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Serra Erie Blog

The word that best describes Saint Junipero Serra is "Zeal". It was a spirit that came from his deep prayer and dauntless will.

Priest of the Year: Father Rich Toohey

Father Rich Toohey is a graduate of Notre Dame University, St. Mark Seminary the pontifical North American College, and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Rome Italy. He was ordained a priest of the diocese of Erie in 2001 and has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Jude the Apostle Church in Erie, the Church of Notre Dame in Hermitage. He has been Pastor at St. Mary of Grace in Meadville, St. Joseph Church in Warren, and is currently Pastor at Our Lady of Peace Church in Erie.

Father Toohey has also been a faculty member and Campus Minister at Cathedral Prep and Catholic Campus Minister at Allegheny College. As if all that is not impressive enough, it is not the reasons Father Rich Toohey was chosen for the Priest of the Year Award this year. In 2020 the Corona virus mutated its way into the headlines and upended normal as we knew it in every facet of our lives. Father Toohey figured two can play at that game, and he proceeded to mutate from “In-Person Paster” to “Father Facebook.” It was a really dark time for many who were isolated and afraid, but Father Rich and the staff at OLP stepped up their game and created an online presence to help parishioners stay connected to their faith and parish.

Through social media like Facebook, YouTube, and the parish website they created and presented livestreamed Masses, Liturgies, prayer services, educational opportunities and did the best they could to keep the flock together. Parishioners at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Erie recognized the great efforts of Father Rich Toohey and the parish staff made to facilitate connection and nominated the parish for a national Parish Excellence Award sponsored by the online Parish Excellence Summit held earlier in November.

“Father Toohey and the staff did an amazing job creating videos to engage the parish,” organizers said in presenting the first-place award to OLP for “Adult Faith Formation via Technology.” Their efforts have included an explanation of the parish’s stained-glass windows, Bible studies, Catholic customs, and information about how the Catholic church changed the world. The award presentation concluded with a testament to the "amazing job Father Toohey did letting the parishioners know they were valued and loved." In 2017, Father Rich was assigned to Our Lady of Peace Parish after having served six and a half years as pastor at St. Joseph parish in Warren, Pennsylvania.


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