Former CEO and long-time priest at St. Louis Center, Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, is retiring from the Center.
Fr. Joe will be spending his retirement years in Italy.
A Life of Service Begins
Italy was the country of St. Louis Guanella (1842-1915), the priest who founded the Servants of Charity Congregation and had a passion for caring for persons with developmental disabilities and the frail elderly. His mantra was, “The whole world is your homeland” and his vision was to send priests throughout the world to care for “God’s Special Children.” Rev. Joseph Rinaldo was attracted to this charism through experiences of his family of origin. Fr. Joseph’s hometown was Naro, Italy, and he witnessed the horrors of WWII growing up, while the Allies and Axis powers battled for control of his native island, Sicily.
Fr. Joseph started theology studies in Chiavenna in 1963. Following his ordination in December 1967, he received a new assignment from his superiors. “In September 1968 I got a letter from General Secretary Fr. Peter Pasquali that said, ‘we’ve decided to send you to America,'” said Fr. Joseph. “’Come to Como, where [we are] going to take care of your passport.’” He flew to New York City, then found his way to Don Guanella School in Springfield, PA. Fr. Joseph remained in Springfield until 1980 building a thriving community of services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Sent to Serve
Fr. Joseph was assigned to St. Louis Center for the first time in 1980, discovering a facility with many needs. He got busy right away looking for creative ways to provide for the needs of the Center. New construction began, and St. Louis Center as we know it today began to take shape.
Fr. Joseph believes that the presence of the religious community is what makes a difference for the residents of St. Louis Center. “The difference is that we live with them. We are their brothers, we are there fathers, and we are their friends. One of our priests is always here. Sometimes the kids want to talk to us to resolve their problems.”
For many years, Fr. Joe served in many capacities at St. Louis Center and through the Servants of Charity. We are truly grateful to him for his love and commitment to the residents of St. Louis Center and for his 50 plus years of service to the people of God. In December 2017, Fr. Joseph was honored at a special 50th Anniversary Ordination Mass at St. Mary (Chelsea) Parish that was celebrated with Most Rev. Bishop Earl Boyea and followed by a banquet at St. Louis Center for over 300 people. Staff often acknowledge his intentional kindness and thoughtfulness demonstrated by his small gestures and kind words while walking around the Center, making sure all is in order and everyone is doing well.
A Fond Farewell
During his farewell gathering, St. Louis Center received a generous donation from Michael Chirco’s Living Trust that amounted to $100,000, in Fr. Joe’s honor. St. Louis Center and Fr. Joe thank Mr. Chirco for his past, present, and future contributions. His support does not go unnoticed. Mr. Chirco has been a long-time supporter of the Center.
St. Louis Center residents, staff, family and friends near and far are saddened by Fr. Joe’s departure and will miss him for his dedication to the care of the individuals who call St. Louis Center home. Thank you, Fr. Joe, for all you have done to make the Center what it is today!
Click the link below to see photos of Fr. Joe from the past.
This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of St. Louis Spirit newsletter.