Priests join Bishop McManus in singing the Salve Regina at the second annual “Celebrate Priesthood!” gala Wednesday at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. The event raised money for the priests’ retirement fund. Michael Gillespie, director of development, noted that sponsors and advertisers raised more than $100,000 for the priests’ retirement fund. Bishop McManus spoke about priests following Jesus, and asked prayers for them and for vocations. Prayers were offered by Father J. Normand Tremblay and Father Mateus Souza and through a photo presentation of recently deceased priests. A video showed the bishops and priests reflecting on the Beatitudes.
“They’re such wonderful guys,” Susan Leahy, of St. Mary Parish in Shewsbury, said of priests she’s known. “They’re always there when you need them. You’d do anything for them. … It’s good to celebrate with them.”
Photos by Tanya Connor
The series of essays that follow were published in The Catholic Free Press to lead up to the Oct. 28 evening to Celebrate Priesthood!
To donate to the priests’ retirement fund go to: www.worcesterdiocese.org/celebrate-priesthood
Father Henry Donoghue
Father Ron Falco
Trappist Father Matthew Flynn
Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone
When I first saw the question in The Catholic Free Press asking people: “How did your favorite priest play a starring role in your faith life?” I was hesitant to write. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I had too many priests in my life and had too much to say!
We are blessed in this diocese with many good priests who need our love and support as much as we need theirs. I would like to mention a few.
Father Henry Donoghue was my pastor at St. George’s in Worcester in 2002 when my youngest son underwent heart surgery at Children’s Hospital in Boston. My friends called him for me to let him know what was happening and after the 4 p.m. Mass that Saturday, he joined us in Boston and stayed with us until Angelo died.
I cannot tell you what words he said that night, but I remembering thinking how blessed anyone would be to have those words be the words welcoming us into heaven. His kindness, care and love did so much to support my grieving family.
Father Ron Falco continued to support us, and encouraged the Pieta Bereavement Group to begin meeting at St. George’s in 2008. As a long-time employee of St. Vincent Hospital I knew Msgr. Peter Beaulieu but really didn’t “know” him until I was moved to ask him to be the spiritual adviser of our support group. Msgr. Peter has been at St. V’s for almost 20 years. He has become a friend and he is tremendously gifted in finding the right words to console so many people, particularly those in those horrible first moments when death is so near and, particularly, when so unexpected.
Trappist Father Matthew Flynn from St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer has been the greatest gift to my spiritual growth. He has taught me so much about love and being open to the Spirit of God, which is everywhere and in everything. The kindness and peace that emanates from him is such a gift in this, many times, troubled world.
Lastly, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, or Father Steve as so many of us still call him, not disrespectfully, but because of the familiar level on which we know him. He has been a longtime friend of my family. He has been there for us, praying for us and our family needs. I would call him and ask him to pray for some of the babies born under my care at work. He is always there to listen, to share and console all of us so many times. He is never too busy for us, and we welcome him as another member of our family.
My life and my faith have been enriched by these men in more ways than I can write here, and I am so thankful for the gift of them in my life and the opportunity to let them know.
– Teresa Gentile
Augustinian Father Joe Loiselle
Elementary and high school were very difficult times for me, because I was extremely shy. My parents were very supportive during my Catholic education, yet at times some of their suggestions regarding my shyness backfired.
Later in high school, I decided that matters had to change and that I had to make those changes myself. Deciding to do things differently and actually doing it constituted a very difficult challenge for me.
Fast forward to August of 1963. I was ending my novitiate with the Assumptionist Fathers in Saugerties, N.Y. I had begun my novitiate by opening up to my spiritual director, telling him my problem with shyness and wanting to get help with this personal struggle. Just admitting this issue to anyone marked a radical step. My director complemented me on making that step.
Yet as the year progressed, nothing happened. I became frustrated, angry and felt I had been betrayed.
I had come from a family where those kinds of emotions were wrong.
