Father Larry King, has served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish for 14 years. Recently, as he prepared for retirement, he discovered that due to a clerical error he was never formally assigned to the parish. “On paper, I was never assigned here,” says King. In 2004, when King came to St. Patrick as pastor, the Diocese of Grand Rapids had no bishop and the archbishop of Detroit was responsible for overseeing and assigning pastors. He recounted how the paperwork says he was assigned to St. Patrick Church in Ionia, which doesn’t exist. King says he recently joked about this to the current Bishop of Grand Rapids, David Walkowiak. In response to which Walkoviak reassured him, “believe me you’re the pastor.”
Ordained a priest in 1989, King first served as associate pastor at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Kentwood, Michigan. That was followed by a short stint as associate pastor at St. Patrick here in Portland. He then served as pastor of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Wyoming, Michigan before returning to Portland in 2004.
“He’s been the priest here ever since I’ve been in school,” said a senior at St. Patrick School, recently. Father Larry says that being a part of the lives of all of the children of the parish has been one of his favorite parts of being pastor. “The school really adds a lot of life to the parish,” says King. Father Larry is often seen around town wearing his custom made hat featuring a shamrock and raider bird log to show his support of all the kids of the parish. He says he has enjoyed supported student athletes on the sidelines of Shamrock football games and attending the Portland Civic Players summer youth theater.
As he enters retirement, Father Larry, says he will remain active in retirement filling in for other priests, and helping out anyway he can at his new church home, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Belmont, Michigan. Despite, continuing to serve in other roles, he says he is really going to miss the great staff and volunteers of the parish and school. He also will miss being involved in the sacramental life of the parish, and being involved in all the church seasons. Priests don’t usually ask someone to fill in for them during holiday seasons like Christmas or Easter.
He also will miss the camaraderie of the Portland Area Ministerial Association (PAMA) here in town. “It’s been one of the joys of being here. Obviously there is differences in theology, but there is enough stuff we agree on and work together on, and we enjoy each other’s company,” says King. He hopes that that will continue to grow, noting that this coming Friday the 18th, PAMA has organized an ecumenical youth March for Life event from Mt. Hope Church to downtown and back to be held in conjunction with the national March for Life in Washington, DC, which many local students will be attending.
King says he is most looking forward to the flexibility that retirement will offer. In addition to serving as needed at other parishes, he says he may volunteer at Mercy Hospital in Grand Rapids to give the chaplain on call a break. He also hopes to get involved in visiting and celebrating mass for those in prison, which was something he enjoyed doing in his days as an associate pastor, but which he has not had time to do for a number of year. He also says he plans to reconnect with old friends, and hopes to spend more time developing his hobby of photography.
“I will keep the whole parish in my prayers, because they have been burned deep into my heart,” says King. Father Larry’s last day at St. Patrick is January 31st. The Knights of Columbus is hosting a retirement reception for King at the K of C Hall on Maynard Road on Saturday, January 28th from 3-6 pm.