I can honestly say I never once felt that I made a mistake in choosing my vocation. I was, and still am, in love with my priesthood and all that it has taught me.
How do you discern a vocation?
This question troubled me for a long time. Deep in my heart, I knew I was being called at an early age, but I did not want to respond. I thought I wanted to be a banker. After high school, however, I decided to be a court reporter and enrolled at the Stenotype Institute of Boston to follow my dream.
Upon graduation, I went to work for a lawyer in Boston for only a few months before enlisting in the U.S. Navy in November 1952. After boot camp, I was sent to school to become a hospital corpsman and was stationed at the Chelsea Naval Hospital. I knew then that I had made a mistake and should have entered the seminary, but I finished out my tour of duty.
Once I was released from duty, I finally entered the seminary. On May 26, 1966 I was ordained a priest and was assigned to Most Holy Redeemer Parish in East Boston. Msgr. Mimie B. Pitaro was my first pastor and teacher. I distinctly remember him taking me over to the church, opening the front doors wide and saying, "Al, take a good look. What you see is your parish. Not only this church, but every house out there is in need of your help and guidance."
Following the advice of Msgr. Pitaro to get involved in the parish life, I started attending community meetings. Before I knew it, I was deeply involved in many different programs. I was elected President of the East Boston Area Planning Action Council (APAC) and also became a member of the Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) board.
At that time, we were also involved in an ongoing struggle with Logan Airport, which was encroaching deeper and deeper into the community. We petitioned the governor to appoint a community representative to the Massport Board, and he named me. I served in that role from April 1970 to December 1978.
I also was deeply involved in parish life and worked with many faithful people. I was involved in marriage ministries as an on-call priest, and helped make presentations for Marriage Encounter in California, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Mississippi, to name a few places. I also started a charismatic prayer community in Stoneham 39 years ago, and they still meet to this day.
This year, I celebrated my 50th anniversary as a priest, and 50 wonderful years of service to the people of God. I can honestly say I never once felt that I made a mistake in choosing my vocation. I was, and still am, in love with my priesthood and all that it has taught me.
This Christmas, parishes throughout the Archdiocese will offer their collections to the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust to support the health and well-being of priests like Father Sallese. Remember his story, and remember the priests who have made a difference in your life, and give generously to your parish's Christmas collection. Please keep in your prayers all of the priests in our Archdiocese this Advent Season.
If you'd to read more stories from priests like Father Sallese, visit http://clergytrust.org.
Recent articles in the Spirituality section
Five Hundred Years of MisunderstandingFather Ron Rolheiser
The Empty TombFather Ron Rolheiser
Sacramental confession as a glance at the bronze serpentMichael Pakaluk
Good FridayFather Ron Rolheiser
St. Patrick, St. Joseph, and the Conversion that Makes All the DifferenceBishop Robert Barron