Newly ordained Father Mark Pattock comes home to Natrona
After about 30 years, Mark Pattock came home to Harrison's Natrona section Sunday, but it was no ordinary homecoming.
Born and raised in Natrona, he returned as Father Mark Pattock, after being ordained a priest on Saturday.
Pattock, 48, celebrated his first Mass at 2 p.m. at St. Joseph Parish, the former St. Ladislaus Church, with friends and family. It is the church he attended as a boy and where he received the Catholic sacraments.
“This church for me holds many memories,” he said as he began his homily.
Pointing toward the confessional at one side of the church, he said, “Over there is where I received my first penance — and for many times afterward,” which prompted knowing laughter from about 70 people gathered for the Mass.
“This is a very special place for me, and this is why I wanted to say my first Mass here,” he said.
Among the beautiful frescoes and statues of the old church, Pattock was surrounded by about a dozen Capuchin Franciscan brothers whom he came to know on his long path to the priesthood.
Discussing that path after Mass, he said, “It is not a diocesan model; it's from consecrated religious life.”
Shortly after he graduated from Highlands High School, Pattock's family moved to Coatesville, about 30 miles from Philadelphia. In his mid-20s, he joined the Third Order of St. Francis, a lay order in Philadelphia.
During that time, Pattock worked in landscape architecture and for 10 years in executive services at ARCO Chemical.
“I had always had a very deep prayer life and when my father passed away, I stayed with my mother for many years,” Pattock said. “I came to a time in my life where I had to make a commitment in my own life, and I felt the Lord was calling me in various ways.”
In 2000, he entered into the Capuchin Franciscan friars and took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Franciscans, established by St. Francis of Assisi, dedicate themselves to service and live together in a brotherhood, or friary, similar to the way nuns live in a convent.
Pattock spent the next decade working in ministries and developing his vocation through the Franciscan Order — including taking permanent vows and donning the Capuchins' brown, hooded robe.
He also earned degrees in philosophy and theology at St. Mary University of Baltimore and Catholic University in Washington, D.C., in preparation for the priesthood.
Since September, Pattock has been serving in the area, assigned as a deacon at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in the Village of Herman in Summit, Butler County. The parish also staffs St. Joseph Church in Winfield.
He is part of the Province of St. Augustine, based in Lawrenceville, and lives in a friary in Herman.
Pattock said it was wonderful to be assigned to a church so close to his hometown but said he does not know if that is where he will remain.
He said he was looking forward to Sunday's service.
“You feel maybe a little nervous, but more excitement because I know I've prepared a long time for this day,” he said.
His mother, Barbara Pattock; his sister. Andrea; and brother, Army 1st Sgt. Jeffrey Pattock, sat at the front of the church with his maternal grandmother, Helen Sadowski, 92, a lifelong Natrona resident. All of them referred to Pattock's ordination as “a blessing.”
His grandmother and mother said they always knew he would become a priest.
“You never heard him swear or anything else,” Sadowski said. “He was always a good, clean-cut kid ever since he was little. He went with me everywhere.”
“He has a lot of spirituality and love of God,” his mother said. “We're really proud of him.”
Jeffrey Pattock said his friends in the Army noted that they have both ends of an old military motto covered.
“He's got God and I've got country,” he said with a smile.
“It's an awesome feeling and humbling at the same time,” Pattock said. “And, to do this in my old home parish, it's beyond words.”