There are no unfulfilled dreams for Oblate Fr. Hank Lemoncelli

Fr. Hank Lemoncelli claps for Sr. Janet Mock during the banquet and award presentation of the Assembly of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston, Texas, Aug. 14, 2015. (NCR photo / Dave Rossman)

Oblate Fr. Hank Lemoncelli

Who is he: Study assistant at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL)

Lives in: Rome, Italy

Sr. Camille: What brought you to the LCWR assembly in Houston?

Lemoncelli: For years Sr. Sharon Holland, who worked in this congregation [CICLSAL], represented it at the annual assembly. The year of her departure Sr. May Wright from Australia was sent as a representative from the congregation. At the moment there are no native English speaking sisters working at the dicastery, so I have been sent as the representative for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

How would you describe the LCWR assembly?

I found the gathering very fruitful. The presentations were truly inspiring as was the manner in which the leadership and facilitators guided us through each day. There was a good spirit of communion manifested throughout the entire assembly. The Eucharistic celebrations and moments of prayer truly enhanced our time together.

What are you doing in Rome?

I am presently a 'study assistant' for the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

What prepared you for that ministry?

Being asked to go to Rome to work in the Vatican came as a great surprise to me. I would say what most prepared for working in this dicastery was my personal experience as a religious for nearly 30 years prior to arriving in Rome.

Having studied in Rome and working in various educational and parochial settings provided experiences, which aid in my ability to respond to the cases which must be dealt with on a daily basis.

Is this assignment temporary? If so, when do you expect to return to the United States?

I honestly thought that I would be spending only the requested six years in this position. In November I will mark my 16th anniversary in the congregation. I continue to be satisfied with my assignment. Retirement in the Vatican is at age 70, which for me is not too far away.

Upon retirement I will receive another obedience from my Oblate superiors, which I trust will be in accord with my talents and energies at that time.

What do you consider your home in this country?

When in the States I spend my vacation with my sisters both of whom live in Florida.

Please describe your birth family.

My mother was born in Gubbio, Italy, and came to the United States at the age of three. My father, the son of an Italian father and French mother, was born in Pennsylvania. I am the second of three children, born in Peckville Penn., and raised in Buffalo, N.Y., from the age of three.

Where and with whom did you grow up? Where were you educated?

I attended a Catholic grammar school staffed by the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart and a Jesuit high school prior to entering the Oblate Juniorate in 1968. I did my philosophical studies at Oblate College in Washington DC, my theological studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and then received a master's degree in educational administration from the University of Lowell.

Did you have role models or heroes? If so, would you speak of them?

I have been blessed with numerous role models throughout my life. My parents provided us with a good Christian home. The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart not only offered us a quality education, they imparted the value of living a life dedicated to the Lord. There are many Oblates of Mary Immaculate who have served as role models throughout my life, some of whom continue to inspire me.

Certainly, as for so many others, Pope Francis has become my most recent role model.

What led you to the priesthood and to your congregation?

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate who served in my parish.

What works have you embraced as a member?

I have been involved in education at every level. I have served as a grammar school principal, a high school teacher, chaplain and principal and dean of our seminary college. I have also served as a parish priest in bilingual parishes and was a member of our provincial administration. For the past 16 years, I have served as an official in the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Which represented the greatest challenge?

I found the high school principalship to be the greatest challenge. The school had major financial as well as other difficulties, which provided many periods of anxiety.

Which gave you greatest satisfaction?

Serving as a parish priest and grammar school principal in an inner city parish.

Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?

Serving as an assistant in one of the Oblate ministries in the United States.

How do you pray?

My most satisfying prayer consists in meditation on the daily Scripture readings.

Do you have a favorite Scripture passage?

John 1:1-18.

Where is its attraction?

'But as many as did receive him, he gave to them authority to become children of God.' For me, John successfully transmits a sense of awe of the goodness of the Lord in his relationship to those who accept him.

How do you relax?

I enjoy reading, travelling, flea markets, garage sales and thrift shops.

Can you name unfulfilled dreams?

No.

Hank, may unexpected blessed dreams surprise you!

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemptionis available from Now You Know Media.]

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