New priests join St. Monica

St. Monica Church: Father Patrick Freitag (pastor), left, and Father Anthony Davis (parochial vicar). - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
St. Monica Church: Father Patrick Freitag (pastor), left, and Father Anthony Davis (parochial vicar).
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

After a year without a permanent priest, Mercer Island’s St. Monica Church has two new priests to minister to its faith community.

Rev. Patrick Freitag, the newly appointed pastor, and Rev. Anthony Davis, appointed as parochial vicar, arrived on the Island in early July.

The two could not have come from more different backgrounds.

Davis, 49, is a native of Ghana, where he was a priest for 24 years. He is the fifth-born out of a family with nine children and was raised, as he explained, “through the help and guidance of my strict and principled parents.” He had wanted to be a barrister of the law, but was moved to change his profession when a Dutch priest came to speak at his church. From that day forward, he wrote in a biography posted on St. Monica’s Web site, “the zeal of my Father’s house began to consume me.”

English is the official language of the former British colony. Along with English, Davis also speaks Fante, one of the many dialects spoken in Ghana. He comes to the Island from a parish with over a thousand people and some 30 missionary villages that range in size from a handful of Catholics to 200 or so. There was just one other priest. It all required a great deal of planning, he said. “We had to plan our itinerary many weeks ahead.” Many of the missions, he said, can only be reached on foot and require walking long distances through some untamed territory. But he had no worries about the lions that are nearby. “God is good,” he smiled. “Just maybe some snakes.”

When asked if he was surprised by what he saw and felt when he arrived, he said that the people here are very involved and devout. It was not his impression from afar about the American church.

“The people [here] are ready to worship.”

But in the United States, “you have to learn to make it snappy,” he said with a smile, explaining that Mass in his country is usually much, longer than an hour.

In a sense, Freitag is returning to the place where his vocation first took root.

In 1985, the Seattle-born Freitag lived in the Shorewood Apartments with his brother, John, and was a member of St. Monica. He left to attend graduate school, and when he returned, he moved to Juanita but commuted to St. Monica to attend Mass. He became very involved in the young adult programs before he left for the seminary in 1991.

Freitag, 46, also came to his vocation after working in the corporate world for a time in the late 80s. After working for PACCAR in international sales of big trucks for a few years, he entered a seminary in British Columbia. He was ordained a priest in 1996. He has been ministering in western Washington ever since, including assignments in Everett and Bellingham. Before coming to St. Monica, he spent nine years as the pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea in Bremerton.

Freitag is now involved in Archdiocesan work in continuing education and the formation of clergy. He is a member of the National Federation of Priests and a program facilitator of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He is a trustee of the Fulcrum Foundation, which supports parochial education in the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The two are joining the parish a year after former pastor Rev. Dennis Kemp was investigated for inappropriate conduct and voluntarily left St. Monica. The church has been run by the parish staff and Rev. Negusse Keleta, a parochial vicar and two deacons.

They have been unpacking and settling in, spending a good deal of time meeting and greeting the St. Monica parish community. Along the way, between visiting the sick and performing liturgies, both have been to Tent City 4 to offer their help and ministry. They agree that their mission is to continue the good works and dynamic energy of the parish. They hope to further engage both adults and teens in their faith community.

While many things are new to Fr. Davis, now living in the U.S. after visiting only twice before, Freitag said he is very surprised by all of the growth in the Town Center. He is even more amazed at the amount of traffic on I-405, even in early afternoons.

In between their duties, Freitag has been showing Davis around. He took him out to dinner on the Island one evening to a place that he remembered from before; a less-than-glamorous and now long-gone Chinese restaurant with good food but a rather notorious smoky bar. The two steeled themselves as they entered the place that Freitag remembered. But pleasantly, it was all completely different, much nicer and without the smoke.

Change is good, they agreed.

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