Native son returns

First Posted: 3/19/2013

He’s eating better and golfing weekly.

The Rev. Paul McDonnell, OSJ, made a return to the Greater Pittston area this week to help the Oblate community celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph.

McDonnell, 48, was recently named Provincial Superior of the newly formed Holy Spouses Province of the USA, which combine the two Oblate communities Our Lady of Sorrows Province in Pennsylvania and St. Joseph Guardian of the Redeemer Province in California.

He got the call that he was being named the order’s new American leader on Jan. 8, just two days before he was leaving for a new assignment in California on Jan. 10.

“I was literally packing when I received the call from Rome,” McDonnell said. “I was shocked and humbled.”

McDonnell said he was a little hesitant accepting the high post from the Oblate’s Superior General in Rome, the Rev. Michele Piscopo.

“I asked him to name someone else. I even gave him a few names,” McDonnell said. “But out of obedience, I accepted.”

McDonnell was officially installed on March 14, when the two provinces became one. He oversees about 50 brothers and priests and more than 30,000 faithful.

A goal of his is to help strengthen the existing members in the living of their own personal religious lives and the help grow the order with more vocations.

McDonnell joined about 30 visiting and Oblate priests to a packed chapel in the order’s Seminary in Laflin Tuesday night to celebrate the Feast Day of St. Joseph.

“The Fathers here were admiring my tan,” McDonnell quipped. “I told them it’s high blood pressure.”

After a few more of his trademark jokes, McDonnell spoke of St. Joseph’s role in the church.

The gospel that night was from St. Luke where the 12-year-old Jesus was left at the temple after the Festival of Passover. Mary and Joseph traveled for a day before they noticed he was missing and headed back to Jerusalem to find him. After several days, they found him at the Temple, sitting among the teachers. When Mary questioned him, he responded: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

McDonnell said this is last time St. Joseph is mentioned in the scripture, but St. Joseph’s work continued, protecting Jesus and Mary.

McDonnell thought it was fitting the new pontiff, Pope Francis, chose the feast day of St. Joseph to be inaugurated.

“In his homily today in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis talked about St. Joseph being the “custos” or the “protector,” the one who would guide Mary and Jesus and the church,” McDonnell said.

In an interview before the Mass, McDonnell said the relocation to California is going well.

“The people of California and Pennsylvania are very much the same,” McDonnell said. “They’re kind, welcoming, and grateful for services you render to them. The people have been very accepting. I feel very loved.”

He golfs once a week with a group of five Irish priests. “We look like we’re from the Old Sod.”

He’s been eating better, as well.

“They don’t eat as many carbs as we do here,” McDonnell said. “Everything is lower fat and carbs in California. Dr. (James) Bruno would be happy.”

Weather’s been nice, too, in Northern California. The average daytime temperature is in the 70s and the evening lows are in the high 30s to low 40s, he said.

He’s temporarily leading a parish in Granite Bay until he makes changes, and moves to the Provincial headquarters in Santa Cruz, about a 2 to 3 hour drive.

He’s visited Lake Tahoe in Nevada, but hasn’t had much time for sight seeing.

Louise Latzko of Dallas traveled from the Back Mountain to pray with McDonnell at the Feast of St. Joseph Mass.

“He’s a holy man and he’s vibrant and you feel happy when you leave his Mass,” she said. “He’s very funny, but he’s respectful. He’s very rare and he brings spirituality to everything and everyone he encounters. He has a humble, holy way. We miss him and we want him back.”

Michael English of Pittston Township, and his mother, Nora, knew McDonnell since he was pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Pittston.

“He got me to be a lector in the church and he motivated me to get involved in the Holy Name Society,” Michael English said. “It was good he came back. We wish we could keep him. We miss him so much.”

Patty Sciandra of Scranton said her mother, Edith Bianco, recently passed away and she was sad McDonnell couldn’t preside over the funeral.

“He’s the most wonderful priest,” she said.

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