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Priest steps down after 31 years here

June 26, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN

The Rev. George Limmer does not remember a time when he didn't want to be a Roman Catholic priest. He entered the seminary at the age of 13, his first year of high school.

Most of his years in the church have been spent in Hagerstown at St. Mary Catholic Church. His last day in the parish will be Friday.

"I remember wanting to be a priest when I was in grade school ... sixth or seventh grade," Limmer said.

After 12 years of religious training, Limmer was ordained a priest in 1964 and moved to the St. Mary parish in 1975.

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Limmer, 67, stayed in Hagerstown for 31 years.

"It came time for me to move, and I decided not to accept the offer they made me. I wanted to stay here," he said.

Thirty-one years is a long time to be in one job.

"I have been here long enough that I have baptized babies, then married them when they got older, then baptized their babies," Limmer said.

In those 31 years, Limmer has seen the parish grow and change. About 200 families have joined the parish in that time, he said.

Four classrooms have been added to St. Mary School and lay people have taken more responsibility for the parish in recent years, Limmer said.

The parish's population had been aging, but Limmer said that with new families moving into the area, he now hears babies "coo" and "make baby sounds" during Mass.

Limmer is not the only one leaving. The parish's other priest, the Rev. Robert Morey, will also be leaving June 30. He is transferring to another parish, Limmer said.

The Rev. Kevin Mueller will be transferring to St. Mary from St. John in Westminster, Md., where he has been administrator for six months, Limmer said.

The parish does not know when or if a replacement for Morey will arrive.

When Limmer arrived at St. Mary three decades ago, three priests were responsible for the parish, Limmer said. Now, the parish faces life with only one pastor, which reflects a national priest shortage.

Limmer attributed the lack of priests to social values.

"It's a societal thing where people don't want to make a lifelong commitment," Limmer said.

He made reference to a divorce rate of more than 50 percent as another example of a lack of commitment.

"People don't have the same lifelong commitment to something they've had in the past," he said.

Limmer said he rejected the idea that men avoid the priesthood because of the no-marriage rule.

"Other denominations have problems, and they allow marriage," Limmer said.

Limmer decided it was time to retire for one simple reason.

"I got tired," he said. "Not the people side of it, but the bureaucracy side of it."

Limmer said he owns a house in the area, and he will continue to serve local churches when he is needed.

"If I retire, I can still be a priest and do what I like, do what I've been trained to do but without all the bureaucratic overhead," he said.

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