By Seth Daniel
In an abrupt announcement late last week, Father Michael Guarino of St. Anthony’s shared that he will be retiring from the priesthood after 43 years due to medical concerns.
“I will be taking a medical retirement and it’s bittersweet,” he said. “I’m doing this under the advice of three doctors…I feel so blessed that this – in a sense – was my last assignment. In some ways, I look at this as making my last decision…There’s no more deciding whether I want to go to Framingham or Foxborough or Malden, but I know there will still be a lot of decisions ahead for me.”
Guarino – the administrator at St. Anthony’s – said he preferred not to get into the particulars of his medical retirement, but indicated his last Sunday would be February 27, and that he would be arriving in Sarasota, FL on March 2 with his dog Abba.
He said that he would miss the people of Revere in general. He said that of all the places he’s been in his four-decades long career, Revere people have been some of the best.
“What I’ve loved about Revere is the people in this city,” he said. “I’ve been in several towns, but in Revere there’s no airs. They are who they are and that’s a refreshing thing. I’ve loved the people here in this city.”
Father George Butera has been appointed the temporary administrator of the Parish and the Archdiocese will be searching for a permanent replacement.
“They have indicated that it probably won’t be too hard to find someone to come here,” said Guarino. “The Church is solvent and has a great reputation in the diocese. Also, he wouldn’t be alone here as so many priests are today.”
Interestingly enough, Butera was a classmate of Guarino’s in seminary and the two of them have been friends for some 50 years.
The news came as quite a surprise to several of the priests in the Parish and, especially, to the Parishioners – who heard the news officially this past Sunday. In his 10 years at St. Anthony’s, Guarino’s personality and approachability have made him one of the most popular priests in some time.
He’s a regular number-caller at the Bingo on Monday nights, and has overseen the Parish with great diplomacy and with an eye towards innovation.
Guarino came to Revere in 1999 as the administrator of the former St. John Vianney Church in the Point of Pines. His previous assignment had been at St. Thomas Aquinas in Bridgewater.
Just two years after he arrived here, his church was called to merge with St. Theresa’s on Revere Street and St. Anthony’s. Both St. John’s and St. Theresa’s were closed down and sold and parishioners were re-directed to St. Anthony’s.
By almost all accounts, it has been and was a seamless merger.
That, said Guarino, is the act he is most proud of for his entire career. He said that transition in 2001 came with no disputes or protests – adding a little bit of a dig to those who have held vigils to protest their church closings.
“We did it without going to the Vatican Signatory or the Pope to see if this could keep the church open,” he said. “The people were able to see it was a necessity…We cried and I remember crying with both parishes as they had their last Masses. They had the foresight and love for their church to recognize this was something that needed to happen. Really, that was one of the highlights of my career.”
The combined Parish will celebrate 10 years of existence this July.
Another accomplishment that is high on his list is renovating St. Anthony’s Church from top to bottom. When he assumed administrative duties, the church was in very poor condition. In 2002, he was able to get the renovations completed.
“It needed it badly and it’s absolutely beautiful now,” he said.
He also lists the new found connection with priests in India as a great positive mark on his service at St. Anthony’s. As it is now, several priests from India serve and have served at St. Anthony’s over the last 10 years.
Through a stroke of the divine, when Guarino was at St. John’s, an Indian priest needed a place to stay while visiting his brother – who was a Revere resident working as an engineer at General Electric in Lynn.
That Indian priest contacted Guarino and asked if he could stay at St. John’s. Guarino allowed it and that opened the door for other visits.
Soon, he was able to work out an agreement with the bishop in India to have priests come over and serve at St. Anthony’s.
Two of the most notable Indian priests have been Father Kumar – who runs the youth programs – and Father Nicholas.
Guarino grew up in Ashland and began his career in 1968 when Cardinal Cushing ordained him. He said he began to hear his calling when he was in high school.
“My goal in life was to be a pediatrician when I was a kid,” he said. “As I got older and stayed close to the Church in high school – just watching the priests – I started to get a sense that this was a calling meant for me.”
He served in many places over the years, including as a chaplain at a high school and as a priest in Malden. Literally, he’s been all over the map in the Archdiocese, but he said that his retirement to Florida doesn’t mean he’ll be totally done.
“There are four or five Catholic parishes in Sarasota and I’m hoping that one might need my services at times on the weekends to say Mass,” he indicated. “I’d also like to do a lot of volunteer work too.”
The Parish will be having a farewell party for Guarino on Sunday, February 27 from 1-4 p.m. in the Lower Hall. A Mass celebrated at noon will precede that event.