OLEAN — In sharing his spiritual path to Olean, Rev. John Adams prefers that the degrees behind his name are a side note, while the message of his shared ministry with St. John the Evangelist and the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels churches takes front and center.
Adams, who serves as priest and administrator/rector of the Basilica, administrator of St. John’s, and administrator and oratory of Sacred Heart in Portville, spoke of his leadership role of the Catholic parishes, which began in September. He replaces Rev. F. Patrick Melfi, who now serves as regional pastor of St. Philomena in Franklinville and pastor of Holy Name of Mary in Ellicottville.
A former psychologist who had taught at the college level, had family practices and worked with individuals with developmental delays, as well as those who were deaf and hard of hearing, Adams studied for the priesthood in his 50s.
During his seminary training in 2011, he was assigned to a year-long internship at the Basilica and in 2014 was ordained as a Catholic priest — at the age of 57 — at Christ the King Seminary in Buffalo.
Adams had said the church had always been an important part of his life, and he had “felt a calling to become a priest.”
In commenting on his previous stay in Olean 10 years ago, Adams said the experience was “incredible” as he ministered closely with the former pastor, the Very Rev. Greg Dobson, Deacon Dick Mattews and Sister Regina Aman, pastoral assistant who continue to serve at the Basilica.
“Father Greg was such an icon here, and he taught me so much,” Adams said of Dobson. “Plus I learned about this beautiful area and the environment of Olean.”
After leaving Olean to continue training and serving in various capacities in Catholic parishes in Buffalo, he was pleasantly surprised to learn he was assigned to the Olean parishes.
“It has been such an amazing experience to be able to transition here, where I’ve always told the people it feels like a second home,” he commented. “My family was all excited when they heard (about Olean), because I was looking for a place that would really be a place for spirituality development … there is so much possibility here.”
As for his educational and professional background, Adams earned a bachelor’s degree in special education and elementary education at Pennsylvania State University and a master’s and Ph.D in education, counseling psychology at the University of California in Los Angeles.
In the years that followed, he pursued practices in psychology and counseling and taught at universities and schools primarily in New York state and California.
A native of Duquesne, Pa., Adams said he first felt the calling to the priesthood during the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II in 2005. After two years of discerning how far he was willing to go in answering the calling, he sold his house, closed his practice and moved to his parents’ home, as they were in need of his help.
Later, he returned to Buffalo to work with the deaf and hard of hearing and people with developmental delays at approximately 20 group homes.
“It was so hard to leave that when I went to the seminary, in terms of feeling saddened in my abandoning those populations,” he recalled.
As for future plans, Adams said he would like the churches to serve as an “area of spirituality, an area of support, an area of healing … and of course for all the victims in the Catholic Church.”
Adams said the healing, support and spirituality would extend to all of those in the community suffering from the pandemic’s isolation, illnesses and death that have occured over the past year.
“I’m (also) looking forward to how to enhance our access for disabilities all around the area,” he continued. “It’s nice coming to a place that already has its roots in supporting all phases of life, including those most in need (such as) the senior centers and elderly, which has always been a special ministry for me.”
Adams admitted the past several months have been extremely busy for him, but he plans to reach out to the Knights of Columbus and parish councils for help in connecting with as many community members as possible.
“We just are putting in a new system for live-streaming in the Basilica, and the Knights of Columbus said they’ll be supporting that in different ways,” he added. “At St. John’s (live-streaming for Sunday Mass) is offered at 9:30 … we’re hoping to expand and get into all of the nursing homes with live-streaming for special prayers and special Masses during Lent.”
He noted in-person Masses continue to be offered at the churches, following COVID guidelines.
At the Basilica office, secretary Lauren Limerick said she has enjoyed working with Adams the past few months.
“I love him, he’s a pleasure to work with,” Limerick said. “He reminds me a lot of Father Greg.”
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)