1929 – 2015 (March 10)
Joseph Anthony Spinelli was born on February 2, 1929, in Vineland, New Jersey, the son of Anthony J. Spinelli and Jennie Rita DiLuisi. He was baptized on May 7, 1936, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Vineland, and attended Sacred Heart Parish School and Sacred Heart High School, from 1934 to 1946. He attended Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, for a year of post-graduate studies, after which he was received into the Order as a novice on September 9, 1947. After completing his novitiate year at Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York, he professed simple vows on September 10, 1948. He then attended Villanova College, from 1948 to 1951, and was awarded a BA in Philosophy. Joseph pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, DC, from 1951 to 1955, while also doing graduate studies at Villanova University and the Catholic University of America. He professed solemn vows on September 10, 1951, and was ordained to the priesthood on February 5, 1955, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, by Bishop John McNamara.
Father Spinelli's first assignment was to Saint Joseph Friary and Msgr. Bonner High School, Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, in 1955. He remained there for twenty-six years as a member of the school faculty. From 1981 to 1983 he served as associate pastor at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish, Dania Beach, Florida. Archbishop McCarthy approved the Prior Provincial's nomination of Father Joe as pastor of Saint Elizabeth Seton Parish, Golden Gate, Florida, and appointed him to assume that office in June, 1983. He labored there for twenty-three years, until 2006. In this expanding region of Florida, he built a new parish church, able to accommodate a congregation of 1200 people. In the entrance to the church, he had inscribed a phrase that summarizes Augustine's Confessions and spiritual journey, as an encouragement to all people in their spiritual lives: "To fall in love with God is the greatest of loves; to seek Him is the greatest adventure; to find Him is the greatest achievement." Father Joe celebrated the Golden Anniversary of Priesthood at Saint Elizabeth Seton in February, 2005.
Father Spinelli retired from parish ministry in 2006 as his health began to decline, and was assigned to Saint Thomas Monastery, Villanova, Pennsylvania. Known for his friendly, outgoing personality, contagious sense of humor, and love for people and community life, he died after a long illness, peacefully and comfortably, during the early morning of March 10, 2015 at the Villanova Monastery.
A wake was held on March 16, 2005 followed by his Funeral Mass at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church. Father Spinelli is buried at Sacred Heart Cemetery in Vineland, New Jersey.