Monsignor Joseph J. Anderlonis, S.T.D.

ANDERLONIS, Joseph

Sixteenth Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish

 October 1, 1944 to December 6, 2019

Monsignor Joe kept his promise too soon. He always said that he would never leave us voluntarily – he’d be with us until they “carry me out in a box, feet first.” Now, he joins the ranks of the great former pastors whose lives we commemorate in our parish bulletin every winter on their anniversaries – ironically, a tradition he instituted.

Monsignor Joe was smart, kind, wise, generally easygoing, sometimes outspoken, and had an impish sense of humor. He was not one to “toot his own horn.”

Today, we learn that Monsignor Joseph J. Anderlonis was born in Philadelphia on October 1,1944. He attended Saint Andrew’s and All Saints’ parochial schools, then Father Judge High School, before entering Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, where he graduated with a B.A. with highest honors. In 1966, he went on to study in Rome, residing at the Pontifical North American College, and enrolled at the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University. There, he received a Bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology in 1968 and the Licentiate degree in 1970. Busy guy: in between, he was ordained to the priesthood in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome on December 19, 1969.

In 1970, Father Anderlonis became curate at Most Precious Blood and then Resurrection Parish, Chester, PA. Later assignments included Old Saint Mary’s, Society Hill; the Basilica-Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul; and Holy Saviour Parish, Linwood, PA. From 1974 to1977, he did post-graduate coursework in Dogmatic Theology at the Gregorian University. From 1977 to 1982, he taught at Neumann College, Aston, PA, and was the academic supervisor for the first Permanent Diaconate program of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware.

Father Anderlonis became tenth Pastor of Saint George Parish in 1982. He also served on the Marriage Tribunal of Philadelphia. At the same time, he continued his studies, receiving his Doctorate in Sacred Theology (S.T.D.), Magna Cum Laude, from the Gregorian University in Rome on May 29, 1987, with a dissertation on the Christology of the Swedish Theologian and Bishop, Gustaf Aulen (1879-1977). In 1988, Father Joe Anderlonis became National Spiritual Advisor of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Lithuania. In, 1998, “Father Joe” was appointed an Honorary Prelate of His Holiness and became “Monsignor Joe.” He was invested at the Cathedral on June14, 1998.

Monsignor Joe, christened unofficially as “Mojo” by students at St. George, had deep roots in Philadelphia. He often noted that the paternal side of his family had its roots in Saint George Parish (Andrew and Anna Matoniute Andrulonis) and his maternal grandparents (Anthony and Karolina Petrosaite Kraujutis) were among the founding families of Saint Andrew Parish.

When Monsignor Joe came to St. Francis de Sales in 2016, he also still had duties at St. George, so he traveled back and forth, but he embraced our parish with all of its history and all of its potential. During the time that he was here, he encouraged the ideas and projects of parishioners that would help to build the community. He held parish “town meetings” and periodic informal gatherings, where he listened to needs and suggestions. He instituted the monthly refreshments, sponsored by the different ministries, in the church after Mass, so we could get to know each other. He encouraged book clubs and educational endeavors and relished conversations about neighborhood and church history. He moved the Blessing of the Animals from the parking lot to the parish garden. He kept our Nativity Pageant and Birthday Song traditions and supported the choir and the Assumption Religious spiritual exercises. He made a thousand tiny adjustments that helped to bring our diverse community together and he will be greatly missed.

Eternal Rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him.

These were the verses written for the memorial of Bishop Crane, our second pastor, who built St. Francis de Sales Church, and who died close to Christmas on December 26, 1928. They seem appropriate once again:

DEATH COMES FOR THE BISHOP

By Sister M. Donatus, Immaculata College

“The angels must finish these beads,”

He smiles, his last dear rosary –

And the good Bishop, kind to us all,

Sailed over Death’s quiet sea

 

Mary’s bright love attended him,

A Star in the darkest night –

The little King’s arms awaiting,

Heaven was just in sight.

 

To the music of Aves, from angel’s tongues,

A Baby’s eye on the mast,

Life’s last glad mystery finished,

The Bishop reached Port at last.

 

 

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