'Dynamic' Ross Township parish welcomes new pastor

Friday, March 02, 2001 - Updated: 12:01 am
Chuck Moody, Staff Writer
Father Joseph Mele, the new pastor at St. Sebastian
Parish, is surprised how many people still remember
him and how many people he recognizes from his year
as a parochial vicar at the Ross Township church 20
years ago.

?It feels very exciting,? Father Mele said. ?I was here
before briefly. That was back in the early ?80s. I was
only here for a year as a parochial vicar.

?It was a dynamic parish then, and I?m experiencing that
it?s the same right now. It?s very dynamic right now. I?ve
inherited a real vibrant parish. It?s nice to be back in a

Bishop Donald Wuerl officially installed Father Mele as
pastor at a Feb. 10 Mass. Father Mele had been on a
sabbatical as part of the diocesan continuing education
and formation program for priests.

He replaces Father Paul Bradley, the new rector of St.
Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh?s Oakland section.
Father Mele had been serving as director of the
diocesan Department for Clergy Personnel.

He previously was pastor at St. John Parish in Unity
and at Christ the King Parish in Ambridge before it
became Good Samaritan Parish.

Father Mele also was a parochial vicar at St. Catherine
of Siena in Pittsburgh?s Beechview section, St. Malachy
in Kennedy Township and Our Lady of Fatima in
Hopewell Township.

There are some 7,800 members of St. Sebastian.

Fathers Thomas Sparacino and James Stover serve as
parochial vicars, and Richard Cessar is the permanent

Michael Stumpf is serving the parish as a transitional
deacon, and will be ordained a priest this summer.

Father Mele has found that the lay members of St.
Sebastian are living out the pastoral call to be active in
the life of the church.

?That?s been implemented real well here,? he said.

?That?s what really I feel my pastorate is about.
?I?m looking forward to working with the pastoral staff,
the Pastoral Council and the Finance Council. I rely
heavily on their wisdom and advice.?

Father Mele said he has a special commitment to
ministries that serve children.

?We have a large school and an equally large CCD
program,? he said. ?They have a long history of youth
being involved in the parish on the high school level.

"They have a CYO play every year, and there are other
things that youth are involved in.?

St. Sebastian School has some 450 students enrolled
in kindergarten through eighth grade, and the CCD
program has nearly 600 students who are taught by 66

One of the things Father Mele remembered about St.
Sebastian Parish was the depth of the spirituality of the

?I remember confessions here, just the depth of the
awareness that people had when they came to
confession,? he said. ?What they were striving for was
always inspiring to me.

?I?ve already found that is still consistent here. I heard
for nearly two hours my first Saturday here, and the
confessions were just as devout.?

Father Mele is enrolled in the doctoral program in
communications at Duquesne University.

?I think what drove me or why I felt called to study
communications was out of the experience of a parish,
as parishes become larger,? he said.

?What I went to Duquesne for was to explore questions
that would help me know how to communicate and
help people to have a common vision and mission.?

Father Mele said a key concept or ministry for him is the
church?s initiative of the new evangelization.

?It?s meeting people where they are,? he said. ?That?s
important for us to do, to meet people where they are
and to engage them then in the Gospel.

?I just really love that whole initiative of the new
evangelization. It respects people where they are but
calls them into the Gospel, which then becomes a
guiding light for them.?

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