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South Laurel | Montpelier

Longtime assistant at St. Nicholas retires to Detroit [South Laurel/Montpelier]

By Sara Ervin Walser, sara_walser@yahoo.com 301-717-0050

12:00 PM EDT, July 17, 2013

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Parishioners at St. Nicholas Church recently bid farewell to the Rev. Frank Gignac, S.J. who had served for many years as assistant to the pastor. Father Frank, as he likes to be known, assisted regularly at the parish since 1984 when he joined friend and colleague Fr. Vincent Donovan, pastor at that time. As a Jesuit priest, Fr. Frank taught at Fordham University prior to accepting the position of Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at the Catholic University. He jokingly describes himself as "having more degrees than a thermometer," with a bachelor's, two masters and one Doctor of Philosophy. In addition to his priestly duties at St. Nicholas and at Catholic University, he excelled at several sports, including the crew at Oxford University; being a member of an elite group, which has completed 25 Marine Corps marathons; run the Boston Marathon four times, with his best time coming when he was 60; and finished the Cherry Blossom 10-mile race in D.C. for 30 years. In Laurel, he participated for many years as a member of the parish team in the annual race in support of cancer research.

For the St. Nick parishioners, Fr. Frank was known for his thought-provoking homilies on biblical topics, as well as classes in scripture usually presented during Lent. Current pastor, the Rev. John Kennealy, commends Fr. Frank for the support he has provided for six other pastors over the years. Kennealy says, "He could always be counted on to provide helpful service and support." Longtime parish secretary Marion Gould remembers that Fr. Frank was very active in social justice causes and in providing support for recent converts with his mentorship and instruction.

On a personal note, I recall the comfort Fr. Frank provided to me and my family when our son died suddenly at age 19. Several years later, he ushered in a new life to our family when he baptized our granddaughter. Fr. Frank celebrated his 80th birthday in February. He has experienced several health issues in recent years and states that he is "happy to be going home to Detroit," where he is originally from, and where he will be in the company of many Jesuits who have served with him over the years. In his "retirement" he will continue work on a scholarly study of St. John Chrysostom, an early Christian writer. His scholarship, stewardship and fellowship will be sorely missed. Best wishes and Godspeed, Fr. Frank!

Neighbors, take note! The 35th anniversary season of the Montpelier Summer Concerts sponsored by the South Laurel Recreation Council is underway. Concerts are scheduled for July 12, 19, 26 and Aug 9. Events are held on the Montpelier Mansion lawn at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. Enjoy the great music and summertime fun!