The Rev. Joseph Smith, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church since 2003, is being reassigned within the Diocese of Savannah at his own request for health reasons.
“Father Joe,” as most people call him, told parishioners during Masses celebrated over the weekend that he is not retiring and that he made the request to Bishop Gregory Hartmayer on the advice of his neurosurgeon.
“This is something I have to do for my health,” he said, “for my own well-being.”
Hartmayer announced that the Rev. Allan McDonald, currently pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, would be appointed as the new priest at St. Anne as of June 22. Smith will become chaplain at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital effective Aug. 1.
Smith has Bell’s palsy, which causes varying degrees of paralysis to one side of the face. He also underwent surgery in 2010 for spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal column.
“I know that to do well in the future, my health must improve and the parish has grown beyond my capacity to shepherd it as it needs in the future,” he said.
Smith was appointed pastor of St. Anne in 2003 and oversaw the construction of its new church, which was dedicated in February. When he arrived, the parish had about 300 families. It has since grown to about 1,000 families and 2,500 members.