PITTSTON — Rev. Joseph Adonizio sat back in a chair at the conclusion of the Mass of Thanksgiving in his honor a very humbled man.
The nearly two-hour Mass marked Adonizio’s 60th year in the priesthood, and an estimated 550 family and friends were present Sunday, June 5 at St. Joseph Marello Parish Church to show their appreciation and respect for the reverend.
The Mass featured a full choir, 30 fellow priests, Bishop Emeritus of Scranton James C. Timlin, along with many local dignitaries to mark the occasion. The entire church was filled at the start of the program, with overflow sitting in the balcony.
One special person participating in the Mass was Carmel Insalaco, who sang in the choir.
“Carmel Insalaco is singing in the choir today and she sung in the choir on the day of my ordination 60 years ago,” Adonizio noted during the service. “…This is the most important day because of the gift and grace to be able to celebrate 60 years; my joy was the priesthood, not myself.”
The Hughestown native and resident became an educator prior to joining the priesthood. He graduated from the University of Scranton with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy, psychology and education. He taught in Hughestown public schools in the English and Latin departments and graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, earning a Master of Arts degree in education and administration.
He was licensed by the Department of Education in Harrisburg with principal certifications of both elementary and high school. He also received certificates as a guidance counselor and superintendent of schools in the state of Pennsylvania.
Adonizio entered the Seminary of Christ the King at St. Bonaventure’s, Olean, New York, for his theological training and received a master’s degree in theology, graduating magna cum laude. He was ordained into the priesthood by Bishop Jerome D. Hannon, D.D. on May 26, 1956, at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton.
Adonizio offered his first Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, presently known as St. Joseph Marello Parish, on May 27, 1956.
Many who have known Adonizio since his early years in the priesthood reflected on their time with him during the service.
“Fr. Joe has had a profound impact upon the lives of many people throughout northeastern Pennsylvania,” said U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito during the service. “Whether it was through his educational training or this theological studies or just simply his personality, he’s helped so many people through so many different problems in life in such a quiet way, with such professionalism; his goal is to help people. He has done that his entire career.
“When he received the calling (to the priesthood), he trusted God and that’s how he’s been living his life — 100 percent trust in God.”
Adonizio has served at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Jessup and as pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in West Pittston. He was on the pastoral committee instrumental in establishing Wyoming Area Grade School and served as a member of the pastoral board of Seton Catholic High School. In his retirement, he was appointed Pastor Emeritus of Immaculate Conception Church; he accepted the assignment as pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Hughestown for one year.
Juel Anne Klepadlo had a long history working with Adonizio and over the years, they have become great friends at Immaculate Conception Church.
“When he first came to our church, I became a Eucharistic minister. Fr. Adonizio volunteered me for everything,” Klepadlo said, laughing. Adonizio recruited Klepadlo to teach bible studies, which she continues to do today.
Atty. Joseph Burke was also a member of Immaculate Conception Church during Adonizio’s tenure. “It was a wonderful 15-year window when Fr. Joe was there,” Burke said. “His kindness to people and his commitment to being present to them in times of adversity; he was always present to us was in the midst of adversity, always there to celebrate with you, but most importantly in the tough moments, the challenging moments in life, he was there for us and we were grateful.”
One colleague not present due to previous commitments was Province of the Oblates of St. Joseph, Rev. Paul McDonnell. Adonizio served as a mentor and advisor during McDonnell’s early days as a priest.
The Adonizio/McDonnell connection has been strong over the years. “My first two years in the priesthood was being an assistant to Fr. Adonizio at Immaculate Conception and he was kind to me and took me under his wing,” McDonnell said in a phone interview. “He was there to not impose himself on me, but he was always there to listen and very respectfully offer suggestions and I’d often run things past him for his wisdom.”
Even though McDonnell has moved to California for his position, the two remain great friends. “We’ve maintained a great friendship and we have been able to enjoy things on a social level over the years,” said McDonnell.
Adonizio is proud of the past 60 years, but remains humble about his experiences.
“It’s humbling to know that I touched so many lives, but it’s rewarding to know that what I did went well,” he said. “We are never finished doing the Lord’s work — it goes on and on.”