Friar John Daya
OFM Cap. Pastor
Our Holy Redeemer community enthusiastically welcomed our pastor, Fr. John Daya. Fr. John comes to St. John's, and Holy Redeemer after serving nine years as pastor at Our Lady of the Angels, a large urban parish in Pittsburgh.
Fr. John was born Kulpmont, a small mining town in north central Pennsylvania. One of four children, Fr. John first felt a call to the priesthood as an adolescent. He entered the Capuchin-Franciscans when he graduated from high school. For thirteen years, Fr. John served as a Capuchin brother in a variety of capacities including as a CCD instructor, a chef, and a therapist. While he enjoyed being a Brother, Fr. John felt a call to the priesthood. He was ordained a priest on July 8, 1978 in order to "be able to minister to the people in the sacraments."
As a new priest, Fr. John initially served as a vocations recruiter for his community. This assignment brought him to Philadelphia regularly as a speaker at the many Catholic high schools in the area. In 1988, Fr. John was assigned as pastor of St. Joseph's, a very large (7000 households!) suburban parish in York, PA, where he led a campaign to build a new church. His unusually long assignment there allowed him to enjoy the church that he and the parish community had worked so hard to build. During that time, Fr. John also served on his community's provincial council. In that capacity, he was part of the team that negotiated with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to allow the Capuchin friars to serve our community at St. John's. He reports, "Even then, I hoped that one day I'd return to St. John's to serve the people here. In 2001, Fr. John became the pastor of Our Lady of the Angels in Pittsburgh. However this year, when his commun ity asked him if he would be interested in being assigned as he pastor at St. John's, he replied, "yes, without hesitation, accepting the assignment enthusiastically. It felt life-giving for me."
As a new pastor, Fr. John "invites everyone to adopt the shared vision of making St. John's the most vibrant, life-giving community possible...my hope is that along with the leadership groups here I can help to make St. John's an even more welcoming community. The church needs to be more inclusive, not exclusive." His experience building community and raising funds for building projects will surely help our community grow at this important juncture in the life of our parish, as we work to rebuild our aging church and to re-energize our faith community.
When he isn't ministering, Fr. John favors an active lifestyle. He prefers to be outdoors and enjoys parks and nature, biking, golfing, or even just walking through the city for a stroll in Rittenhouse Square. He loves the theater, and Wicked recently topped Phantom of the Opera as his favorite musical! He also recommends the popular book "The Shack," which he read recently and found to be interesting and engaging. Fr. John has also been active in Rachel's Vineyard, a group that ministers to individuals struggling to overcome the trauma of abortion. Fr. John notes, "I intend to stay involved in that; it's a very powerful ministry."
Fr. John looks forward to meeting us all and finds "the melting pot of cultures and people at St. John's to be very exciting." If you would like to speak with him more extensively, you can reach him by e-mail or by calling the parish office. He continues, "I really love people. I love to be of service to the people in any way possible, whether it be preaching, anointing of the sick, or any of the sacraments."
We welcome Fr. John to St. John's and Holy Redeemer, and we look forward to being of service to each other as we continue to grow as a community of conviction.
Friar Tom Betz
OFM Cap., coordinator for Chinese Apostolate
Fr. Tom, a native of Western Pennsylvania, graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Psychology from St. Fidelis College in 1979. Four years later he graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh with a Juris Doctor degree. He practiced law in Pittsburgh, specializing in litigation, until 1986 when he began studies for the priesthood. He received a Masters Degree in Theology from the Catholic University of America in 1990 and was ordained a priest in 1991.
Father Tom came to St. John’s as parochial vicar in 1991 and served in that position until 1995. Also in 1991 he was appointed Coordinator of the Chinese Apostolate for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia which included responsibility for Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church and School, a position he currently holds. Because Holy Redeemer is a mission of St. John’s, our pastor, Fr. Frank, is also the pastor of Holy Redeemer. Fr. Tom, however, oversees the day to day operations of the parish and school. In addition to residing at St. John’s, he continues to participate in the ministry of St. John’s by celebrating or concelebrating the 7:45 am Mass most weekdays.
Under his leadership, the school has increased from 160 students to 290 students.In addition, the parish has built a new classroom and community center and renovated the former convent into a medical clinic to serve uninsured Asian immigrants. Fr. Tom has also served for 17 years on the Board of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation and was actively engaged in the building of 75 units of housing for Chinatown. He is currently Chairman of the Board.
From 1995 – 2003, Fr. Tom served as Director of the Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees for the Archdiocese, supervising all of the pastoral work of the Catholic Church among immigrants.This work included legal assistance and advocacy as well as significant work organizing immigrant communities.
Since 2003, Fr. Tom has been the Vocation Director for the Capuchin Province of St. Augustine. During this time, the number of young men in various stages of formation for the priesthood and brotherhood has increased from 10 to 46 and the Padre Pio Friary was established in West Philadelphia as a residence for postulants. Currently there are 10 postulants living in the Friary and they serve each year as greeters to the thousands of people who come to St. John’s on Ash Wednesday.
Fr. Tom is also a Definitor of the St. Augustine Province. In this capacity he serves with three other friars in advising the Provincial in the administration of the Province. With 116 current Friars and thanks in part of Father’s work as Vocation Director, more men seeking admission each year, the responsibilities of a Definitor continue to expand. It is good that he has a supply of quiet energy that seems inexhaustible.
Fortunately Fr. Tom’s work has not gone unnoticed. In 1991 he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Volunteer Program for the Indigent. In 2001 he received the Distinguished Service Award for Ethnic Ministry from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2003 Fr. Tom received the Benemerenti Medal and in 2009, the St. Thomas More Award from the Philadelphia Bar Association.