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Just a boy from Forest Park who played priest

By Dolores Madlener | Staff writer
Sunday, September 9, 2012

Father Carl Morello is pastor at St. Giles Parish in Oak Park. (Brian J. Morowczynski / Catholic New World)

He is: Father Carl Morello, pastor of St. Giles Parish, Oak Park, since July 2009. Former pastor of St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge for 13 years. Ordained in 1983.

Family: “I grew up in Forest Park and went to St. Bernardine School, then Proviso East High School, Loyola and St. Mary of the Lake Seminary. I have a twin brother, Michael, and my older brother, Vince. We’re not identical twins. It was clear who was who. Being a twin, I always had an instant playmate. We were in school together so we were there for each other like a buddy. Vince is three years older. My brothers and I and their families are very close. They’re a great source of support.

“Dad was a carpenter in the maintenance department at Proviso East High School. Mother was a hard worker and homemaker. She was a waitress at Petersen’s Ice Cream Shop for 25 years — a famous place in Oak Park. She knew everyone. With her co-workers they were the original ‘Golden Girls.’ My father’s father was from Sicily and mother’s father from Naples. My brothers and I and my father — 15 relatives altogether — took a trip to Sicily in 2004, and met some of his first cousins for the first time. It was a spectacular reunion. I was able to say Mass for them in the cathedral in Termini Imeresi, where most of my father’s relatives were baptized. My dad just passed away at age 90.”

Priesthood: “We were ordinary church-goers. My parents never pushed priesthood. I was an altar server and as a kid I’d set up an altar on our front porch and play the role of a priest. In high school I volunteered at Hines Veteran’s Hospital and was invited by a woman who knew me to help with her third-grade catechism class at St. Bernardine’s. The woman finally asked if I’d ever considered priesthood. I often remind Bernie, who went to my first Mass, that she was God’s instrument.

“I’m a family kind of guy. Our family was always hospitable and that’s been part of my ministry in many ways. I like being in our school, I like being with teens — this summer I went on a mission trip with them to Appalachia. I relate to seniors. I’m comfortable in any group. 

“I love to travel. One thing I’ve enjoyed in the last 20 years is to put together parish trips to Germany, Spain, Ireland, the Holy Land, China, France, and Italy. I love being a priest. The first pastor I worked with, Father Don Ahearn, is still living. When I was ordained he gave me this advice: ‘Love your people and they’ll always love you back.’” 

Prayer life: “I have a wonderful spiritual director. I enjoy saying Mass and having quiet time in the morning or evening to pray. It’s also important for me to take an hour and a half every day for exercise. If I’m not physically and mentally healthy I can’t really be available to people. It’s amazing the thinking and praying I do in the health club. How God answers some of my questions or uncertainties when I’m there, listening.”

Leisure: “I have a group of priest friends who I’ve been close to since we were ordained almost 30 years ago. I consider it a real blessing. We get together and go to someone’s place for dinner or the theater or down by the lake. So many newly ordained in recent years come from different countries or their classmates are from different dioceses. When they’re ordained they’re split up. It’s sad.”

Reading: “I like the James Patterson books because they’re exciting; chapters are short and I can get through them without falling asleep. I like fiction or historical fiction. One of my all-time favorites was ‘Pillars of the Earth,’ by Ken Follett, about the building of cathedrals in medieval times. Fictional, but you learned about how hard people’s lives were.”

Favorite Scripture verse: “St. Paul to the Corinthians, ‘When I am weak I am strong with a power other than my own.’ It makes me appreciate and recognize God’s grace and power when you think you can’t do something.When my father died, I chose to say the funeral Mass. There were probably over 500 people who attended. I did it without breaking down and I was shocked myself.If you ever wonder what the power of God’s grace looks like that was it. I felt a peace and calm I never imagined possible, and it only came from above.”