish”.

He and I stayed in touch over the years and soon after I moved to SRQ in 2006 I drove down to Ft. Myers one Sunday, attended St. Hilary’s, and had lunch with Tom.
He introduced me to Bob Hennigan.

So Bob, with a most generous heart, invited me to “supply” on a Sunday in 2007.

Tom Mahlstedt has since died. But Bob Hennigan invited me to supply for these three August 2008 weekends.

The Saturday Eucharist was fun, with contemporary music.

My name was not in the bulletin, and I introduced myself as Michael. Following the service a couple asked me “where are you from?” I said “Massachusetts and England”. They asked “are you Michael Povey?” I confessed that truth, and they introduced themselves as Roland and Nancy Poissant, former members of Grace Church, Oxford MA, where my good friend Paul Goranson was Rector.

I was amazed that they remembered me, some 25 years after I’d last seen them.

After the Saturday service I retired to my Hotel room, ate some fast food from a Supermarket, and had a good night’s sleep.

On Sunday morning as I showered I had these thoughts. “It is so good to be alive, and I am so happy that I can exercise my priestly ministry”. Wow! These were great thoughts!

So I was primed for the 8:00 a.m. Eucharist, after which a couple, Tom Vitek and Linda Dugan invited me to stay in their vacant condo on Cape Coral for the next two weekends. This will be much more comfortable than an Hotel, and will save St. Hilary’s about $160.

And at the 10:00 Eucharist I spotted my good friends and former Pittsfield Parishioners Joe and Glenna Vittone, with their grandson Dean. I’ll have lunch with them after service next Sunday.

The six degrees of separation were again at work!

I had a lovely time at St. Hilary’s. I know this will be the case on the next two weekends.


  1. Hello.
    David Gary from Birmingham, Alabama. Tom was a dear friend to me. Before I moved back to Alabama from Fort Myers, we were the only two parish gays. However, I was the liberal and Tom was the conservative. I sure do miss him.

  2. Hello there.
    Tom so often spoke kindly of you.
    I am his old friend, who at the time was the other gay in the parish. However, I was the liberal and Tom the conservative.
    I sure do miss him.