LAKELAND, Fla. — Paul Santoro, OFM, has spent the majority of his ministry as a friar teaching or working as a drug and alcohol counselor. The Florida Catholic featured Paul in its October 12 issue in an article titled “Brother Paul Santoro Encompasses Heart of St. Francis.”
Since 2009, Paul has served as campus minister and Student Government Association moderator at Santa Fe Catholic High School, which boasts an international community. He is also the co-moderator of the senior class, moderator of Drumline, which assists the cheer team at pep rallies, and he oversees the peer ministry program, which helps new students get accustomed to life at Santa Fe. In April 2011, Paul traveled with students to Chiquilistagua, Nicaragua, an area that was devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
“Santa Fe is a wonderful place to be. There is a great spirit there,” Paul said. “The people are very generous with their time, talent and financial assistance. They look out to see what needs to be done in the community.”
Paul was born and raised in East Boston, Mass., where he was the fifth of eight children in a Catholic family with a strong faith. His first recollection of the Franciscans came from his grandmother, Francesca, who was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order for more than 60 years.
Though Paul felt called to ministry, he did not feel called to perform the sacraments. In the mid-1970s, the Franciscan friars established two communities in East Boston, including one at Holy Redeemer Parish, where Paul was teaching religious education classes. He befriended many of them and learned that there were various ways he could serve the Church.
“When I met the brothers, I thought this was an option for me,” Paul said. “They were just so down to earth with the people. That was basically how I was. They were also wonderful preachers. They just got to know and be with the people, just like St. Francis did. Wherever the people were, that’s where St. Francis was.”
Paul has served as a religion teacher, director of religious education and high school campus minister. He also worked as a drug and alcohol counselor, becoming credentialed by the state of New Jersey in 2003.
“I loved the ministry,” Paul said. “I had the chance to work with some of the toughest kids you’ll ever meet. It was a wonderful experience.”
In addition to his work at Santa Fe High School, Paul provides assistance to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he resides.
The full article is available on the website of The Florida Catholic, the publication of the Archdiocese of Miami and the diocese of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.