Meet the Chaplain: Father Joseph Mele – Pittsburgh Chapter
Father Joseph Mele, 70, a Steel City son whose father labored in a mill, will celebrate the 45th anniversary of his priestly ordination on May 5.
For the last 10 years, Father Mele has been involved in pastoral formation. He is currently the vicar for leadership development and evangelization for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. In those ten years, Fr. Mele has also been the chaplain for Legatus’ Pittsburgh Chapter.
Father Mele, who has likewise earned a reputation as a jokester, was recently honored as the Legatus Chapter Chaplain of the Year, which he credits to the faithful members of his chapter. Father Mele recently spoke with Legatus magazine.
How does it feel to be named the new Chapter Chaplain of the Year?
It really makes me very happy. There was a lot of support from our chapter. They deserve more credit than I do because we are flourishing as a chapter, and I really think it’s because of their leadership. I mean that sincerely. They’re really great people and the chapter is doing extremely well. I think that’s how I became recognized.
Why is the Pittsburgh chapter so vibrant?
Our chapter really works on relationships with one another, between so many of the Legatus couples and the individual members. We stress that spirit of community. A lot of the people have fostered really deep friendships, not only couple to couple but with me as their chaplain.. We revere the importance of those relationships, which I think is a reason why we retain our members.
When did you discern that you had a vocation to the priesthood?
Typical of my generation, I came from a very Catholic family within a very Catholic community. We discerned while we were in high school. I found a lot of support among my teachers and peers in high school. It was a time when, if you felt you were called to the priesthood, everybody rallied behind you. There was just tremendous support.
What are your duties as the diocesan vicar for leadership development and evangelization?
The secretariat is responsible for the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation of all pastoral leaders in the diocese — not just clergy, priests and deacons, but women and men religious who are parish leaders, as well as the lay ecclesial ministers. We are responsible for the training and formation of all the future leaders, and the ongoing formation of those who are already in pastoral leadership.
The bishop created the leadership development secretariat, but he realized early on that evangelization is such a key part of leadership right now. He wanted leaders who were effective in knowing how to carry out evangelization.
Do you miss parish work?
Absolutely. As a diocesan priest, my heart is that of a parish priest.
How did you get a reputation for being a jokester?
I am a storyteller. And my stories are usually humorous ones appropriate to situations, so I think that’s where I get that reputation. If we’re talking about something, I relate it to a funny story and people will say, “How did you make that connection? That’s perfect.”
Do you have any hobbies?
In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, we are in a major transition, so I’ve really neglected some of my major hobbies. But I enjoy playing the bagpipes. I also enjoy very much my dog. In terms of sports, I’ve always gone to the gym. And I love baseball.
What have been your impressions of Legatus over the years?
I’ve learned so much from the members of Legatus. They are very successful leaders, and their devotion and dedication to the Church is inspiring. I can really learn a lot from them on how to apply business principles, but they also incorporate a pastoral sense into what they do.