National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Romeward Bound

BY MARIA CAULFIELD

July 16-22, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/17/06 at 9:00 AM

 

While representing the Holy See at the United Nations, Msgr. Anthony Frontiero walked the halls of government power and met with diplomats from around the world, seeking to defend the dignity of the human person and the interests of the poor. As exciting and important as this work was, he says, “being a pastor has taught me the best of what it means to be a priest.”

In 2002, after three years with the Holy See’s U.N. mission, he was appointed pastor of St. Pius X Church in Manchester, N.H., where he has shepherded a parish of 1,600 families. “I love my parish,” he says. “The people have loved and supported me as a family. I am richly blessed.”

So it was with mixed emotions that Msgr. Frontiero received a new assignment at the Vatican. Late in June he left his parish to begin work for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome.

“As humbled and honored as I am to be appointed to the pontifical council, I am very sorry to be leaving my people,” he told the Register.

If the people of Manchester want to “blame” anyone for the loss of their pastor, it could be Cardinal Renato Martino, director of the Council for Justice and Peace. He was head of the Holy See’s Mission to the United Nations in New York City when Msgr. Frontiero was an attaché for the mission.

“My former work with Cardinal Martino at the Holy See’s mission was probably a factor,” says Msgr. Frontiero. “The work I will be doing is much the same: issues of war, poverty, human rights, human dignity and various political situations throughout the world.”

Manchester parishioners will miss Msgr. Frontiero even as they wish him well in Rome.

“He has meant everything to the parish,” says Donna Dukeshire, the parish secretary. “He has ministered to everyone 150% of the time. The parish has grown by leaps and bounds since he’s come here. The kids are devastated that he is leaving. He has a great rapport with everyone from the toddlers to the schoolchildren, right on up to the teenagers, adults and the elderly. I can’t think of anyone who has not been touched by his ministry.”

He is popular even though he doesn’t always give people the easy answer they may want to hear, Dukeshire added.

“He is highly intelligent and a very good communicator,” she noted. “He doesn’t pull punches.”

Norman and Shirley Lepine have known Msgr. Frontiero from the time he was in the local public high school with their two sons. “He was in the high school band and so were our sons,” Norman recalls. “We’re almost like his second parents. We’ve been close to him and he’s always been like part of the family. We can’t say enough about him. The people of the parish are absolutely in mourning.”

The Lepines’ son, Stephen, was ordained in May at the age of 37 for the Diocese of Manchester, largely through the influence of Msgr. Frontiero, who was head of the diocesan vocations office. “They go back about 25 years together, and they are both jubilant that our son has gone on for ordination,” Norman adds.

Msgr. Frontiero was ordained in 1991. He served in the cathedral in Manchester for three years, and then was appointed secretary to the late Bishop Leo O’Neil of Manchester. From 1997-99 he completed studies for a licentiate in sacred theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. After that, he moved to New York City to work with the Vatican’s U.N. mission.

“I represented the Holy See in the hammering-out sessions, working on the language of the many documents,” he recalls. “This was so critical because, once these documents reached consensus, they would become powerful instruments in the world community and could be used, especially in developing countries, to shape internal policies and directions.”

There was a constant battle to keep abortion, or a code word such as “reproductive rights,” from being recognized as a human right.

“The Holy See at the United Nations, I think, is a sentinel keeping watch, helping the U.N. keep things in perspective,” Msgr. Frontiero says. “The Church is an expert in humanity. It has no political interests per se, no economic interests, no military interests. We can focus in the human person, human rights, the family, trying to protect the integrity of the family, which is the basic unit of society.”

The interests and future of humanity are at stake in all these issues,” continues Msgr. Frontiero. “It was very difficult work, a battle, and we had to be constantly vigilant, because of the strong interests seeking to change our basic structures and understandings. In fact, most of the developed countries at the U.N. want a radical agenda that is not in keeping with the Judeo-Christian ethic.”

Singular Focus

A Corpus Christi procession through the streets of Manchester on June 18 served as an unofficial farewell to Msgr. Frontiero. People from many parishes thanked him and wished him well. He and Father Jason Jalbert, the new vocation director, had organized the procession as part of the diocese’s “Seventh Trumpet” Eucharistic adoration events.

“We’re trying to change the culture here in the local Church,” Msgr. Frontiero says. “People have to start desiring priests again, and the best way is to come before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and bow down and worship.”

The monthly Seventh Trumpet series is named for a passage in the Book of Revelation, when the seventh trumpet blasts and all the kings of the world bow down to worship the Lamb.

Father Jalbert, who was ordained in 2003, says that, just as his vocation was encouraged by Msgr. Frontiero, he will seek to plant the seeds of many vocations.

“Msgr. Frontiero’s life is caught up in Christ,” says Father Jalbert. “When young men see this, they want the same. His priesthood has one purpose: to draw you into the heart of Christ.”

Maria Caulfield writes from

Wallingford, Connecticut.

Editor’s note: Do you know a young priest who excels at evangelization, catechesis and Christian discipleship? Nominate him to be the subject of a Register Priest Profile. E-mail editor@ncregister.com.