MENDHAM Back in the 1950s, young Joseph Anginoli seemed way ahead of his time. As a fourth-grader, he would play “Mass” at home with able assistance from his sister, Regina — decades before the Church permitted girls to serve at altar.
“I started thinking about the priesthood in fourth grade. I always wanted to be a priest,” said now-Msgr. Anginoli, pastor of St. Joseph Parish here, who spoke on Feb. 2 to the students of St. Joseph School about vocations — part of the school’s many activities for Catholic Schools Week (CSW). “Later, I dated girls and played sports in high school, but I kept pushing the idea of the priesthood to the back of my mind. Somehow, Jesus kept following me, tapping me and saying, ‘start thinking.’ I started to think about it and, by the end of high school, I decided, ‘Let’s go for it,’ ” he said.
Students from fifth to eighth grade sat together in the cafeteria of St. Joseph School in rapt attention, listening to Msgr. Anginoli’s talk about the very nature of vocation and about his answering the Lord’s call to the priesthood. The pastor also spoke to third-graders, while Father Stephen Prisk, parochial vicar, spoke to students the previous day.
“I believe that God put you here for a purpose: to proclaim the Gospel. We do that through a vocation. That could be life as a priest or nun, as a single person or in the married state. A vocation takes on a broader sense, not only the priesthood,” said Msgr. Anginoli, a priest of the Diocese for 42 years and St. Joseph’s pastor for 11 years. He also serves as diocesan adjutant judicial vicar in the Tribunal. “We need to keep our hearts, minds and ears open to what the Lord wants us to do. He wants us to follow him to build up his kingdom here on earth,” he said.
Msgr. Anginoli’s faith took root within his family, which attended Mass on Sundays at St. Michael Church, Cranford. He attended St. Ann School, Garwood and Union Catholic High School, Scotch Plains. Msgr. Anginoli answered God’s call by getting in contact with the Paterson Diocesan vocations office and started pursuing the priesthood in 1967. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 24, 1975, he told students.
“Like any vocation, the priesthood has its bumps in the road, but looking back on 42 years, I would do it again. I had some great opportunities and met some great people. The priesthood and religious life give you the opportunity to help people and make a difference. You are doing the Lord’s work,” said Msgr. Anginoli. “Each of us is called to carry the Word — whether at home, school, sports or work.”
Msgr. Anginoli answered students’ questions about sports that he played and if he made any mistakes while celebrating Mass. One student stood up and asked, “What’s the hardest part of being a priest?”
“The hardest part is telling someone that his or her loved one has passed away,” the pastor said. “But there are a lot of happy days: weddings, baptisms and birthdays. We are called to be with people, when they reach rock bottom to bring them up and when they are flying high to share that happiness with them,” he said.
Another student asked, “What’s your favorite sacrament to celebrate?”
“My favorite sacrament to celebrate is the Mass — the Eucharist. That’s what I wanted to do in fourth grade. That’s what I was ordained to do,” Msgr. Anginoli said. “When Bishop Serratelli talks about vocations, he says, ‘No priesthood, no Eucharist, no Church.’ That’s why it’s important for all of you to think about a vocation.”
On the day before Msgr. Anginoli’s presentation, Father Prisk gave two, 30-minute talks — one to younger students and another to older students. He defined vocations as “a call from God that requires our response. We are all called to holiness — to become saints — and to live out that call in a particular vocation.”
Father Prisk started his vocation journey as a student at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2010. He planned to become a medical doctor, he told the students.
“I started asking God what he wanted me to do, not what I want to do. It was then that I felt a call to a vocation,” Father Prisk, who was ordained a priest in 2015.
During his vocations presentation, Father Prisk also answered many personal questions — about pets, family and even his pick for the Super Bowl. He also fielded questions about the priesthood, such as “What do priests do?” He was “pleasantly surprised” that the students asked questions about religious sisters, whom he said, “devote their lives in service of others through the Church.”
Excited after Msgr. Anginoli’s talk, sixth-grader Brett Spada called the pastor “funny” and noted, “he talks easy.” He said he was surprised that he has served for so many years and has “moved around a lot” from parish to parish.
“Father Stephen loves to travel. He’s so chill,” said Spada, describing his talk. “It’s so great to have both priests come talk to us and share their thoughts about the priesthood.”
Lisa Gillespie, St. Joseph’s principal, said the Msgr. Anginoli and Father Prisk maintain a presence in St. Joseph School, visiting classrooms regularly.
“The students love our priests and look forward to that connection with them,” Gillespie said. “Our priests spoke to students in a way that encouraged them to reflect on their calling — what God has in store for them — and to be open to that calling,” she said.