Fla. chaplain brings business background to bear
FR. STEPHEN PARKES’ brother is bishop of the Pensacola-Tallahassee Diocese . . .
Fr. Stephen Parkes
Father Stephen Parkes grew up with two older brothers and became one of two priests in his family. His brother, Gregory Parkes, serves as bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Father Parkes is pastor to 3,700 families at Annunciation Catholic Church north of Orlando and has a background and education in business and marketing. In addition to his pastoral work and chaplaincy duties with Legatus’ Orlando Chapter, Fr. Parkes is vicar forane (dean) to approximately 35 priests in 14 parishes and serves on the Diocese of Orlando’s presbyteral council. He spoke to Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant Tim Drake.
Tell me about your upbringing.
I’m the youngest of three boys. We grew up in Massapequa on Long Island, N.Y. My mother was a homemaker, and my father was vice president for a bank. My parents are now deceased. I ended up coming to Florida to attend the University of South Florida.
My parents prayed that one of their sons would be a priest. They ended up with two. My oldest brother is married. My other brother was also ordained for the Diocese of Orlando and is now bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. So I always say, watch what you pray for.
What led you to consider the priesthood?
I considered it when I was about 10 years old, but didn’t think more about it until after college. After college I started working for a bank. I always felt that I was seeking something more. I knew that I wasn’t fulfilled working for the bank, and I felt God was calling me to a life of service to the Church. It wasn’t a quick, easy decision. I attended a weekend discernment retreat, but it took me two years before I picked up an application for seminary. I was ordained in 1998.
Have there been any highlights for you?
In 2005, I was appointed the founding pastor of a brand new parish — Most Precious Blood in Oviedo, Fla. Being there from the beginning allowed me to put my business background to use for the parish. When we held our first Mass, I didn’t know if anyone would show up, but 1,000 people came. It demonstrated that there was a great need. By the time I left there in 2011, it had grown to 2,000.
Another highlight was my work as Catholic campus minister at the University of Central Florida. Working with college students gave me great hope for the future of the Church.
How did you become acquainted with Legatus?
Through parishioners at Annunciation. We have a number of parishioners who are part of our chapter. I’ve been chaplain for a year. I filled in for the previous chaplain and then the bishop asked me to do this in January 2014.
I’m still getting to know the chapter and its traditions. Many of our members have deep-rooted friendships. I really see the chapter as a small Christian faith community in the way that the early Church used to meet, gather for Mass, fellowship, and learning. Our members model that behavior of the early disciples.
I would hope to grow the chapter and to inspire a new generation to embrace the values of Legatus. Orlando is a growing city, and a young city. We have a lot of people who don’t know about Legatus.
Any advice for Catholic business leaders?
As Jesus said — and St. John Paul II often repeated — “Be not afraid.” We should not be afraid in our daily business and Catholic family life to embrace the call of Catholic discipleship. Often in someone’s daily workplace they are proud to talk about their accomplishments and successes, but do we share our successes in faith and our relationship with Christ? We need to be unafraid to do that.