I was born on May 12, 1950 to James and Irene Martorano. We were living in a small row home in South Philadelphia along with my grandmother and uncle and aunts. With my brother and sister, we occupied the 3rd floor of this 3 story row home. In a few years, my family moved to another area of South Philadelphia that placed us in the parish boundaries of St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church that was staffed by the Italian Augustinians of the Vice Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel.
My early education was in the Public School System of Philadelphia. I attended Francis Read Elementary School, Furness Jr. High School and then South Philadelphia High, graduating in 1967. Because I was unsure of my future plans, I decided to attend the Community College of Philadelphia, and earned an Associate Degree in Business Administration in 1969. I then transferred to La Salle College and graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1971 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing.
Since my senior year in high school and all through college, I worked at a department store in Center City Philadelphia called Strawbridge and Clothier. I was offered a position as an assistant buyer for the store but for some reason I decided to teach a year at, believe it or not, at St. Nicholas of Tolentine School, my home parish. It was during that year that I became familiar with the Augustinians. The principal of our school kept encouraging me to seek my vocation and so I became attached to Fr. Vince Altimare who was the Vocation Director of the Augustinian Vice Province that staffed St. Nicholas. With him I began to explore the possibility of becoming an Augustinian.
I discerned that this was to be my course for the future. I entered the novitiate at New Hamburg, N.Y., in 1972, arriving there with my family and not knowing any of the other 9 novices or friars from the Villanova Province. However, when the other students arrived, I was quickly welcomed and accepted. I professed my simple vows in 1973, and went straight to Washington, D.C. to study theology at the Washington Theological Union for 3 years.
I was ordained a deacon at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church in 1976 and was assigned to St. Augustine Prep School in Richland, N.J. as well as to assist at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in nearby Vineland. These ministries were all part of the Vice-Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel that was originally formed to serve the needs of the new Italian Immigrants that were arriving in America at the turn of the 20th Century. About 10 years ago the Vice Province was merged with the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova.
I was ordained to the Priesthood in 1977 at St. Nicholas of Tolentine in South Philadelphia, while remaining a member of St. Augustine Prep. In 1983, I was sent to be the Assistant Pastor at Our Lady of Pompeii Church in Vineland, N.J. However, when the Pastor of St. Nicholas Church became ill, I was asked to go St. Nicholas Church to be the administrator for 3 months. Three months has now become 32 years, as I am still the pastor of St. Nicholas Parish, a great Augustinian Parish living the values of Faith, Family and Tradition.
Reflecting on my faith journey, I can see the hand of the Lord at work. I could have very easily taken different turns in my life and career, but something kept me on a path that would later lead to the priesthood as an Augustinian. Most of my vocation and work has revolved around St. Nicholas Parish and South Philadelphia, a story that goes from a row home to a friary in South Philly, the story of an Italian American boy from South Philadelphia.