Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 26, 2007
The priesthood found Fr. Venturelli
People thought he would be a farmer, but he had other ideas
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I felt it was important for me to dedicate my life to help people in need."
- Fr. Romano Venturelli
"I never recall anybody really suggesting that I should be a priest. As a matter of fact, they would say the opposite. They thought I would not make a good priest because I was too wild, always getting into fights and in trouble at school. But I was basically a good kid."
Since Venturelli put his heart and soul into his farm chores, some people thought he would make a good farmer.
But one day two Salesians visited the Venturelli home and changed all of that. The visitors told the family of a wonderful boarding school for boys in Trent, some 125 km away from the village. "The boys don't have to become priests if they don't want to," the Salesians said.
As soon as they finished elementary school, the boys were packed into a car and sent to the school in Trent: Romano, two of his brothers and a couple of his cousins. "It was like an expedition."
The Venturelli kids stayed at the Salesian school for six years, until they completed high school. They would only return home during summer vacations and at Christmas. In the end, two of his uncles became priests as well as his brother Guiseppe, who is now serving in Brazil.
During his last year of high school at the junior seminary, Venturelli asked to join the Salesians. He made his temporary vows in 1958 at the age of 17.
Then he left for the United States to complete his college education at the Salesian College in Newton, N.J.
After that, he taught high school for three years in New Jersey before being sent to Italy in 1965 to study theology at Rome's Salesian Pontifical University.
"When I went to Rome they were having the conclusion of the Vatican Council," Venturelli recalled. "It was an exciting time."
He was ordained in Rome Dec. 21, 1968 and remembers his ordination as the most exciting part of his priesthood. "Until my ordination I felt like I was a kid studying and then, all of a sudden, everybody would call me father. It was a change from being a kid to becoming a father."
They thought I would not make a good priest because I was too wild."
- Fr. Romano Venturelli
He was soon sent to minister to poor families in the city's slums. "I felt it was important for me to dedicate my life to help people in need."
The families living in the slums of Rome were people who had travelled from poor areas of Italy looking for jobs and had ended up building shacks in no man's land.
"A couple of times a week I would rent a bus to bring these kids to the beach so they could at least get washed because there was no running water in their homes," he recalled.
After graduating with a licentiate in theology, Venturelli was sent to Montreal in 1969 to work in an Italian parish.
He became associate pastor of the 1,000-family St. Dominic Savio Parish in east Montreal. "I worked mostly with the young people in the schools," he recalled. "I was also doing catechism programs to prepare the children for the sacraments, First Communion, Confession and Confirmation."
Within three years Venturelli became St. Dominic's titular pastor. In 1983 he became the founding pastor of the neighbouring 6,000-family parish that had grown out of the expanding St. Dominic's.
In 1997 Venturelli went back to Rome's Salesian University to study theology, sociology and communications. On his return to Montreal he was put in charge of setting up a youth centre but also ended up coordinating youth ministry for the Salesians across Canada.
He originally came to Edmonton in February 2000 to coordinate youth activities but soon became pastor of St. John Bosco, a 1,400-family parish in the northeast Clareview area.
At the same time Venturelli was in charge of Salesian missions, a job which included raising money for missionaries around the world. The Salesians have 17,000 priests and brothers in 110 countries. It is the third largest men's congregation after the Jesuits and Franciscans.
The Salesians devote much of their ministry to young people. In Edmonton they have four parishes under their charge.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.