Then, we had a week-long retreat to prepare ourselves for our first profession of vows on the feast of St. Augustine. Our retreat master was Augustinian Father Joe Loiselle.
Thinking I had been beaten up by a lack of understanding once, a second time did not seem as painful! I shared my story with him. He walked up to his door and closed it, saying, “I’m laughing with you, brother, not at you!” Why was I not laughing!?!
“You were betrayed and sold down the river. You’re angry, frustrated and disappointed. Thank God you’re human! And when you open up to five people in your lifetime as you just did with me, get on your knees and thank God!”
Father Joe had worked as a social worker in New York City. He understood human behavior. No one had ever talked to me in that manner: he made me feel I was a normal human being. That’s the way God had made me, with the lumps and bumps! And it was all right!
Father Joe broke the shell that I slowly began to get out of, to accept myself for who I was. More importantly, I started to empathize more with those who might be experiencing similar struggles, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The human and the spiritual experience of novitiate came together to strengthen my faith more over the years, and even more so today.
Father Joe is deceased now, but he and I remained connected. He continues to laugh with me and I with him, a spiritual smile, a special journey of faith for me. I share my story with others hoping that they might be able to take the next step in their own struggles of life and faith.
– Joe R. Simoneau
Father Richard Reidy
Having been a parishioner at St. Paul’s Cathedral for many years, I have ever so many Father Richard Reidy stories. So many moments when, led by the Holy Spirit, he was always there with wisdom and compassion, sharing in the joys and sorrows of our parish family.
My favorite is possibly the simplest, though.
It was before one of those big Masses with many celebrants. It was very busy downstairs as priests were lining up, and Father Reidy was moving as purposefully as only he can, vestments flying behind him.
Suddenly he heard a 7-year-old child’s voice quietly say, “Um, Father Reidy ….” He stopped, turned, knelt, smiled, and said, “Matthew, how ya doin’, Buddy?” Matthew just beamed. And in that moment I saw Christ and the little children.
Father Reidy is one of the gems of this diocese.
– Marcia Grimes
Father Henry Donoghue
Father Ron Falco
It was July 2007, Father Henry A. Donoghue was retiring from St. George Parish and a new priest was assigned. Father Ronald G. Falco arrived. Adjustments were to be expected.
In October of 2007 my dad died suddenly and Father Ron and Father Henry, along with members of St. George Parish, arrived in my mother-church, St. Mary’s in Longmeadow, to celebrate my father’s funeral along with me and my family.
My large Irish-Catholic family was honored to have these two fine priests from Worcester join us. Honestly, I was shocked. I had not given any thought to anyone from Worcester making the hour drive to Longmeadow for my dad, whom they had never met. To say I was honored and humbled at their presence would be an understatement.
The witness of these fine priests to minister to me and my family provided me great strength and comfort in the challenging days ahead.
When my brother, Hoyt, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 Father Ron walked that journey with me from beginning to end, even calling us in Florida as we set off for the funeral, letting me know the community here was praying for us and providing me with Scripture to read and reflect on in the quiet of the hours ahead.
I smile when I think of that profound kindness and the friendship which has developed from it. Believe me there were many more joyful happy memories over small group dinners, Scripture study and the challenges that come from the invitation to grow in faith and devotion.
I am profoundly grateful for these two outstanding witnesses of the Gospel. I thank them for their friendship and the example and joy they have shared throughout this journey.
– Elizabeth A. Woods
Father Bob Grattaroti
Forty years ago, in the summer of 1975, I was a shy and awkward 16-year-old starting my first job at DeMoulas/Market Basket in Fitchburg. My family belonged to St. Anthony de Padua on Salem Street with Father Bob Grattaroti as pastor, Father Richard Lembo as the newly ordained Associate Pastor and (then) Father John Doran in residence.
