Rev. J. Romani, 93, Felt a Special Link with Parishioners

By Beth Brogan
Portland Press Herald (Maine)
May 17, 2001

The Rev. Joseph C. Romani, 93, longtime pastor of St. Peter's Catholic Church on Federal Street, died May 16, 2001, at a local nursing home.

He was born in Torino, Italy, and came to Portland in 1945 on sabbatical because of illness, after hearing about Portland from a theology student in New Jersey.

Father Romani later said "the only thing that stayed in my imagination (about Portland) was the green shore, and the islands, and the blue sea, and the sailboats in the blue sea."

From 1945 to 1967, he served as assistant pastor of St. Peter's, a church created by the Diocese of Portland to minister to Italian immigrants and those of Italian descent. In 1967, he was appointed pastor by Bishop Peter L. Gerety.

Father Romani had a special relationship with his parishioners.

In a 1973 Evening Express article, he said, "Personally, I delight living in their midst and would never leave them. They make me feel like a member of their family. Their children, most of whom I baptized, hold me as their grandpa and lavish their warm affection on me for my birthday or other occasions."

"There was nothing that went on that he was not included," said Lucille Chaisson, a close friend whose mother worked for the parish for many years. "It was just matter of fact, like you'd invite an uncle or grandfather."

In a second-floor room of the rectory on Federal Street, Father Romani raised goldfinches, Brazilian cardinals, Java finches, canaries and parakeets for more than 30 years.

Father Romani wrote a bi-weekly column for the Church World, the diocesan newspaper, and read religious material about the lives of the saints.

He was a son of Giacinto and Adlina Pautrier Romani. Before his mother died, Chaisson said, she confided to him that at his birth she had entrusted him to the Blessed Mother of God and asked her to guide him and his brother Mario to the priesthood.

"Father Romani's whole life was spent in pursuit of this goal," she said. "He made it his duty to promote devotion to the Blessed Virgin as the surest way of serving God well and earning one's reward in heaven."

His mother died when her sons were young and their father was in the Italian army, so Father Romani and his brother attended the Oratory of St. John Bosco, a school of the Salesian Fathers.

On Oct. 30, 1924, he sailed into New York Harbor aboard the Cristoforo Columbo. He entered the Novitiate of the Salesians in New Rochelle, N.Y., and completed courses in Goshen, N.Y. He taught theology and scripture in San Francisco and Watsonville, Calif., in Arizona and Santa Tecla, El Salvador.

On Dec. 21, 1934 he was ordained a priest in Menlo Park, Calif. He transferred to Newton, N.J., in 1937 and served there until becoming ill in 1944 and moving to Portland.

He was chaplain of the Portland Knights of Columbus and confessor to the sisters at St. Joseph's Home for the aged, later St. Joseph's Manor. He was also chaplain of the Catholic Literary Guild.

Father Romani retired as pastor of St. Peter's on June 25, 1983, and moved to a home on the Eastern Promenade.

Surviving are several cousins.

A reception of the body and Liturgy of the Hours will be held at 4 p.m. Friday at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where he will lie in state from 4 to 7 p.m. A concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial will begin at noon Saturday at the Cathedral with the Most Rev. Michael K. Cote, auxiliary bishop, as principal celebrant. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, South Portland. Arrangements are by Conroy-Tully Funeral Home.


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