Msgr. Lathem retires, looks forward to a new chapter in life

SUMMERVILLE—Msgr. E. Christopher Lathem, longtime pastor of St. John the Beloved, is off on a new adventure.
After almost 47 years as a diocesan priest, 27 of them spent at the Summerville church, Msgr. Lathem has decided to retire and head for his home in the North Carolina mountains.
“You don’t really retire from being a priest, you just retire from administrative responsibilities,” he said with his famous smile.
Friends have cautioned him not to put too much on his plate and just enjoy retirement for awhile, but Msgr. Lathem isn’t one to sit still.
He plans to help in the local parishes, find time to indulge his love of traveling, and participate in all sorts of things that he “never had time for.”
A couple of things on his list include taking a class called “Great Decisions” about geopolitical issues, enjoying an art class, and becoming a master gardener. He also wants to find a way to give back to the community and God’s people.
“I always valued people who do meals on wheels,” he said. “That’s a great program — bringing food to shut-ins.”
Although he’s excited about his retirement, Msgr. Lathem said he’ll miss the community, especially at liturgy. He’ll miss praying with them, and the privilege of talking to his parishioners, especially on Sunday morning, when his congregation felt more like a family.
He had to ponder his decision carefully, he said, especially considering the shortage of priests. But he felt God was telling him it was time.
“You come to a peaceful place of feeling ‘This is right,’ — and that’s how I feel now — and start looking forward to another chapter in my life,” Msgr. Lathem said.
The people he has served, and served with, are going to miss him too.
“We’re going to miss the pastoral service of a very, very fine priest,” said Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone.
The bishop celebrated Mass at Msgr. Lathem’s farewell service recently and attended a reception for him after.
His parishioners and the people he has worked with for almost three decades said they are sad to see him leave, but happy for him at the same time. Msgr. Lathem calls the Summerville parish a secret jewel.
Aside from parish life, he has some fond memories that stand out, such as the ecumenical prayer service — called “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” — that he helped start about 25 years ago. He said it’s been a great joy watching that grow.
He held many administrative assignments in the diocese, including being a member and chairman of the Priest Personnel Board, a member of the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors.
Msgr. Lathem said he thoroughly enjoyed serving as vicar for clergy. He noted that he grew to know the priests on a deeper level in that role, and was proud to help the bishop pastor to them.
“That was a great privilege and a great honor,” he said. “Priests need pastoring just like people do.”