Legatus chaplain has faith like steel
Pittsburgh local returns to his hometown to take on a more pastoral role with Legatus . . .
Fr. Joseph Mele
A Steel City son whose father labored in a mill, Fr. Joseph M. Mele wears many hats in the Pittsburgh diocese, including vicar general and director of formation at St. Paul Seminary. But he esteems “almost selfishly” his role as Legatus chaplain because it returns him to the sort of pastorly role he had been missing after 36 years as a parish priest.
Tell me about your call to the priesthood.
I’m the youngest of four brothers and have a younger sister. Although my dad worked at the steel mill, he placed my older brothers and sister in various businesses and they became successful. I saw the possibilities of a bright future in the business world for me, too, but I knew I had a different calling. From the time I was a boy, I dreamed of becoming a priest. So I entered the seminary out of high school and have been immensely happy ever since.
How did you get involved with Legatus?
One day Bishop David Zubik called to ask a very special favor of me. He told me he wanted to re-establish a Legatus chapter in Pittsburgh. He shared with me that he had served as chaplain to Pittsburgh Legatus previously. He told me all that his experience meant to him. Now that he was back in Pittsburgh as our bishop (having been appointed bishop of Green Bay, Wis., in 2003, then as bishop of Pittsburgh in 2007), one of his first priorities was to invite Legatus back to the diocese.
He was counting on me to help him make it possible. I read up on Legatus and knew immediately that the mission of this society was exactly what I believed in my heart is important for today — to allow a shift in focus from that of Church as institution to that of Church as community, a community that transcends all outward human differences in order to promote what is genuinely catholic and universal about the truths of the Church.
What impact has Legatus had on you?
I love my duties in the diocese and seminary, but I still miss parish life. Legatus is like a connection with parish life. I love being around the Legates and hearing about their families, their professional lives and especially their spiritual lives.
Bishop Zubik’s first pastoral letter to the people of the Church in Pittsburgh is entitled “The Church Alive!” In this letter, he rallies all the people in our diocesan community to be excited about the faith. Well, I can’t think of a group in this local Church more alive than our Legatus chapter. I am positive this faith-dynamic is going to inspire not only this diocese but the entire area of southwestern Pennsylvania for the good.
How would you like to see the chapter move forward?
In his Incarnation, Christ reveals that the brilliance of his salvation can be best experienced in the depth of human relationships. As ambassadors for Christ, Legatus members value these relationships. Our relatedness to Christ, to our bishop and to one another taps a resource of grace that cannot help but flow over into every part of Catholic life and beyond. I would like to see our chapter reach out and welcome more and more people into this rich encounter of relationships in Christ.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I have a wonderful little beagle named Bayley. She’s the seminary mascot. I love walking her several times a day — no easy feat with a beagle!
I also read incessantly, mostly Catholic philosophers and history books. My favorite hobby is dining with good friends or family. I’m also a jokester, as the seminarians will tell you.