Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church bids farewell to Father Ham

Written by Aggie Dowd of Foster's Daily Democrat, June 28, 2002

After 14 years, the Rev. George Ham is leaving Our Lady of the
Miraculous Medal Church in Hampton. He is photographed at a
going away party given by the faculty of Sacred Heart School.
Teachers Alice Levis, left, and Chris Jones presented Ham with a
shovel and hard hat to help with the construction of the new church he
will be building in Wolfeboro. (Democrat photo/Dowd)
One of the biggest events in Hampton this week, affecting more than 10,000 people, was the departure of the Rev. George Ham, who has served as pastor of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (OLMM) Church for the last 14 years.

Ham left Hampton to take up his new assignment as pastor of St. Cecilia Church in Wolfeboro. There he will direct the construction of a new church to integrate the parish communities of St. Cecilia and St. Joan of Arc in Alton, whose church was destroyed by fire three years ago.

During the past month, Ham's already busy schedule included a number of farewell parties, including a reception last weekend by OLMM parishioners at the Inn of Hampton, several functions at Sacred Heart School, and a host of smaller events.

At each of them, the line of well-wishers was long and the goodbyes were fervent and grateful for the priest who led the parish into a period of unprecedented growth and renewal.

During Ham's tenure, the number of families in the parish doubled from 1,500 to over 3,000, and the school's enrollment rose from 128 to 438.

One of his first efforts was helping to establish the St. Vincent de Paul Society and erecting a new building for the food pantry.

In 1990, after extensive renovation that included rewiring and a new roof and the installation of a new altar and pipe organ, St. Elizabeth's Church in Seabrook was incorporated into the parish with year-round services. Then the Knights of Columbus grew from six members to a busy and thriving group today; and two active groups, the Men of St. Joseph and Our Lady's Sodality were founded.

Finally, Ham presided over extensive construction, including a complete restoration of the church, the addition of a new sacristy, expansion of the choir loft and installation of new pews, an elevator, and a custom designed pipe organ.

In 1996, eight classrooms were added to Sacred Heart School. In 1998 the basement of the church was completely remodeled.

But the hallmark of Ham's years at OLMM was his inspiring pastoral service.

No matter what his schedule called for, if someone was sick or in trouble or grieving, he would drop everything to be present to that person.

This correspondent has had the privilege of working with Ham in various capacities for all of those 14 years and can attest firsthand to his extraordinary caring for those in need, and his cheerful ministry that belied the enormous self-sacrifice that such works of mercy entail.

When the students of Sacred Heart School presented Ham with a stole embroidered with the faces of the children of the world, the 4th grade presenter acknowledged the many faces of the pastor.

"From wearing cool sunglasses when the bishop came to dedicate the new wing, to playing the piano when we had our concerts, you have been an important part of our lives. We have always looked up to you because you do such good works for people. And we are grateful to you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come to our classes and teach us about our Catholic faith.

"We love you, Father Ham, and will never forget you."

In an interview last week, Ham was quick to say that it was the parishioners who are responsible for OLMM's many ministries and accomplishments.

He also acknowledged that he will miss the children, particularly in his new assignment. For at least 20 years, he has had the responsibility of a parochial school, but neither St. Cecilia nor St. Joan of Arc has a school.

"These 14 years have been among my happiest," he said. "But I am looking forward to the challenge of a new assignment because new challenges are good for everyone."

The Rev. Maurice Larochelle, formerly pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Londonderry, was eagerly welcomed as new pastor at OLMM.