Meet the Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi, Ann Arbor:
The Rev. Fr. James P. Conlon
B.A, LLB, Dip. Phil, BD, M. Div, S.T.L. (Candt.)
Born in the Republic of Ireland, Fr. James completed his seminary studies in Ireland and in the USA. Having completed his philosophical studies at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Fr. James continued his theological studies at the Milltown Institute of Theology in Dublin, an institute run under the auspices of the Irish Jesuits.
Prior to entering seminary, Fr. James qualified as an attorney in Ireland, having studied at the National University of Ireland, Galway and at the Law Society of Ireland. He completed a BA in Law and History and a post graduate degree in Law. As an attorney Fr. James worked for one of Ireland’s largest law firms in the area of commercial and banking law, he also spent time in Sydney, Australia with a major law firm.
In 1999 Fr. James was accepted as a chaplain resident at the world famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where he completed four units of clinical pastoral education working and studying in the area of pastoral care of the sick, especially teens and youth. On joining the Diocese of Lansing, Fr. James attended Mundelein Seminary in Chicago where he undertook a Masters in Theology and completed his preparation for ordination. As a seminarian Fr. James spent time in parishes here in the USA, Australia and Poland. He also worked as an advocate with the Archdiocesan Marriage Tribunal. He was ordained deacon in December 2001.
Ordained priest on June 8, 2002 by Bishop Carl Mengeling at the Cathedral in Lansing, Fr. James was appointed Associate Pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Ann Arbor. In 2004 he was appointed Director of Bethany House at the St. Francis Retreat Center, DeWitt with responsibility for youth spirituality and evangelization. In June 2009, Fr. James was appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish, Westphalia. As pastor he oversaw the celebration of its 175th anniversary as a parish and undertook a radical review of the spiritual and sacramental life of the parish, its school and religious education programs that included a greater emphasis on evangelization and adult spiritual formation. In addition he completed a school chapel and expanded school enrollment by adding a much needed Catholic kindergarten. In 2005 Fr. James began studies for a licentiate in theology in the area of evangelization. In 2012 Fr. James was appointed Promoter of Justice for the Diocese of Lansing.
As a seminarian and now as a priest, Fr. James takes a great interest in the ongoing work of Catholic Relief Services, having traveled to India, Rwanda and Nicaragua to witness at first hand its emergency and charitable work. As a CRS global fellow Fr. James gives several weekends each year to promote the work of CRS in parishes across the US.
In February, 2013 Fr. James was appointed sixth pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish which he took over in August that year. He was installed as pastor by Bishop Boyea on October 5, 2013.
Fr. Tony Smela
I was ordained a priest on June 10th, 2017 and my first assignment was on the other side of town at St. Thomas the Apostle in Ann Arbor. I love being a priest and am excited that I get to continue my ministry here in Ann Arbor. As Parochial Vicar my job is to support the pastor in his vision for the parish.
I am an ordained person living in the lay world, “a marketplace minister.” As an icon of the servant Christ, I seek and assist others in times of their distress. As minister of the Word, I proclaim the Good News and assist at Mass. Third, I minister the sacrament of baptism, witness marriages, preside at vigils, funerals, internments and prayer services. I received my master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in New Orleans. I am trained to assist during life’s challenges through Stephen’s Ministry. I work with engaged and married couples. I have served as Chaplain for the ill and youth. I coordinate Parish prayer requests and the homebound ministry. I help people with vocations, spirituality and prayer.
I welcome all visitors to the parish, and assist or redirect them to our parish staff, programs, or partner agencies. Most importantly, I listen to concerns and stories, and share laughter and tears. Editing and publishing our weekly Forum bulletin and quarterly Canticle newsletter takes most of my time. Also, I am parish coordinator of programs for child and youth protection. Most recently I have had the privilege of working on our capital campaign (Witness to Hope) to build our exciting new Ministry Center.
Parish Business Manager
Accounting & Payroll
I made my profession of faith and married my husband Matthew, here at St. Francis. We have been parishioners at St. Francis since 2016. I have my bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Eastern Michigan. As the school bookkeeper, I am able to work and help families in a Faith based environment. I also work with Development on different events throughout the year.
