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Our Faithful Parish Priests

by | Jul 4, 2024

For most Catholic parishioners, priests have been reliable figures surrounding them throughout their lives. They signify the stability of the Catholic faith that can be counted on in times of trouble.

Parish priests have an enormous responsibility in the Catholic Church. They are responsible for guiding parishioners from birth to death, bringing Catholics into the Church with the sacrament of Baptism and continuing the spiritual guidance by administering the sacraments and proclaiming the Gospel. We would like to feature two of our many alumni who fill this vital role and the path they took to the priesthood.

Fr. John Antonelle, St. Mary Church, Portland, CT

Fr. John Antonelle was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Rockaway, Queens. A second-generation Italian, he enjoyed a successful career in graphic design and advertising in New York, lived in an apartment in Manhattan that had a doorman, and traveled frequently in his free time. Life was great, but something was always missing. A friend’s sudden death brought the realization that everything could change in a snap, and he began to reassess his life.

After quite a number of years of being involved in his parish but avoiding a further commitment, he spoke to his pastor, who was aware of Holy Apostles College and Seminary’s history accepting men with late vocations and set up an interview for Fr. John. While making the drive up from New York for the meeting, he felt a surprising sense of peace and knew that his path to the priesthood was the right decision. Fr. John spent five years in seminary at Holy Apostles, graduated in May 2006, and was ordained in the same month. His mother, who quietly knew he was drawn to the church from an early age, was there at his ordination to support and celebrate the achievement of his true vocation.

His first assignment was at St. Bernard’s in Rockville, followed by several others, including nearly 12 years as a chaplain at UCONN. Being able to see and guide students as they grew from freshmen to seniors and beyond was a wonderful experience for him.

Fr. John was next assigned to St. Mary Church in Portland, Connecticut, where he is located currently. On June 16, he celebrated his 18th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Along the way he picked up an assistant, Patsy (short for Pasquale), his nine-year-old Boxer, who has a large fan base – from UCONN students and parishioners of St. Mary’s to nursing homes residents.

Reflecting now, Fr. John says, “Holy Apostles College & Seminary has not only been a gift to me but also to our diocese and church. I and other priests may have otherwise not become priests if it wasn’t for the vision of Fr. Eusebe Menard to accept and prepare older men for the priesthood. I will always be grateful for my years of formation there and to the faculty and staff.”

The road of life has proven interesting for Fr. John, and while the path taken was not the shortest route, this is not a race. You have to go with God’s plan.

Fr. Richard Breton, Guardian Angels Parish, Colchester, CT

Looking back at his path to the priesthood, Fr. Richard Breton understands how the Apostles may have felt. Not knowing the “route” can make for a confusing journey but they followed Jesus anyway. Likewise, Fr. Breton was sometimes unsure of the path but knew he wanted to be a priest and remembered his religion teacher in grammar school saying that we should take Jesus’ hand and he will lead us. Sometimes, when we are not aware of our path it is because we are trying to lead, not follow.

After graduating from high school, Fr. Breton spent a year at St. John’s Seminary in Massachusetts, and then decided to take time off. He worked for four years before returning to the seminary, this time to Holy Apostles College and Seminary. During those years, he spent a summer in Mexico learning Spanish, an experience which he enjoyed. He also took a pastoral year, where he enrolled in a clinical pastoral education program that got him involved in a trauma unit in Houston, dealing with people of all faiths. He ministered to trauma cases, as well as to people who were rescued after hurricane Katrina and lost everything but their lives. Here he learned to appreciate the role of hospital chaplains.

Fr. Breton received his Bachelor of Arts in 2007 and completed his seminary education in 2008, both from Holy Apostles. He was ordained by Bishop Michael R. Cote of the diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, on May 31, 2008. In 2017, he was awarded his Master of Arts in Theology, again from Holy Apostles. Currently, he is a Parochial Vicar at Guardian Angels Parish in Colchester, Connecticut.

In addition to his parish responsibilities, Fr. Breton is a spiritual director at Holy Apostles, as well as the Minister Templi to the U.S. Catholic Knights Templar. He also writes a weekly column in the Wanderer, called the “Beacon of Light”, and is currently writing a column titled “A Question of Faith” in the Norwich Diocesan paper.

As Fr. Breton stated, “I have come to realize when you answer the master and accept his call to ‘Follow me,’ you never know where he will take you.”