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Vienna's Fr. Fiorelli to lead Oblate province

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In the past year, Oblate Father Lewis S. Fiorelli served part time at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna. But as of June 19, the 76-year-old went from aging in place — serving as a parochial vicar but with less responsibility — to being elected leader of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales Wilmington-Philadelphia Province. The region stretches from Massachusetts to Florida, has 149 Oblates and is one of two U.S. provinces.

“We see God’s will coming to us in a lot of different ways,” said Father Fiorelli, and in this case, it was through the men who voted for him to lead the province. The work is a change of pace and scene for Father Fiorelli, who muses he might be the oldest priest elected to the position. But as St. Francis de Sales said, “bloom where you’re planted,” said Father Fiorelli, a former parochial vicar of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

On a recent Tuesday, the new provincial headed to Michigan to see three postulants join his order’s novitiate. Then he returned to Wilmington, Del., the headquarters of the province. He’s mostly moved there already, he said, but hopes to make Our Lady of Good Counsel his “home away from home.” 

Father Fiorelli was born in Waterloo, N.Y., March 10, 1942, and entered the Oblates after high school. While in the seminary and as a priest he taught high school and at De Sales School of Theology in Washington. He served as superior general of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales from 1996 to 2004. For years he has ministered as a spiritual director. With Teresa Pitt Green, a survivor of sexual clergy abuse, he wrote a book in 2014 titled, Veronica's Veil: Spiritual Companionship for Survivors of Abuse.

Father Fiorelli will lead the province with four council members, including Father Matthew J. Hillyard, pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel. When Father Fiorelli served as superior general, he saw his role as being the “heart and soul” of the congregation and the “energizing motivator.” He hopes to fill the same role while leading the province. 

He and the council will oversee the Oblates’ many parishes and schools, DeSales University in Central Valley, Pa., and its other ministries, he said. They ensure their fellow  Oblates are happy and healthy in their various roles. 

“We just help the men be who they are and be that well,” he said. “We’re of service to them in any way we can be.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018