Phil Battey | Special to the Catholic Herald
May 5, 1968. Protests in France sparked street battles in Paris between students and army troops. Communist units initiated Phase II of the Tet Offensive, attacking 119 targets in South Vietnam, including the capital Saigon. Bobby Goldboro’s Honey was Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 record chart. And at Our Lady of the Annunciation Cathedral in West Roxbury, Mass., Bishop Justin Najmy ordained 25-year-old Deacon Joseph Francavilla as a priest in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. As Father Francavilla put on his vestments for the first time as a priest, the congregation chanted again and again: “Axios” — Greek for “He is worthy.”
“It was a beautiful spring day in Boston, and you don’t get many of those there,” recalled Father Francavilla, who will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a priest next month. “I would spend the next four years assisting at Annunciation Cathedral and then come to Washington as pastor of the newly established Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean.” He has served at Holy Transfiguration, one of five Eastern Catholic parishes in the Washington area, for the past 47 years.
However, his being named pastor of Holy Transfiguration was not a happy occasion for Father Francavilla. He came to McLean to bury his friend and predecessor, the parish’s first pastor, Father Armond J. Jacopin, who had died suddenly.
The fledging parish had 30 families on its rolls and fewer than 100 people.
“The first years, I was the only clergy — no deacon, no reader,” said Father Francavilla. “To hold services, we had bought a former Methodist meeting house down Route 7 that had been built before the Civil War. But only nine years later we were able to build the beautiful temple we have at 8501 Lewinsville Rd., which has a hall and, now, an education wing.”
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