Father Bob always took a keen interest in the youth of the parish. He would come fairly frequently into the supermarket to pick up a few items that they’d run out of at the rectory. He always made it a point to get in line for my register to check out. When I got promoted to work in the courtesy booth, he’d stop by there just to say hello and to check in with me. Sometimes he’d come in before I got there for my shift but the two ladies who also worked in the courtesy booth would be quick to tell me, “Your Father Bob came by to say hello;” or sometimes they’d keep track of him and tell me that “he’s in aisle 2” or wherever he was. You could tell that they were impressed that he’d always take the time to seek out and greet a little nothing like me.
At some point he decided that if I could handle large sums of money in a supermarket then I could handle counting money in the collections on Sundays between and after Masses, so he called my mother and asked her permission to hire me to do just that. It was plenty of fun to count the money and to sample Mrs. Grattaroti’s zucchini fritatas in between Masses.
Twice he sponsored me to go to the youth conferences out in Steubenville, Ohio (when they really were in Steubenville!) and for my Teen Encounter (TEC) Retreat at St. Basil’s Seminary in Methuen. Decades later he signed my application for me to make my Cursillo in July 2013. He was always encouraging me – always available to listen.
Father Bob always did very well with the youth of the parish. When Fitchburg’s superintendent of schools called Father Bob for suggestions as to who could replace the Italian teacher for a semester at Fitchburg High in 1977, Father Bob offered himself and was my Italian teacher for six glorious months – and yes, he’d come to school every day in his Roman collar! He even taught me to sing Petula Clark’s song, “Downtown,” in Italian which I still recall to this day!
There are three things that always come to mind when I think of Father Bob Grattaroti: love of God, love of Church and finding/bringing forth the good in others as he did with me when I was so terribly shy.
No other priest in all my many years has ever touched my heart as deeply as did Father Bob. He’s great to talk to – to really talk. He asks caring and sometimes really deep questions. To this very day, I can still recall a few of his succinct homilies that attracted me and kept me in church when so many of my friends were giving up Mass. No-one else – as far as I am concerned – deserves the title of Father more than he for that is who truly he is. My faith and love of God have flourished greatly because of his many kindnesses and tenderness through the years.
To you, my dear Father Bob Grattaroti, thank-you from the depths of my heart for more than 40 years of listening, caring, and just being you. I love you dearly. Ad Multos Anos!
– Cynthia Trainque
Msgr. Edmond Tinsley
Kathleen M. Kelly of Worcester thought of Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley when she saw our question: ‘How did your favorite priest play a starring role in your faith life?’ We publish Mrs. Kelly’s thoughts as the first in a series of essays leading up to the Oct. 28 evening to Celebrate Priesthood!
I was in the midst of developing a column in tribute to the priest who most influenced my life and faith’s journey.
The following morning the Lord called my friend and spiritual director, Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley home to return to heaven with Him.
Msgr. Edmond Tinsley’s life and priesthood spanned the entire history of our diocese from its beginning with the installation of our first Bishop, John J. Wright, on March 7, 1950. Msgr. Tinsley was ordained on May 19, 1951. The pending ordination was reported in the first issue of the newly published Catholic Free Press.
In July 1951, the new “curate” was assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Jefferson with pastor, Father Hugh Curran. Father Tinsley became chaplain for our newly formed parish Catholic Youth Council. He was respected and loved by youth and adult parishioners alike. In fact, clergy and many members of the several churches of other faith traditions in Holden respected and admired Father’s friendly spirit.
Father Tinsley made himself present to all in parish and community. He was always beside us … at school and parish plays, graduations, sports events, CYC Basketball, parish meetings and suppers, Women’s Guild Communion Breakfasts, etc. We looked forward to his daily rounds at Holden District Hospital, where some of us were also employed. He was loved by parish and community alike from the youngest child to the most senior adult. His gentle wisdom and quiet sense of humor won the heart of each life he touched.
In July 1955, our hearts were broken when Father was transferred to St. Leo Parish in Leominster. For our small country parish of second-generation immigrant families of French, Irish, Italian and Polish descent of the 1950s … Leominster may as well have been another country away.
