Father Andrew Reitz
Father Andrew Reitz
" Even though we know as friars we had to move on, it still wasn't easy. "

Reflecting on his vocation as a Franciscan religious order priest from the Holy Name Province and the assignments he has held over the past 50 years, Father Andrew Reitz said what he has found to be most gratifying is “the different kind of people I could minister to in the various places I was stationed.” 

And what he regards as the greatest challenge, is when it’s time to move from one assignment to the next and starting over. 

“You got established, knew the people,” he said. “Even though we know as friars we had to move on, it still wasn’t easy.” 

Father Reitz currently serves as parochial vicar in St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Brant Beach, a parish with which he is most familiar, having been assigned to the parish multiple times. His first time followed his January 1971 ordination, and he served in Brant Beach for 13 years until 1984. His second appointment occurred in 1996 when he was named pastor, serving until 2005. His third time came last year in 2020 when he was again named pastor but now serves as one of three associate priests.

“The people here were always wonderful to work with,” he said. “It’s a wonderful community near the seashore,” he said, adding how moving it is to encounter parishioners who remember him from his previous assignments and he finds it amazing when he officiates at weddings of the children whose parents he married.  

The now 78-year-old Father Reitz was born in 1943 in Olean, N.Y., and he and his family lived in nearby Allegheny. He attended public schools, but every Wednesday afternoon under New York state law, public schools would shorten the school day so children could receive religious education in their parish communities. One of his first encounters with the Franciscan religious was in his family’s parish, St. Bonaventure, which was staffed by Franciscan priests and the Sisters of St. Francis of Allegheny who taught the religious education classes. 

Father Reitz recalled the deep impression the Franciscans made on him, saying, “They seemed to be happy, enjoyed mingling with people, and were approachable.” 

He attended Allegheny Central School from kindergarten through 12th grade, and it was in his senior year when he felt the first stirring of a priestly vocation. Upon graduating high school, he was set to enter St. Bonaventure University, Allegheny, also operated by Franciscans, on a scholarship to study modern languages. 

“During my freshman year, I decided I couldn’t wait,” said Father Reitz said.  “I spoke to a friar about it, then the vocation director tracked me down to talk about it. I was invited to a meeting, which 10 other students attended. Three of those guys also became Franciscans and still are priests.” 

With the support of his family, Father Reitz enrolled in St. Joseph Seminary, Callicoon, N.Y., about 230 miles from home, and despite the distance, his parents visited every visitor’s day.      

Father Reitz recalled the transition to seminary life as being tough. “I hated the confinement and being told what to do. But I was determined to be a friar, so I stuck it out.” 

Two years later in 1964, he entered the novitiate and received his habit, and then in 1967, he decided on a vocation to the priesthood. He studied theology in Washington Theological Union and in January, 1971, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Bernardin, who went on to become a cardinal. 

Other assignments he has held included serving as novice master and director of Initial Formation for the Franciscans of he East Coast, during which he worked with 60 seminarians and noted that the formation program was the only one for the entire United States. 

He also recalled an assignment in Tampa, Fla., where he and three friars oversaw the refurbishing of a church that had formerly belonged to the Jesuit order, which had been struggling because of a shortage of vocations. The team of Franciscans revitalized the parish ministries that ranged from hospital ministry, a women’s group, prison ministry, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and marriage preparation program.

Father Reitz also enjoyed serving as pastor of St. Francis Parish, Manhattan, to which he was assigned around 2011. The busyness of celebrating six Masses daily and making Confessions available at three different times each day, was energizing, he said of St. Francis, which was staffed with six full-time friars and four part-timers who ministered to the 2,000 faithful.  

Now back in Brant Beach, Father Reitz said his task is to seek out people who are not being attended to by the Church.  

For some reason, “I learn they cannot attend church” so it’s up to the Church to go to visit them,” he said. “It’s a new ministry to show people we are neighbors.”