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Getting to know… Father Chuck

The Rev. Charles C. McCourt, Jr. has lived in Northern Virginia nearly all his life. One of seven children, he was raised in Springfield and attended St. Bernadette’s Church, West Springfield High School, and George Mason University. After graduating from college, he spent two years living in western Kentucky in the fifth poorest county in the U.S. The experience confirmed his calling to be a priest. He graduated from St. Mary’s Seminary, in Emmitsburg, MD, in 1990. After holding various diocesan positions in Northern Virginia parishes, he became the priest at Good Shepherd Catholic Church three years ago.

The impact his father had on his life…

"I’m a junior. They called Dad Charlie and I’m Chuck. He was a Giant Food Store Manager for 42 years. He died 10 years ago. I’ve had his picture on my desk since I was ordained, sixteen years ago. If I could become the man that my dad was – who loved and served God as a dad and as a manager of a Giant Food Store – then I will be the man that God is calling me to be."

His experience of living in Appalachia…

"I wanted to go someplace where I could be of service and somewhere no one knew me and where I knew no one so I could more carefully listen to God’s call. I needed to discern what I felt was God’s call in my life.

"Discernment takes time. It’s not something that can be accomplished in an instant or the blink of an eye. It takes time to navigate through life and vocational decisions. I wanted a place where I could go for a few years and live in the mountains and love the people and listen to God."

The construction of Good Shepherd’s past and its future…

"Good Shepherd has been around forty years and they have accomplished building a wonderful community and a property filled with structures that we heavily use every day of the year. The congregation should be proud of that. They accomplished an ambitious plan. Now our focus is building up the people in faith, doing everything we can to mature our members in faith…

"We have launched a new vision and a new mission and we recently asked people to apply for our new Parish Pastoral Council. 23 people applied and nine will be selected. What we’re doing is remembering who we are, renewing who we are, and in a sense recreating who we are. Our antennas are up. We are attempting to discern who God wants us to be as a parish.

"We are going to come up with a strategic, long-range plan with annual goals and objectives and we’re going to design a matrix to measure success. We’re taking business models and baptizing them."

And his own present…

"It’s been great to have had a varied career but I have never been so happy and satisfied than to be right here, right now with these people in this time of Good Shepherd’s history. I’m not exaggerating. This is what I was born to do."

The importance of technology in his role as a priest…

"Everything about my life has changed with my laptop and cell phone… I’m no longer as tied to a geography… Being the pastor of a parish with over 11,000 people, its important people have the chance to get in touch with me if they need to… It’s important to me to know I’m connected. I get about 50 calls a day and about 200 emails… What I do everyday in a community this size is triage. I make decisions on what is critical, what is life and death and what can wait until tomorrow. And I love it. I don’t find it a burden. It’s a blessing."

The Bishop of Arlington’s decision to allow women to serve at the altar…

"Our reading for last Sunday [two days before the Bishop’s announcement] was the Samaritan woman at the well. Christ had a radical love for this woman, who was an outcast, who Jews hated, who had lived a challenging life and was a mess. He treated her with a dignity, love, and respect that the institutional church may have forgotten. [In the sermon,] I apologized to women in the congregation who feel the church has not treated them with the same love, dignity, and respect. We will be implementing [the new policy]. We will train whoever comes to church this Sunday."

The international role of the Church…

"The Bible’s Book of Acts chapter 1, verse 8: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you; then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth." I feel that we have a responsibility here – Jerusalem, nationally – Judea, and internationally – Samaria. This was a command that Jesus gave, not a suggestion… The reason we have the global poverty today is power politics. It is a lack of connectedness... I think that lived immersion experiences [mission trips for church members to do work in other parts of the nation and the world], putting faith into action, can transform people not because of who we are but because of who God is and what God can do."