Fairfield Now - Fall 2008
Ambassador of Hope:
Fairfield celebrates its first ordination at the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola
By Meg McCaffrey, Photography by Jean Santopatre
The Rev. Thomas Regan, S.J., the Provincial Superior and a former Fairfield professor, joined the many priests present at the ordination of the Rev. Joseph Palmisano, S.J. in invoking God's spirit upon him during the laying on of hands. "The Diocese and Fairfield Jesuit Community have had a wonderful relationship over the years. I felt the ordination was in a way a great occasion to honor the bonds between the two," said Fr. Palmisano.
The Rev. Joseph Redfield Palmisano, S.J., took the long way home. It had been 15 years since he graduated from Fairfield Prep. Since then, his calling to be a Jesuit priest had taken him to Boston, Syracuse, the Bronx, Dublin, Jamaica, and again to Dublin. He returned to Fairfield on June 14, where his Jesuit education began, to become ordained.
It was the first ordination to be held on the Fairfield campus. More than 400 people, including about 120 priests, gathered to celebrate Fr. Palmisano's rite of ordination by the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport. Family, friends, teachers, priests from the Fairfield Jesuit Community and the Diocese of Bridgeport, and Jesuits from the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, as well as several from Ireland and Jamaica, all came to the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola to participate. "I was in the middle of this circle of support and hope," Fr. Palmisano said. "I was surrounded by all who had encouraged me on my journey toward becoming a priest."
That journey began at Fairfield Prep. "I felt called as a child, but my call to be a Jesuit started in high school. I saw men willing to always be there for you and the community. Their love of Jesus spilled over."
Born in New Haven, Conn., Fr. Palmisano, age 33, grew up in Monroe, the elder of two sons of Joseph and Delores Palmisano. After graduating from Prep in 1993, his Jesuit education continued at Boston College, where he earned a B.A. in theology in 1997. He worked at the college's Campus School for children with learning disabilities, and took part in a program there that taught students about social justice. A semester abroad in Rome was "very confirming" of his calling. "The big questions just grew," he said. He entered the Society of Jesus on August 23, 1998, and pronounced vows on August 12, 2000, embarking on a life of graduate study, apostolic outreach, and spiritual growth.
Later, at Fordham University, Fr. Palmisano did First Studies, earned a M.A. in philosophy, and went on to attain a M.Phil. in ecumenical theology from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland in 2003. He taught religion and was a campus minister at Campion College in Kingston, Jamaica, while serving pastorally at St. Anne's Parish and in the community of Annotto Bay. In 2007, he graduated with a Licentiate in Sacred Theology degree in systematics/missiology from The Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin and took part in a two-year spiritual direction training program there, sponsored by the Manresa Jesuit Retreat House. This summer, Fr. Palmisano has been immersed in a spiritual direction program at the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Mass., and in the fall he will move to Belfast to complete research for a doctorate in theology with a concentration in Jewish-Catholic dialogue that he is pursuing from Trinity College.
Fr. Joseph Palmisano, still a deacon, was presented to Bishop Lori as a candidate for ordination. He received the paten and chalice from the Bishop to serve Holy Communion for the first time as a Jesuit priest.
In June, Fr. Palmisano addressed the 2008 graduating class of Fairfield Prep, praying for them to find passion in their lives, something similar in intensity to his faith. Echoing the Jesuit mission of being men and women for others, he expressed his hope that they "live large."
"To me, that means tending to the brokenness in the lives of others through healing and raising them up," he said.
When the most solemn moment of the ordination came, the laying on of hands, Fr. Palmisano was surrounded by the men from the Fairfield Prep community who had inspired him, including the Rev. George Gallarelli, S.J., and the Rev. William Eagan, S.J.
Bishop Lori put his hands on Fr. Palmisano's head and prayed, invoking the Holy Spirit upon him, ordaining him. All the priests present did the same. His deacon's stole was then removed and he was clothed in the vestments of priestly office by the Rev. Richard A. Deshaies, S.J., a former Fairfield campus minister who served as his formation director.
Later, Fr. Palmisano blessed University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J. "I'm thrilled with the life that is ahead of me," he said.
As Fr. Palmisano stood as a Jesuit priest for the first time, he thought of something the Rev. Thomas Regan, S.J., the Provincial Superior of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus, once told him. "He said, 'We stand on the shoulders of giants.' At that moment, I remembered that and realized the world - now more than ever - needs men and women to be people of hope and compassion to send a message about the love of Jesus Christ. I'm thrilled to be one of those ambassadors of hope."