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Msgr. Avella retires

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After years of service to the diocese, Msgr. Robert E. Avella is retiring.

Msgr. Robert E. Avella has served as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Arlington since 2006.

Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, first bishop of Arlington, ordained him to the priesthood May 10, 1975.

He was parochial vicar of St. Ambrose Church in Annandale (1975-78) and the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington (1978-79). He served as diocesan director of vocations (1978-85; 2003-04), living in the bishop’s residence from 1979 to 1984 and then at Our Lady of Lourdes (1984-85). He then served as assistant principal and chaplain at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington while in residence at St. Agnes in Arlington (1985-89), when he was named pastor of St. Leo the Great Church in Fairfax. In June 2000, he became pastor of St. Mary Church in Alexandria and was named the Bishop’s Delegate for the Clergy. He served as the rector of the cathedral (2003-06).

Msgr. Avella has served on numerous diocesan committees, including the presbyteral council (1995-97; 2010-14), the committee on priests’ retirement (four terms: 2000-14), the clergy personnel board (three terms: 1992-2006), the diocesan school board (2007-10), and the committee on priest’s retirement facility (2007-10).

He said he was in “complete shock” when Bishop Burbidge visited him after a hip surgery in 2018 to give him a bit of “good news,” that the pope had named him a monsignor, with its more formal name, “Chaplain to his Holiness.”

“That’s kind of like being a parish priest to the pope, who I’ll never see but I can pray for daily in a personal way,” Msgr. Avella said at that time. “I’m his chaplain. It’s lovely wording. I wouldn’t want to be anything else.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020