Rev. Dr. Joyce Caggiano, of Milton, has felt comfortable in Peabody since she arrive four years ago and has come to care deeply about the spiritual and physical well-being of the parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
She was excited and rejuvenated to finally become the permanent rector of the parish Friday night. Her daily work routine will not be significantly different, but it will no doubt be carried out with a renewed sense of mission.
“When the previous priest-in-charge resigned, the bishop in charge of the North Shore asked me if I would take charge of the parish,” Caggiano said. “The elected lay representatives of the parish and I agreed with the understanding that it would not be a permanent arrangement unless I were to be elected as rector by the lay representatives.”
Caggiano was hired as a priest-in-charge in 2007, replacing then priest-in-charge Rev. Joyce Scherer Hoock.
Sandi Drover, of Peabody, has been a St. Paul’s parishioner for 15 years.
“I feel very positively about it. She’s our fourth priest; we’ve had several other subs and she shines in pastoral care. She’s warm, thoughtful, kind and non-judgemental,” said Drover on Friday.
Episcopalians belong to the Anglican church community, which is the third largest denomination in the world, next to Roman and Orthodox (Greek, Russian, etc.) Although similar in several ways, they are, however, separate from both Catholic and Protestant traditions.
Caggiano was raised as a Catholic and attended private school at St. Anthony’s in Burlington, Vt. She said she stopped attending church for a period of her life, as she struggled with some issues in the Roman Catholic church, such as sexuality, gender of priests, marriage, birth control and abortion.
Eventually, she converted to an Episcopalian and received a master’s degree in divinity from Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Conn. 1985. Caggiano was ordained the following year and entered into the priesthood, June 20, 1987.
Her ministry now spans 25 years. She was previously the rector at Grace Church in Everett and a Cox Fellow at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston. Caggiano held an administrative position at Crossroads, a social services agency in Detriot, Mich., after earning her doctoral degree.
Working in full-time vocational ministry is more than finding that dream job. Caggiano explained that within the Episcopal Church, a person who feels called to ordained ministry applies to be accepted in the ordination process. If, after a period of discernment, the person is admitted, he/she must complete a bachelor’s degree, a master of divinity degree from an accredited seminary and meet the psychological and physical standards for ordination. The person must then be approved by the priest of her/his parish, the lay representatives of the parish, the diocesan Commission on Ministry and the Bishop.
Vestry member Diane Liias, of Peabody, who has attended St. Paul’s for five years, interviewed and recommended Caggiano for the priest-in-charge position.
"She has made the church grow in numbers, and has helped start the Brazilian ministry in the rectory,” Liias said.
Liias presented her with healing oil during Friday’s ceremony, saying: “Joyce, use this oil, and be among us as a healer and reconciler.”
“I'm very excited that she’s the new rector,” Liias told Peabody Patch, “I don't see how it’s going to change anything, because it can only possibly get better. She’s an open, caring and sharing person.”
Caggiano noted that writing a 300-page doctoral dissociation, over two years, on the relationship of labor and the church at the Union Institute in 2000 prepared her for her new role. She earned a Ph.D. in social ethics at Union University.
Women didn’t actually have to opportunity to become ordained until 1976, and today, the Boston diocese has a 50-50 priest ratio.
Besides parish members, family and friends, Friday’s ceremony was attended by other clergy, both Episcopal and non-Episcopal, interfaith representatives from non-Christian faiths, public officials and others.
Pastor Joel Anderle, of , an Evangelical church in West Peabody, was one of the clergy in attendance Friday evening.
“It's an exciting time. She’s already been such a great colleague; she has a superb heart, a passionate interest in all God’s people, and she’s an ecumenical person,” Anderle said.
The two met at a Massachusetts Council of Churches meeting, of which he is the president.
Anderle presented her with the Peabody Clerical Directory, as a representative of the Peabody Clergy and Ministerial Association, a local group of religious heads that fellowship together.
“Joyce, receive this directory and be among us as a colleague in ministry,” he said Friday.