If you believe that Augustinian friars pass their charism on to those to whom they minister, then it can be said that I am “Augustinian” from my baptism! The friar was Fr. Lorenzo Andolfi, OSA originally from Viterbo, Italy and at that time pastor of Holy Rosary Parish, Lawrence, Massachusetts. My Italian roots are somewhat evident by way of my father, John, but out of respect for my mother, Elizabeth, let me be quick to say that the other 50% are French-Canadian.
My years at the parish grammar school greatly shaped my faith and my vocation. Fathers George Callaghan, Alfred Natali and particularly my dear friend Bill Cleary inspired in me a vocation to Augustinian life.
It was after my years at Central Catholic High School that I entered the Order in August of 1970 beginning my novitiate year in New Hamburg, New York. After first profession the following August, I began studies at Villanova and then moved on to Washington for theological studies. I professed Solemn Vows in 1977 and was ordained in Christ the Teacher Chapel at Merrimack College on August 25, 1979.
When traveling home during my formation years and visiting my grandmother, I would see from her window the Hispanic community gathering for Mass at the former Immaculate Conception Church in Lawrence. That image and my experience working in a Vacation Bible School program with predominantly Hispanic children during my summers, where their lives were similar to that of my father’s in another neighborhood of immigrants, confirmed my desire to work in parochial ministry. All that led to my first assignment of 15 years at the then St. Mary/Immaculate Conception Parish in Lawrence … years both personally rewarding and quite challenging. I can truly say that as a young priest I was ‘raised’ by the wonderful families of many nationalities there. My Augustinian brothers, especially Jim Wenzel, were my valuable mentors.
My next three years of parochial ministry at Our Mother of Consolation Parish in Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia) Pennsylvania, where I also worked part time in Vocation Ministry, were years of personal and ministerial renewal and refreshment. The relationships with my fellow friars and the families of the parish were rich and satisfying on many levels.
It was after those years, in 1997, that I was asked to serve in a new ministry. I began my work in formation at Augustinian College in Washington, D.C. It was a challenge to learn new skills and mature into this new call. My love for the Order and the gift formation ministry offers - the opportunity to walk with good younger men discerning a vocation to consecrated life - made these years a blessing, as well. Little did I know it would develop into a “second career” in ministry!
Rome, Italy was my next home for 13 years, where I served as Director of Formation at Collegio Santa Monica, our Order’s international house of studies on the property of our General Curia and the Augustinian Patristic Institute. There is not enough space, here, to tell you what those years meant to me and how grateful I am to God and to my brothers. Living with friars from all corners of the world and sharing their faith; walking the ground of the early Church’s foundation in the wider world, and of the Order’s very beginnings; participating in the Curia’s ministry to the wider Order and discovering the horizons of culture and art only begin to tell of the significance of those years for me.
I’m now back in the United States, having been welcomed by my brothers to St. Augustine Friary in Chicago serving in formation with our student friars from the three USA provinces studying philosophy and theology. In a new setting, I once again thank God for the gift of my vocation and the opportunity to share my faith in Christ and my love for our Augustinian heritage with brothers who do the same in return.