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Pope Francis names three Monsignors in the Diocese of Arlington

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge announced that three priests of the Diocese of Arlington have been bestowed with the papal honor of “Chaplain to His Holiness” by Pope Francis and given the title “Monsignor” after Bishop Burbidge made recommendations to the Holy See.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge announced that three priests of the Diocese of Arlington have been bestowed with the papal honor of “Chaplain to His Holiness” by Pope Francis and given the title “Monsignor” after Bishop Burbidge made recommendations to the Holy See.

Bishop Burbidge responded with the following statement: “In unity with Bishop Loverde, my brother priests, as well as the deacons, consecrated religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Arlington, I congratulate Monsignor Robert Avella, Monsignor John Cregan, and Monsignor Stanley Krempa for the recognition they have received for their dedicated and faithful Priestly service. Their Priestly ministries have been and remain a special gift to the Diocese of Arlington! Their lives have inspired all who know them, especially their brother priests and those discerning a vocation to the priesthood."

Msgr. Krempa is Pastor of St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Berryville; Msgr. Cregan is retired; and Msgr. Avella is Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Arlington.

The three priests join the Diocese of Arlington’s three other Monsignors — Msgr. Frank J. Hendrick, Msgr. R. Roy Cosby and Msgr. Frank E. Mahler, all retired.

The title “Monsignor” is associated with certain papal awards that Pope Paul VI reduced to three classes: Protonotary Apostolic, Prelate of Honor and Chaplain to His Holiness. Pope Francis said he would accept recommendations from Diocesan bishops for nominations to that of Chaplain to His Holiness and that consideration would be given to priests 65 years or older.

Msgr. Krempa was born April 21, 1945, in Buffalo, N.Y., the only child of Stanley and Charlotte Krempa. He graduated from Canisius High School in Buffalo in 1962. He attended St. John Vianney College Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y. (1962-66), and graduated from St. John Vianney Major Seminary in East Aurora in 1970. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Buffalo Dec. 19, 1970, by Bishop James A McNulty.

Msgr. Krempa served in the Diocese of Buffalo, including as chaplain of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo and as an instructor at St. John Vianney. In 1977, he took a leave of absence from pastoral ministry to pursue a civil law degree while remaining a priest in good standing. He completed his degree from George Washington University Law School in Washington, then worked as a civil lawyer.

Msgr. Krempa returned to full-time priestly ministry in the Diocese of Arlington in 1985 and was incardinated into the diocese by Bishop John R. Keating April 1, 1988. Msgr. Krempa served as Parochial Vicar of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal (1985-86); Parochial Vicar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ridge (1986-88); Parochial Vicar of St. Louis Church in Alexandria (1988-91); Pastor of St. Mary Church in Alexandria (1991-99); Pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester and St. Bridget of Ireland Mission in Berryville (1997-2017). When the mission was named a parish in 2017, he was made Pastor. 

He has served as Vicar Forane (2012-current) and as a member of the College of Consultors (1997–2000), the Priests Council (2014-current), the Land Assessment Committee (2006-12) and the Diocesan Review Board (2002-07, 2008-13).

Msgr. Krempa, a Gospel commentator for the Catholic Herald, has published his homilies in several volumes since 1984.

“It's a tribute to all the priests in the diocese,” Msgr. Krempa said of the naming of new Monsignors. “They work hard in ways that are not noticed, so to honor one priest is to honor all the hardworking priests of Arlington.”

Msgr. Cregan was born Nov. 13, 1939, to Christopher and Mary Alice Cregan in New York, N.Y. He graduated from Fordham Preparatory School in New York City in 1957. He continued his education at Fordham University in New York City where he earned a degree in economics in 1961.

He then entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served as an officer for 22 years before retiring in 1983. While in the Marines, Msgr. Cregan taught for five years, including more than three years at the Armed Services Staff College in Norfolk. He earned a master’s in business administration in 1973 from Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y.

Msgr. Cregan entered Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., for theological studies in 1983. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Keating May 9, 1987. He has served as Parochial Vicar of St. Patrick Church in Fredericksburg (1987-91); Parochial Vicar of Church of the Nativity in Burke (1991-93); and as Pastor of St. Elizabeth Church in Colonial Beach (1993-96). 

In 1996, Msgr. Cregan was appointed Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria, where he served for 19 years before retiring in June 2015.

During that time, Msgr. Cregan also served as Bishop’s Delegate for Clergy (2006-2011) and as Bishop’s Delegate for Retired Priests and Deacons (2011-12). He has served on many diocesan committees and boards, including the Presbyteral Council, the Pastoral Council, the Clergy Personnel Board, Dean, the College of Consultors and the Priest’s Retirement Committee.

He currently resides at the Rose of Lima Retirement Villa in Annandale. He continues his pastoral ministry as the associate state chaplain to the Knights of Columbus and as an adjunct spiritual director for Mount St. Mary’s.

Msgr. Cregan sees this honor as an affirmation of his work as a priest. “We had been informed (Bishop Burbidge) was thinking of doing it, but when he walked in and told me, it was a wonderful moment,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to look back on the whole time you’ve been a priest. I am grateful to (Bishop Burbidge) and to the other priests and all the people that have been in my parishes. Now if I could only get used to saying ‘Monsignor’ on the phone instead of ‘Father.’ ”

Msgr. Avella was born May 11, 1949, in Washington, to Gennaro and Anne Avella. He was raised in Arlington, where he attended St. Charles Borromeo School and Bishop O’Connell High School for his junior year. He graduated St. John Vianney High School Seminary (now closed) in Goochland, Va., in 1967. He began his studies for the priesthood at St. Mary’s College Seminary and completed them at St. Mary’s University, both in Baltimore, graduating in 1975.

Msgr. Avella was ordained to the transitional diaconate in 1974 by Richmond Bishop Walter F. Sullivan and served at Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria. Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, first bishop of Arlington, ordained him to the priesthood May 10, 1975.

 As his first assignment, he was Parochial Vicar of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale (1975-78), then at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington (1978-79). He served as diocesan director of vocations (1978-85; 2003-04), living in the bishop’s residence from 1979 to 1984 and then at Our Lady of Lourdes (1984-85). He then served as assistant principal and chaplain at Bishop O’Connell while he was in residence at St. Agnes in Arlington, from 1985 to 1989, when he was named Pastor of St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax. In June 2000, he became Pastor of St. Mary Church in Alexandria and was named the Bishop’s Delegate for the Clergy.

He served as the Rector of the Cathedral (2003-06). Since 2006, Msgr. Avella has served as Pastor of the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Arlington.

Msgr. Avella has served on numerous diocesan committees, including the Presbyteral Council (1995-97; 2010-14), the Committee on Priest’s Retirement (four terms: 2000-14), the Clergy Personnel Board (three terms: 1992-2006), the Diocesan School Board (2007-10), and the Committee on Priest’s Retirement Facility (2007-10). 

Msgr. Avella said he was in “complete shock” when Bishop Burbidge visited him after his hip surgery to give the recovering priest a bit of “good news.” What Msgr. Avella most loves about his new title is its more formal name, “Chaplain to His Holiness.”

“That’s kind of like being a parish priest to the pope, who I’ll never see but I can pray for daily in a personal way. I’m his chaplain,” he said. “It’s lovely wording,” he said, but mostly, “I wouldn’t want to be anything else.”

Bishop Burbidge said, “I ask all in the Diocese of Arlington to join me in congratulating these wonderful priests and to continue to pray for them."