First Posted: 9/20/2013
When “Father Paul” came home, he brought guests.
And the 29 members of the laity group from Oblate parishes in California were treated to a tour of Greater Pittston.
The Rev. Paul McDonnell, a West Pittston native who is now the head of the Oblates of St. Joseph order in America, said the trip provided an opportunity to introduce members of the Order’s West Coast Province, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., to members of the East Coast Province based in Laflin.
It was also a chance to showcase the Northeast region, its historical areas, and its natural beauty. By all accounts, the effort was a success.
After a Mass at the Seminary of the Oblates of St. Joseph, the group gathered for a “meet and greet” at the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce.
Charles Adonizio addressed the group, welcoming them to the Pittston area. Sharing area history, he lauded residents for their ability to successfully overcome challenges, such as the flooding of 2011.
He also shared mining history, which he said reflected the resilience and hard work of residents. The Chamber of Commerce building itself located on the Susquehanna River provided a sense of both history and geography.
In speaking about “Father Paul,” Adonzio likened the journey of those assembled to a pilgrimage honoring both McDonnell and seeking unity in service, bringing together the faithful from both coasts.
McDonnell said although the visit was certainly a wonderful opportunity for the 29 to visit such places as New York City, the Anthracite Museum, Eckley Miner’s Village, and Philadelphia, it also reflected some hard truths about present challenges of the church.
With the order pulling out of St. Barbara’s in Exeter, St. Joseph Marello Parish in Pittston, remains the only church the Oblates attend to in Greater Pittston. He attributed this, in part, to need for more young men to enter the priesthood.
Elaine Fisher, president of the Josephite-Marellian Laity of the East Coast, was instrumental in making the visit possible.
“When Father Paul asked for assistance, we were very happy to help make the visit happen, which turned out to be not only a spiritual journey, but an opportunity for a lot of fun with our brothers and sisters from the west coast,” Fisher said.
Karen Chappelear, West Coast coordinator of the event, defined the visit as “historical, cultural, and spiritual.”
The West Coast visitors were certainly having fun.
Many were impressed with the Pittston’s “neighborhood feel.”
“It’s such a beautiful area, almost beyond words,” said Sandy Harp, Granite Bay, “and Father Paul is a huge spiritual blessing, a light of our lives, and a reflection of God’s love.”
The group also visited St. John the Evangelist Church on William Street and the Care and Concern Clinic. Deacon Jim Cortegerone in addressing the group, emphasized the church’s committment to service, making medical treatment, food, and clothing available to less fortunate residents of the community.
The group was also provided a tour of the Greater Pittston YMCA with a view of its refurbished lobby area.
Membership director Robert Duliba told the group the facility sought to be a healthy benefit to the Pittston Area, making those benefits available to an increasing number of residents through scholarships and outreach programs, such as THRIVE for those struggling with cancer.
They then were treated to lunch at Cooper’s Waterfront Seafood House for a sampling of hometown food and a spectacular view of the river.
The group will be concluding their East Coast visit on Sunday with a tour of Philadelphia before flying back to California.
Fran Conaty of Granite Bay, Calif., said she enjoyed the sense of history afforded the visitors, especially the Eckley’s Miners Village tour.
Were the East Coast pilgrims impressed with our area? Husband, Robert Conaty, enthusiastically summing up the visit, said, “we are certainly coming back!”