Take 5 with Father Joe Mele

Father Joe Mele is the administrator of the Morningside/Shadyside/Stanton Heights grouping.

Father Mele at an annual Saint Patrick’s Day party with his friend Kay Ruefle, former receptionist at Saint Sebastian Parish

1.  How did God call you to the priesthood?  

I always wanted to be a priest. I think that was the way it was in my generation. I struggled a little with the calling in high school but once I entered the seminary, I knew this was what God was calling me to do. I have been very happy ever since! The desire to be a priest, to love God and neighbor, to be bound more closely to Christ and to spend myself entirely for souls is the cause of my joy.

2.  What is the most meaningful aspect of your ministry? 

Without a doubt, the most meaningful aspect of my ministry is beginning each morning with a Holy Hour and then offering the Mass. I try very hard to celebrate the Sacraments in a way that inspires and invites full and active participation from every member in the congregation. I believe a priest’s principal duty is to pray for his people and try hard to lead his parishioners to holiness rooted in a deep personal relationship with Christ.

3.  What is the most challenging part of your ministry? 

I find happiness every day in the priesthood, but I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is without a doubt the greatest challenge I have experienced in my 47 years of ministry. The biggest challenge is determining how to bring Christ to my people without being physically present with them. I am sure that saddens every priest right now.

I have always loved engaging my people and interacting with them on a deep and personal level. The pandemic has changed how that I do that. One way I minister to people amid the pandemic is by visiting my parish’s amazing young adult group during their weekly socially distanced bonfire after evening Mass. These are strange times but the blessings far outweigh the obstacles we must face.

4.  What do you wish people knew about the priesthood? 

I believe with all my heart and soul that the priesthood is a supernatural gift. It is a divine inspiration to work as a priest. I also believe without any question that the soul of a priest is changed forever when he is marked by an indelible seal at his ordination. I rely on the graces of my ordination for courage and hopefully humility as I go about my ministry.

I humbly accept that through my priestly ordination, I am made into another Christ, but I am still just a man, a brother, a friend and hopefully a good shepherd. Like any person, I have my own hobbies, interests and favorite foods. I also have successes and failures. I have learned over the years that my complete surrender to Christ brings not only personal satisfaction, but also an indescribable joy that I want to share with everyone I meet.

5.  What is your hobby, or what do you like to do in your free time?

I have enjoyed taking parishioners on pilgrimages to Europe and other places. That was always fun for me. I also enjoyed power walking, working out and playing racquet ball. People are surprised to know I used to play the bagpipes. Now, I have slowed down a bit. I still enjoy taking walks but not as far or as fast. Like my dad, I love gardening and tend a rooftop garden. I love animals, so I feed the local bird and squirrels. I always had a dog until recently. I miss my dog Bayley very much. I am an avid reader and am currently studying the poet Michael O’Siadhail. I am also reading Overground Railroad by Candacy Taylor and The Irony of Modern Catholic History by George Weigel. But my favorite way to spend free time is a quiet dinner with a few friends or family.

Father Mele’s dog, Bayley