As promised, Father Tinsley always kept in touch with his first parishioners in Jefferson throughout his priesthood.
God love and carry you gently home to Him, Msgr. Edmond T. Tinsley.
– Kathleen M. Kelly
Father Peter J. Scanlon
By Father Conrad S. Pecevich
It all began while he was on retreat at his beloved College of the Holy Cross with his fellow diocesan priests. Then Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan took him aside and gave him the challenge that would consume the rest of his priesthood: “Father Peter, go to WPI and Becker Junior College. See what you can do!”
It was 1961. There were no manuals or guidebooks for doing campus ministry. The college campuses were fertile soil for cultivating the faith. It was the notorious ‘60s, the Church and society were in the midst of a revolution. Eagerly and with enthusiasm, Father Peter J. Scanlon accepted the challenge to lay the foundations for Catholic Campus Ministry in the Diocese of Worcester. He did all this part-time while remaining part-time curate at Immaculate Conception Church in Worcester.
Father Peter was a true pioneer. He carefully mapped out a strategy. He would eventually introduce himself to all the presidents of the various colleges throughout the Diocese, gaining their respect and admiration for his work and interest in the young adults. His philosophy was: “Go where the students are at! Don’t expect them to come to come to you!”
It wasn’t uncommon over the years to find Father Peter cheering on the team at a late-night basketball game or being present at a fraternity house party. He taught us, his fellow campus ministers, the importance of what he called “creative loitering” – just “hanging out” as a presence where the students were. That’s how young people can identify with you!
Quite famous were his monthly “Spaghetti Suppers” held at the WPI Religious Center. He’d pack the place with students for a tasty Italian meal accompanied by a bit of theological reflection. His belief: If you want to get to their soul, go through their stomachs.
And then, there was always time for Newman Club agenda planning. As chaplain, he always listened to the voice of the members. They provided the ideas; he offered the guidance.
Every week at 6 p.m. Alden Hall – or wherever they could meet – would be packed with students for the Sunday evening Mass. Father Peter estimates that some 300-400 would be in attendance. At the request of some students, Father Peter began to send out his weekly sermon by e-mail on the Wednesday prior to Sunday Mass. Some students jokingly would say, “Father, I read your sermon. I didn’t have to go to Mass.”
And then there were his famous retreats.
In 1969, Father Peter was made Director of Campus Ministry for the Diocese of Worcester, and then in 1971 he was appointed Vicar of Campus Ministry. In this role, he guided chaplains at the various colleges and universities throughout the Diocese. He worked diligently to build up strong Newman Centers where there was outreach to the Catholic populations on our campuses. Father Peter was convinced that the youth were the life-blood of the Church.
I never realized the importance of the name “Father Peter Scanlon” in Campus Ministry circles until I attended a Catholic Campus Ministry Convention 20 years ago at Barry University in Mimi Shores, Florida. I encountered some of the “big names” at that time in Catholic Campus Ministry, and right away they would say, “Worcester, Mass.! Oh, yeah! Pete Scanlon! He’s one of our founding fathers!” They’d tell me stories about how Father Peter was there with them from the very beginning as Catholic campus ministry was established during the turbulent ‘60s.
In 1961, Father Scanlon undoubtedly discovered a “vocation within a vocation.” God called him to reach out to the young adults on our college campuses. This has been a ministry he held dear to his heart for decades up until his retirement a few years ago. It’s a ministry that won him all types of awards and accolades, including WPI’s “Goat’s Head Award” given by the alumni to the most influential person during their days on campus.
What advice would Father Peter give to campus ministers today?
“You can’t live in your office!” In short, go where the young people are at! They are Church.
– Father Pecevich, pastor of St. Anne Parish, Southborough, has served in campus ministry at Anna Maria College, Paxton and Nichols College, Dudley.
A series of essays leading up to the Oct. 28 evening to Celebrate Priesthood!
For more information go to: www.worcesterdiocese.org/celebrate-priesthood