April 1, 2022

Conventual Franciscan Father Pius Poff served as pastor of Navilleton parish

By Sean Gallagher

Conventual Franciscan Father Pius PoffConventual Franciscan Father Pius Poff died on March 16 at Mount Saint Francis. A member of his order’s Province of Our Lady of Consolation, which is based at Mount Saint Francis, he served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Navilleton from 2009 until his death. He was 87.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 24 at the chapel at Mount Saint Francis. Burial followed in the friars’ cemetery.

Father Pius grew up as a member of the former St. Joseph Parish in Sellersburg, which was merged in 2014 with the former St. Paul Parish in Sellersburg to form St. John Paul II Parish. It is about 10 miles from where he served at St. Mary Parish.

But he didn’t return to minister in the area near his home until he was 74, well past the time when priests often retire from parish administration.

Terry Boaz, who assisted Father Pius in his ministry at St. Mary as the parish’s volunteer sacristan, was impressed by the priest’s dedication to the people of the parish.

“He didn’t hesitate to help in any way that he could help,” said Boaz. “He’d bend over backwards to be there for the people in the parish. He had an unwavering devotion to the people in the parish.”

Father Pius showed that dedication in a very personal way, Boaz explained.

“He kept a list of the birth dates and anniversaries of everyone in the parish,” he said. “His off day was Monday. When someone had a birthday or an anniversary, he’d call them on that day. And on Tuesdays, he’d call the people he missed on Monday, in addition to the Tuesday people.”

Father Wilfred “Sonny” Day, administrator of St. John the Baptist Parish in Starlight, which neighbors St. Mary Parish in Navilleton, knew Father Pius throughout his ministry in the New Albany Deanery.

The personal connections he made with his parishioners extended to the other priests in the deanery, Father Day said.

“He always volunteered to help communal penance services in Advent and Lent,” Father Day said. “He wanted to be a part of that. He related to all the guys. … He fit right in and was one of us.

“He was always upbeat and always seemed happy. He didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about things. He just kept moving.”

Conventual Franciscan Father John Elmer, who preceded Father Pius as St. Mary’s pastor, spoke of his friend’s dedication to priestly ministry.

“He always told me that he was going to die with his boots on while serving God’s people,” Father John said. “He was very committed to serving the Lord and his children, whoever they might be.”

Father John also noted how helping the poor was a priority for Father Pius, who helped start the Franciscan Kitchen in Louisville, Ky., which now serves hundreds of meals daily to people in need.

“He had a passion to minister to those on the margins of society, those who were down and out,” Father John said.

Robert Joseph Poff was born to Julius and Catherine (Batliner) Poff on Nov. 6, 1934, in St. Joseph, Ind. After graduating from the eighth grade at the former St. Joseph School in Sellersburg, he enrolled at the minor seminary at Mount Saint Francis.

He became a novice in the Conventual Franciscans’ Province of Our Lady of Consolation in 1952, at which time he received the religious name Pius.

Father Pius professed simple vows on July 12, 1953, and solemn vows on July 14, 1957. He received additional priestly formation at the former Assumption Seminary in Chaska, Minn., and was ordained a priest on Feb. 19, 1961, at St. Paul Cathedral in St. Paul, Minn.

During the course of his more than 60 years of priestly life and ministry, Father Pius served in parishes in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. This included time in the 1990s when he ministered as the rector of his province’s Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio.

In the archdiocese, Father Pius served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Navilleton from 2009 until his death.

He is survived by his sisters Barbara Poff of Sellersburg, Mary Ann Reed of New Albany and Kathy Wesson of Charlestown; and brothers Dennis Poff of Sellersburg and James Poff of New Albany.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Office of Mission Advancement, 103 St. Francis Blvd., Mount St. Francis, Indiana 47146. †

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