The following press release was provided by Nancy Keebler, from Sacred Heart Parish.
After serving as a Catholic priest for 50 years, Fr. Arnold Colletti reflects that it was probably only through divine intervention that he was ordained in 1962.
Born in Braintree into a nonreligious family, he was baptized at age 7 only after a babysitter suggested it. After the family moved away from Braintree a year later, he received little encouragement to remain Catholic, and even less when he decided to become a priest. His mother supported his decision, he says, but his father spent 3 years trying to talk him out of it.
Colletti never changed his mind. On Sunday, Feb. 5, the Catholic parishes of and will commemorate his 50th anniversary as a priest. A Mass of Thanksgiving will be held in their pastor’s honor at 1 p.m. at St. Brigid church. A reception will follow downstairs in Keilty Hall.
“I have been in Lexington for a total of 30 years,” says Colletti. “I have many wonderful memories and good friends here.”
Colletti served at both Sacred Heart and St. Brigid from 1972-76, at St. Brigid from 1976-84, as pastor of Sacred Heart since 1994, and as pastor at both Sacred Heart and St. Brigid since 2005. Before he came to Lexington he was assigned to St. Theresa in Billerica and Our Lady of Fatima in Sudbury.
From 1984 to 1994, he was pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Malden. He earned a Master of Religious Education Degree from Loyola University in 1970, and a Doctorate in Education from Boston University in 1980.
By the time he was ordained, Colletti’s mother -- and father – had converted. They accepted his former parish priest’s offer to instruct them in the faith with weekly visits to their home.
“He had gone to my mother and said that it looked like her son was going to be a priest and she was not a Catholic,” Colletti recalls. “‘Why are you not a Catholic?’ he asked her. ‘No one has asked me.’ ‘I am asking you.’”
Colletti celebrated his first Mass at the chapel of Cardinal Richard James Cushing, with his parents present. “They both attended Mass the rest of their lives,” he says.
Colletti, 77, laughs when asked how he overcame so many obstacles to become a priest. “I must have been called by God, I guess,” he said.
Colletti also counts the influential mentoring of the Cardinal, with whom he worked during his last 4 years at St. John’s Seminary, as one reason he decided to become a priest. “He was really a father figure to me,” Colletti said.
Another attraction was the build-up to the Vatican Council, which convened in 1962, the year of Colletti’s ordination. In the years preceding Vatican II, there was much anticipation of major change in the Catholic Church, what Colletti calls “a critical time.” He describes receiving permission from the Cardinal shortly after ordination to celebrate Mass facing the congregation. It was something he wanted to do, he says, “because that was what we were studying.” It took six more years before all priests received approval to say Mass in English, facing the people.
Colletti has adjusted to many changes in his personal and religious life. In 2004, after 10 years as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Colletti received word his parish would be closed. The Archdiocese eventually reversed that decision. Cardinal Sean O’Malley has just announced that a new pastoral plan is being put together that is designed to even further strengthen Boston-area parishes.
Colletti says his faith has been bolstered by the privilege of sharing in the faith of parishioners.
“We have a mission,” he says, “And with the grace of God and his Spirit we will find these times are filled with grace.”