Although he is soon to leave the Westminster parish he has called home for five years, the Rev. David Pietropaoli is still working for the children he calls its future.
Two weeks ago, the man whose many duties included the youth ministry at St. John Catholic Church led one last retreat for 32 teen-agers. During the three days of prayer, mixed with sports, at a camp in Pennsylvania, the children "really inspired me," he said.
"By the second day, they had decided it was OK to be Catholic," he said. "They participated in the liturgy -- often sang at the top of their lungs -- and offered good comments in our discussions."
If the church offers its young members its message, "they will be open to it," he said. "The church has a future with the youth."
Before he packed his own books last week, he unpacked the new catechisms children will study in the fall.
"I want to finish all the work, so I can go in peace," said the priest.
As associate pastor at St. John, Father Pietropaoli also has led the adult education program, served as chaplain to the Knights of Columbus and taught a theology course at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg.
He will say his last Mass at the Monroe Street church at noon July 24. In September, he will travel to Rome to complete work on a doctorate in theology, a two-year project.
Taking leave of the parish, "which has become my family," will be hard, he said.
"I will miss the kindness, tenderness and beauty of the people and the countryside," he said. "Carroll County is a beautiful place with a lot of beautiful people.
"I'm not a rambler. I like roots, stability and a place to call home."
The Archdiocese of Baltimore transfers associate pastors every five years. While the 41-year-old priest obeys the policy, he questions it.
"The priesthood is the instrument of faith in the lives of people," he said. "It helps more if you know those people."
His weekly homilies follow the same themes but, after five years, "I can word them in a way that I know touches people here."
He defers to the authority of his church, he said.
"There are other sheep I must tend," he said, paraphrasing Scripture.
"You have to be disposed for the work of the church wherever it might be."
Before he accepts another parish assignment, Father Pietropaoli will return to the seminary at the Gregorian University in Rome, where he was ordained in 1984.
He will leave for Italy on Sept. 7, after taking time to "brush up on my languages."
The yearlong research that precedes his thesis writing requires reading aptitude in five languages. He said he is comfortable with English, Italian, French and Spanish, but his German is a little rusty.
By July 1996, he said, he will be ready for a new assignment, which he hopes will be at another parish.
"I would miss parish life too much if I wasn't reassigned," he said. "Parishioners have enthusiasm for the faith, the church and for discipleship."
The Rev. John Dobranski, the new associate pastor, will arrive at St. John on Aug. 1 from St. Andrew by the Bay in Annapolis.