A Friar Who Greeted God’s People with an Open Heart
No matter where you came from or who you were, Br. Angelo Catania OFM Conv. had a gift for making you feel at home. Pilgrims and retreatants from across the country knew they could always count on his attentive ear and open heart.
Br. Angelo died on November 13, 2019, in Libertyville, Illinois. He was born Carmen Joseph Catania on March 22, 1942, to Frank and Lillian Rosalia (Russo) Catania in Oak Park, Illinois. He was predeceased by his parents, and is survived by his brothers Guy and Frank, along with a number of cousins, nieces, and nephews. He professed Simple Vows as a Conventual Franciscan on July 15, 1963, and Solemn Vows on July 15, 1966.
Br. Angelo’s cousin Ronald Catanzaro said “He was a true son of St. Francis for more than 50 years. He was a great family member, always present in our lives. He’s going to be missed by all.”
Following a few years of service in Chaska and Prior Lake, Minnesota, most of his decades of Franciscan service were spent in southern Indiana at the Mount St. Francis Center for Spirituality, or in Carey, Ohio, at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation. Through those years he worked in several different areas: cook, administration, retreat center staff member, and as part of the Shrine’s pilgrimage team.
When he wasn’t greeting the buses at the Shrine in Carey, Br. Angelo was famous for his ‘park-bench ministry,’ either moving from person to person, or sometimes simply staying in one place as the pilgrims came to greet him. He listened to their stories, sharing in their joy or consoling them in their sorrows.
“Brother Angelo will be remembered by thousands of pilgrims to Carey,” said Bishop John Stowe OFM Conv., a former member of the Province who is now Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. “He was often the face of hospitality for the shrine: he relished greeting the pilgrims as they arrived on buses and sending them off with prayer as they departed. He was also known to have sung a verse of ‘That’s Amore,’ especially with Italian-American pilgrims.
“Angelo had a phenomenal memory for birthdays, anniversaries, and family histories. The friars would sometimes tease him for subjecting guests and parishioners to a round of ‘20 questions,’ but it was his way of showing interest and concern for the people that he encountered.”
“Br. Angelo excelled at the ministry of presence,” said Friar Jim Kent OFM Conv. “He had an ability to be truly with people, and always tried to be aware of others’ needs. He had such a listening heart and understood the value of giving people his time. He left a lasting impression on people – they always asked about him. When Angelo came to town, everyone wanted to see him. He always had a list of invitations.”
His last period of service was at Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Libertyville, Illinois, greeting pilgrims around the Shrine and in the Gift Shop. There he was able to continue his lifelong evening habit of preparing for the next day’s service.
“He always enjoyed the end of the day,” Fr. Kent said, “sitting on the patio, smoking a cigar, and enjoying the presence of God.”
A funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, November 18 at noon in the Chapel at Marytown (1600 West Park Avenue, Libertyville, Illinois, 60048). There will be visitation in Carey, Ohio, from 5pm-6:30pm at the Basilica of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, followed by a funeral Mass at 7pm, on November 20. At Mount St. Francis, Indiana, reception of the body will take place at 5 pm on November 25, and vigil and remembrances will begin at 7pm. The funeral in the Mount St. Francis Chapel will be at 11am on November 26, with burial following in the Friars’ cemetery there.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, 103 St. Francis Boulevard, Mount St. Francis, Indiana, 47146 or online by clicking here.