James Rada, Jr.
The Vincentians are no longer serving as the priests for St. Joseph’s Parish in Emmitsburg for the first time in 170 years. Father Bill Allegretto was the parish’s last Vincentian.
“Our roots run very deep in this community,” Father Bill said.
He has been the parish priest at St. Joseph’s for 11 months, but his time here ended on August 31. “I won’t see a full year here,” he noted.
Father Alberto Barattero will be the new parish priest. He is a member of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), a brotherhood founded in Argentina in 1984 by Reverend Father Carlos Miguel Buela. He is also currently the parish priest for St. Anthony’s and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Father Bill will be serving as the St. John’s University chaplain in New York.
St. Vincent de Paul founded the Vincentians in Paris in 1625, and they have served at St. Joseph’s since June 1852, when Archbishop of Baltimore Samuel Eccleston S.S. offered the Saint Joseph’s Parish to the Vincentians.
The Vincentians have always had a presence in Emmitsburg because the Sisters of Charity had merged with the Daughters of Charity in 1850. The Vincentians had always served as the spiritual advisors for the Daughters of Charity since their founding. Once the sisters became Daughters of Charity, it also brought the Vincentians here.
Father Mariano Maller became the first Vincentian pastor of St. Joseph’s, the order’s first parish east of the Mississippi River.
A few months later, the Vincentians purchased property on DePaul Street for the rectory, which still stands today. It was occupied by General Otis Howard and his officers prior to the Battle of Gettysburg.
“The priests stayed in the basement,” Father Bill said.
Although the Vincentians and community have supported each other through the decades, the Vincentians are suffering a “vocation crisis,” and church attendance in Emmitsburg has dropped off.
According to Father Bill, in 2000, there were 91 active and their average age in this province is 69. As of last year, there were only 45. They can’t maintain a presence in all the locations they were in. They have already pulled out of some states entirely, and although they have been in some locations longer than they have been in Emmitsburg, this parish, so far, is the oldest they have had to leave.
In this location, the Vincentians have seen their rectory occupied by an army, seen St. Joseph’s and Emmitsburg burn, seen men off to war and welcomed them home, nursed the ill through pandemics, seen Elizabeth Ann Seton canonized, and more.
“The faith and fidelity of the people will continue to maintain this place,” Father Bill said.
The Farewell Celebration and Mass for the Vincentians was held at the church on August 28, 2022, with the Archbishop of Baltimore William Lori, and Bishops Adam Parker in attendance, and presided by Father Stephen Grozio. Celebrants in attendance included priests, past and future, together: Father Bill Allegretto, Father Harry Arnone, Father John Holliday, Father Charles Kreig, Father Eugene Sheridan, Father Alberto Barattero, Father Andres Ayala, Father Tyler Kline, and Father Thomas Dymowski.
Receiving several standing ovations from parishioners, Father Grozio addressed the congregation, “I am humbled. You are descendants of heritage greater than any one of us [priests]. This parish has built its life on the rock of faith. You are an example of this faith, leadership, and charity.” Archbishop Lori explained the transition to IVE. He shared his bond with the congregation, “I’m a Mounty and I taught at the St. Joseph’s High School.” He expressed his and the Archdiocese’ commitments to fostering growth at St. Joseph’s and its counterparts — Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Thurmont and St. Anthony’s in Emmitsburg.”
About the celebration, Colleen Garrett, President of the St. Joseph’s Parish Council said, “It was great! After the mass, the gathering in the parish hall was fun. Everyone enjoyed the presentation and the gifts to the priests. It will be remembered forever.”
Father Bill Allegretto stands next to the statue of St. Vincent de Paul in front of the St. Joseph’s rectory.
Archbishop William Lori (far left), Bishops, and priests are shown during the Vincentian’s Farewell Celebration Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.