Julie (Fantone) Pritzel
St. Francis School, Principal
I am the principal for St. Francis of Assisi School. I work with the faculty of the school to provide a learning environment where students learn, care, and lead. As an alumna of St. Francis of Assisi School, I feel privileged to continue my journey in education as part of the faculty. It is my goal to create an environment where students, parents, teachers, and administration work collaboratively to provide the best Catholic education for the students.
Kelly Van Oirschot
School Office Secretary
I am the school secretary. I have worked in a business office setting for over 12 years. I have also been involved with Children’s Liturgy, Religious Education and Vacation Bible School for many years. I really enjoy my position at St. Francis School and look forward to helping our families and students and anyone with questions about our School.
Director of Religious Education
My educational background includes a B.S.E. (interdisciplinary Engineering) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Sacred Heart Seminary, Detroit. As Director of Religious Education (RE), my responsibilities include the religious formation of children in grades Pre-Kindergarten to 8th grade who attend public schools; Family Religious Education; sacramental formation (First Reconciliation, First Eucharist, and Confirmation) of parish (school and RE) children; Middle School Youth Group, Children’s Liturgy of the Word; Vacation Bible School; and resources for and assistance of parish events supporting the faith formation of families with children.
Susan Wawrzaszek (pronounced war-zak)
Coordinator of Worship
My husband, Jeff, and I have been parishioners at St. Francis since 1995, and our son, Ryan, is an alumnus of St. Francis School. I worked for 36 years as a Paralegal in the Ann Arbor area, and I am now privileged to work as a member of our Parish Pastoral Team. My duties involve working with our Pastor to plan all of the liturgies, as well as the recruiting, training, and scheduling of liturgical ministers. I assist with coordination of ministry enrichment & formation programs and oversee the Altar Society, Worship Commission, and Art & Environment Committee. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve the wonderfully diverse parishioners that make up our St. Francis Parish family.
Director, Adult Faith Formation and RCIA
I am responsible for planning, directing, and facilitating activities and programs designed to build the faith life of adult parishioners for the purpose of enriching the faith life of the whole parish. These programs include but are not limited to: Returning Catholics, Scripture Study, School of Discipleship, Sponsor Couples for marriage preparation, Sunday Coffee & Donuts, Parish Library, Book Rack, Parish Mission Common Conference and various seasonal events. I also plan, direct and oversee the RCIA process. To do my job well also requires me to communicate with parishioners, parish staff, our diocese and keep abreast of current national trends and issues within faith formation and catechesis.
I maintain computer and communications equipment in the Parish office, Parish Activity Center and Church. I assist parish staff in using technology. I offer training when new technology is introduced and provide one-on-one assistance when needed. My responsibilities focus on solving problems. As we move into more technology based communications, I coordinate use of mass email technologies and manage online multimedia resources. I am the staff liaison for the video ministry where I recruit and train members.
Parish Outreach Ministry: Life, Service + Justice
I develop education and training programs for parishioners to work in the social needs area. I help parishioners to seek justice and advocate for the needy, and help parishioners to offer direct services to the needy, through the St. Vincent Service Committee, Stephen Ministry, Tax Filing Program, Giving Tree Gifts, and Jail Ministry. I develop programs for our Senior Citizens, such as birthday calling and rides to church. I assist our volunteer coordinator(s) for visitation of nursing homes and homes of homebound. I assist our volunteer coordinators of Elizabeth Ministry and Health Nurse. I also enjoy assisting with our Elementary School Campus Ministry. I have a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a master’s degree in Divinity. I have been serving in this position at St. Francis since June 2000. Linked In
Coordinator of Pastoral Care and Small Groups
I was baptized, confirmed, educated in the faith and married my husband, Jesus, here at my home parish, St. Francis. I have my bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education from Eastern Michigan University and am currently taking classes in Theology through Sacred Heart Major Seminary. I coordinate Fall and Lenten small groups, support and connect parishioners to the various special interest groups within the parish, and assist in liturgical formation and training. I organize our annual parish picnic in the Fall and bereavement workshop in January. I also enjoy directing the Parish Children’s Choir and music for Vacation Bible School.
Coordinator of High School Youth Ministry,
and Young Adult Ministry
I have a great desire to advance the organized and intentional evangelization efforts to reach out to young people to spread the Fire of Christ.
Maintenance Supervisor is involved in overseeing capital projects, and does manage maintenance/custodial staff schedules and monitors and adheres to the maintenance budget.