By Patrick Markey
Father Colm Campbell, the director of the Irish Apostolate in Queens, has resigned following weeks of discussion over his future with the organization that has served New York’s Irish immigrant community for nearly a decade.
Campbell, a Belfast native who joined the apostolate in 1992, said he had taken his decision after consulting with his bishop and officials in the Irish Commission for Emigrants, the church agency which sent him over to the United States more than six years ago.
The New York Archdiocese sets a five-year limit on visiting foreign priests and officials there had offered to allow Campbell to stay on for an extra year at another parish, said Fr. Ronald Marino, head of the archdiocese Catholic Migration Office, who oversees the city’s apostolates.
"I was surprised by his resignation to a certain extent," Marino said.
For Campbell, who built the apostolate into a hub for New York’s Irish immigrants, working for another parish was not an option. After discussions with his church superiors, Campbell said he decided to resign rather than take up the offer of another parish.
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"It’s very disappointing to have to go. That’s not my interest. It’s not an option. I wouldn’t have been working with the Irish community," he said.
Campbell said he would take up a residence in the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in lower Manhattan while he follows through with his commitments for weddings and christenings.
Irish Services Inc., which ran its programs in conjunction with the church’s pastoral services, would continue to serve the Irish community, said company director Michael Coffey.
A non-for-profit organization, Irish Services provided mother and toddler groups, computer courses, and a network of volunteer counseling to the Queens area. Those services would continue while the apostolate searched for a replacement for Campbell.
"Everything remains exactly the same. The only difference will be Father Campbell is stepping down," Coffey said.
Officials from the archdiocese will meet with Irish Services representatives this week to clarify the relationship between the company and the church, Marino said. One area they will discuss is the proposed Failte Federal Credit Union, a credit union solely for the Irish community. That program is still pending a federal government decision, Coffey said.