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Fr. Fasano retires after 43 years of ministry

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The 3-year-old watched intently as his pastor climbed up to the pulpit and began his homily. “See that man up there?” the boy yelled out to the church. “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.”


That feeling never left that boy and years later he became Father Jerome W. Fasano. “As Archbishop (Fulton J.) Sheen put it, from that moment to this, I never had a conscious moment when I didn’t want to be a priest,” he said.


After 43 years of priestly ministry in the Diocese of Arlington, Father Fasano, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, is retiring Nov. 1. He plans to live with his sister in Winchester, help out at the local parishes, and spend time doing prayer and penance. “St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, said every pastor needs a few years to get his soul in order before he faces God, and I’ve taken that very seriously,” he said.


Though he’s spent all his years of priestly ministry in Virginia, Father Fasano is originally from New York. He was born Nov. 14, 1949, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to Yolanda and Julius Fasano. He graduated from Fort Hamilton High School in Brooklyn in 1966 and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from St. Stephen's College in Dover, Mass., in 1971. He completed his seminary studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y.


While in formation, Father Fasano spent some time doing pastoral work in Northern Virginia. He was drawn to the new diocese by its first leader, Bishop Thomas J. Welsh. “His loyalty to the church was so edifying,” said Father Fasano. “His fidelity to the church and its teaching was an inspiration.” Father Fasano was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Welsh May 7, 1977.


Father Fasano was parochial vicar of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Winchester (1977-79), St. Michael Church in Annandale (1979-85) and St. John the Beloved Church in McLean (1985-89). He was pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church in Great Falls (1989-97), St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton (1997-2007) and St. John the Baptist since 2007.


Right before being named a pastor for the first time, Father Fasano met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. “Bishop (John R.) Keating told me I couldn’t (announce) anything until May 18. And I said, ‘Don’t worry, Bishop, I’m going to be in Europe.’ Then I got this opportunity to have a private Mass with the Holy Father, so I said, ah, he’ll be the first one I tell,” said Father Fasano. “A picture was taken as I’m telling John Paul II that I was just named pastor for the first time. Instead of him congratulating me, he says, ‘Today? What are you doing here?’ ”


Throughout Father Fasano’s ministry, one of his primary goals has been to promote vocations to the priesthood. “Right before my ordination, Cardinal John Wright was head of the Congregation of the Clergy in Rome and he said to me, ‘Make sure you don’t die before you replace yourself,’ ” said Father Fasano. “That stuck with me.”


Right now there are 10 men from St. John the Baptist in formation for the priesthood, for both the diocese and religious orders, said Father Fasano. “It's one of the most gratifying things to see young men commit themselves to the priesthood,” he said.


Looking back, Father Fasano feels grateful for the faithful and committed parishioners he’s led the past 43 years. “I’ve been very blessed with the parishes I’ve had,” he said. “It's humbling for a priest to see the devotion of his people.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020