Slipped under the doors of Capitol Hill homes in recent weeks, the calling card offers an attractive deal:
"Open on Sunday"
It is an invitation to St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Southeast Washington. And on the flip side, it lists the names and phone numbers of three "heavenly intercessors" who can be called when needed.
One of the intercessors is the card-dropper: the Rev. Michael J. O'Sullivan, who recently retired as pastor of St. Peter's, his home for nearly 35 years.
Now that he has a bit more time on his hands, O'Sullivan said, he has made it his mission to personally connect with every member of St. Peter's, where he continues to reside and assist his successor, the Rev. Charles McCann.
"I'm hitting the streets to visit every parishioner on our rolls," explained the priest, who strolls the neighborhood with his trademark blackthorn walking stick. The calling card, he added, is "to remind them that somebody in the parish has been around here and that we're thinking of you."
O'Sullivan, 73, is among seven pastors in the Washington Archdiocese who retired this summer. The need to fill those posts was one reason more than two dozen pastors were recently transferred. In all, 26 of the archdiocese's 140 parishes got new pastors.
"We happened to have a number of senior priests who retired . . . and that essentially had a domino effect," archdiocese spokeswoman Susan Gibbs said. "It was the largest shift of priests we've had in recent years."
About 160 diocesan priests serve in parishes of the archdiocese, which encompasses 560,000 Catholics in the District and the Maryland counties of Montgomery, Prince George's, Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's.
Gibbs said none of the transfers ordered this year by the head of the archdiocese, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, was punitive. Even though some congregations are not happy to see a pastor leave, the transfers have "gone in general very well," Gibbs said. "People have strong feelings about their pastors, which is good."
The Rev. Winthrop Brainerd, pastor of Church of the Epiphany in Georgetown for eight years, said in the parish bulletin that he was not happy about leaving.
But reached by phone last week, Brainerd said he is "enjoying every minute" of his new job as senior priest at St. Bernadette in Silver Spring. "The cardinal made a decision, and every priest swears obedience to his bishop at his ordination," Brainerd said. "So whether we are happy or not, we move."
Brainerd's successor at Church of the Epiphany is the Rev. Paul D. Lee, who had been pastor at Our Lady of Victory in Northwest Washington.
McCann, the new pastor at St. Peter's, was born in Ireland, like his predecessor. Soon after his ordination there in 1969, he came to Washington, where he has served in a number of parishes, most recently as pastor of St. Philip the Apostle in Camp Springs.
O'Sullivan, who became pastor of St. Peter's in November 1970, had one of the longest tenures in the archdiocese.
In June, he traveled to Ireland with a group of about 80 parishioners and friends who wanted to join him and his family in celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination. A golfer and opera lover, O'Sullivan said he is "looking 74 right in the eye" with his birthday on Jan. 9, "same as Nixon."
He welcomes retirement, he said, because "there's far less pressure. . . . I'm enjoying the freedom from administrative jobs."
As for his new calling card, he added, its levity is appropriate. "The good Lord enjoyed a good joke now and again," O'Sullivan said. "He wasn't always as staid as we imagine him to be."