Pikeville’s Catholic church has introduced a young pastor to lead its parish.

Rob Adams, 29, of Lexington, stepped up to become the lead pastor at the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church on July 1, after serving as the church’s associate pastor for two years. Adams became one of the youngest Catholic lead pastors in the Diocese of Lexington, which covers more than 16,000 square miles and represents 50 counties in central and Eastern Kentucky.

The St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church has been a staple of Pike County Catholic community since the 1940s, and Adams said it currently serves between 150 and 175 congregants during its weekend services. The St. Francis School, which is a private Catholic school located beside the church, was founded in 1954 as a mission of the church, and about 100 students are served at the school.

Pike County’s Catholic population makes up less than 1 percent of the population, and the population in the Diocese of Lexington makes up only about 3 percent of the total population, according to the Diocese of Lexington.

Adams said several Catholic churches throughout Pike County have been forced to close due to the declining Catholic population in the area. He said there are several congregants at the church that he has met at services who drive from Elkhorn City and Jenkins. One of the most important parts of his work as a pastor will be to connect the existing Catholic community around Pikeville and throughout Pike County.

“We’ve got the roots here, and we’re going to keep building the community,” Adams said. “We need to build bridges with other Catholics in our area.”

Although Adams grew up as a Catholic and went to a private Catholic school, he said he had not initially planned to become a pastor. He said he changed his mind after serving as an altar boy when he was 14 years old. His pastor informed him of the symbolism behind the Catholic Mass and other rituals, and he said he saw a different side to the religion he had practiced his entire life.

“He really seemed like he had found what life was all about,” Adams said, referring to the pastor. “I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something here. Maybe this isn’t what I thought it was.’”

Adams was ordained as a priest in Rome, Italy, after completing eight years of biblical college and seminary, and he has served as a Catholic pastor since May 2016.

Services at the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church include Sunday Mass at 10 a.m. with a Vigil Mass on Saturday at 5 p.m. The church is located at 137 Bryan Street. For more information, call, (606)-437-6117, or go to, www.cdlex.org/stfrancis.

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