Jubilarian Profile: Michael Carnevale Celebrates 50 Years as a Friar

Wendy Healy Friar News

This is the second in a series of articles featuring friars celebrating jubilees in 2011. The first, on Mark Reamer, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, N.C., appeared in the Feb. 9 issue. 

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Many people in the Province may immediately recognize the name of Michael Carnevale, OFM.

After all, the well-known friar even has a building named for him at St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes, N.J. The Carnevale Center opened in 2007 on the grounds of St. Mary’s Parish, where he served for more than 20 years during two separate assignments.

The affable friar said: “I think most of the Province knows who I am and what I have stood for during the last 50 years. It is a privilege to belong to this Province and to live with men dedicated to the work of the Province and the Church.”

The Jersey City, N.J., native — the son of Italian immigrants Michael and Anna Lisa — celebrates his jubilee this year, 50 years after his first profession in July 1961 as a Franciscan in Lafayette, N.J.

He was recently assigned as temporary administrator at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, the Province’s historic church Midtown Manhattan, where he was pastor from 1987 to 1989. Michael is very familiar with this church, having directed its famous 80-year-old breadline for the past five years.

When HNP Today caught up with Michael, he was extremely busy with his new assignment and the day-to-day operation of the large and vibrant church on West 31st Street.

Michael said being back in parish life seems very comfortable. “The ministry that I have found most satisfying has been working in a parish. Experiencing with families the circle of life is something that melts you into the family situation from birth to death.”

Enjoying All Assignments
He has ministered at almost a dozen places in the past 50 years as a friar, and said he enjoyed all assignments. “I have been very lucky in my friar assignments, for each one was great. I don’t think that there was one place that I didn’t enjoy ministering in. Each time I was transferred, I didn’t want to go, but when I got there, I fell in love with the ministry,” he wrote in 2000 in his Journey to Franciscan Life on the HNP website.

He began his ministry at St. Francis in 1967, as an assistant pastor, after a brief assignment in Clarksville, Va., in 1966. From 1973 to 1984, he ministered at St. Mary’s, Pompton Lakes, as assistant pastor, and later as coordinator of the parish team ministry.

In 1984, he went to Berkley, Calif., for continuing education and worked with the Shanti Program and at San Francisco General Hospital, focusing on people with AIDS. There, he met an artist named Michael, and his partner. The artist was HIV-positive and asked Michael to help him “get his spiritual life together.” “Getting to know these two men was a gift, for they taught me much about compassion and forgiveness,” said the friar.

“I also found great satisfaction with the AIDS ministries that I worked at in New York, Boston and San Francisco. This was a privilege to be present to those individuals who refound the love of God and died in peace.”

In 1986, Michael returned to New York as assistant pastor of St. Stephen of Hungary Church on the Upper East Side.

From 1989 to 1990, he was at a mission in San Jose, Calif., in “various ministerial works.” St. Anthony Shrine in Boston welcomed him from 1990 to 1991 on its pastoral staff.

His long-term New Jersey ministry years began in 1991 when he joined Holy Angels Church in Little Falls as its parochial vicar. The next 11 years — from 1993 to 2004 — he ministered in Pompton Lakes as guardian, pastor and parochial vicar.

Appreciating Studies and Influential Friars
It was largely during this time that St. Mary’s Parish grew and extended its reach into the community. The parish honored him for his ministry with the Carnevale Center, a meeting and event facility. At its dedication, pastorKevin Downey, OFM, thanked Michael by saying, “You have done an unbelievable job in building this place. You have brought St. Mary’s to a new plateau.”

From 2004 to 2005, Michael took a sabbatical in Berkeley, Calif., where he studied scripture and moral theology at the Graduate Theological Union. He returned to New York City in 2005, to be re-assigned to St. Francis Church as parochial vicar. The following year, he took over the breadline.

Michael, a 1958 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, was ordained a priest in 1966 at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., after studying at the Province’s Holy Name College in the nation’s capital.

He recalls fondly the work of former Provincial Minister Finian Kerwin, OFM, after Vatican II. 

“Finian brought the Province into what I call the Camelot years. He opened the ‘windows’ of the Province to allow friars to experiment in ministries and expand the work of the Province. Of course, at that time, we had more than 1,000 men in the Province, but it was a time that helped the Province to mature in the ‘real world.’”

Michael is also grateful to several friars who have influenced him along his ministry journey. “The friars who influenced and inspired me were the those at St. Bonaventure University when I was a student: the late friarsDaniel Hurley, OFM, Jerome Kelly, OFM, Regis Marshall, OFM, and Gervase White, OFM. In formation, it was the late Theodore Cavanaugh, OFM. These men were certainly men who I looked up to because, for me, they were living the life of Francis in that day and age.”

Those who know him best would agree that Michael is doing the same today.

Michael will be honored on June 30 with the other friars commemorating golden jubilees at the Province’s annual celebration.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.