First Posted: 6/12/2013
It was a painful decision.
The Rev. Paul McDonnell, OSJ, provincial superior of the Oblates of St. Joseph, announced last week the order will pull out of St. Barbara’s Parish in Exeter.
St. Barbara’s, formerly St. Anthony of Padua Church Parish, in Exeter is McDonnell’s home parish and he grew up across the street from the church.
“It was a very difficult, very painful decision to make,” he said. “But it came across my desk and I had to be objective and do what’s best.”
The Diocese announced Friday that Pittston native Rev. Michael E. Finn will take the reins of the parish on July 9.
The order’s East Coast Province, based in Pittston, and the West Coast Province, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., were merged into one in March and McDonnell was appointed leader.
McDonnell said the Oblates will still tend to the order’s namesake parish in Pittston, St. Joseph Marello. Also, it will maintain its presence at Holy Annunciation Parish in Hazleton. McDonnell said Bishop Joseph Bambera, spiritual leader of the Diocese of Scranton, specifically asked the order to stay in Hazleton for the work it is doing with the Hispanic community there.
The Oblates has been in Exeter for 84 years but the move was necessitated due to the decline of priests and vocations in the congregation, McDonnell said.
“We just don’t have enough men,” McDonnell said. “We can’t maintain everything we have.”
He said the Oblates recently lost seven men. Four left the order, one died and two promising Seminarians left the seminary. He said the order will focus on increasing vocations through high school and college outreach.
The original church, a small wooden structure, was built on Memorial Avenue. The present-day St. Anthony’s church, located on the same street, was built in the 1960s when Rev. Lawrence Pio, OSJ, was pastor.
In 2011, St. Anthony of Padua Parish consolidated with the parishes of St. John the Baptist and St. Cecilia’s, both of Exeter, to form St. Barbara Parish.
The last Oblates pastor of St. Barbara Parish is the Rev. Philip Massetti, OSJ, who will become the new pastor of St. Joseph Marello Parish, Granite Bay, California. McDonnell briefly presided over this parish until he was appointed Provincial Superior.
St. Barbara’s assistant pastor, the Rev. Raymond Tabon, OSJ, is retiring and will reside at the seminary in Laflin.
The Oblates of St. Joseph was founded by Bishop Joseph Marello, now Saint Joseph Marello in 1878 in Asti, Italy. The order was established to help serve the needs of local parishes. Today, the Congregation of the Oblates of St. Joseph minister worldwide in the Philippines, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Nigeria, India, Australia, El Salvador and Spain.
McDonnell oversees the 50 priests and brothers and more than 30,000 faithful. In addition to the Pennsylvania chuches, the order runs three churches in California (St. Joseph Marello Parish in Granite Bay, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Bakersfield and St. Joachim Parish in Madera, Calif.). It also operates three seminaries, one in Laflin, one in Loomis, Calif. and one in Oxnard, Calif. and the order’s headquarters, the Oblates of St. Joseph Provincial House in Santa Cruz, Calif.
A mass of Thanksgiving will be celebrated by Bambera at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 23 at St. Anthony of Padua Church of St. Barbara Parish. A social will follow until 2 p.m. in the parish center. McDonnell will journey from the order’s headquarters in California to help preside at the Mass. Other Oblate priests will concelebrate.
Former altar servers, Eucharistic ministers, lectors and anyone who was in a leadership role over the years will participate in the Mass.
A display of photos and memorabilia is being planned. Anyone with old photos and other items is urged to contact Maureen at the parish office.