Signed and Sealed• Anthony Mingarino, diocesan chancellor, stamps the Decree of Erection, or acta, with the diocesan seal Feb. 19 during the Mass officially elevating St. Robert Bellarmine Church, Freehold, to Co-Cathedral. Mingarino is retiring as the Diocese’s Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer at the end of June. Craig Pittelli photo

Signed and Sealed• Anthony Mingarino, diocesan chancellor, stamps the Decree of Erection, or acta, with the diocesan seal Feb. 19 during the Mass officially elevating St. Robert Bellarmine Church, Freehold, to Co-Cathedral. Mingarino is retiring as the Diocese’s Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer at the end of June. Craig Pittelli photo

By Rayanne Bennett | Associate Publisher

Earlier this year, Anthony J. Mingarino, the Diocese’s Chancellor and Chief Administrative Officer, announced that he would be retiring at the end of June, bringing to an end a nearly 14-year tenure of leadership in the Chancery.  He recently sat down with The Monitor for a rare interview and reflection on his life and service to the Church.

In the South Philly neighborhood where Anthony Mingarino grew up, Catholic churches seemed to grace every other block, and parish involvement was as an integral part of everyday living.

And no matter how far the paths of his life have taken him from St. Edmond Parish and Bishop Neumann High School, where he grew up, he has always remained close to his Catholic faith.  From the life-changing moment when he met his future wife Rose, a student in St. Maria Goretti High School, at the senior prom (they had both come with different dates), to his undergraduate and graduate studies in St. Joseph University, he built a life around his Catholic identity.   

Related Stories:

Sister Joanne Dress leaves Diocese with legacy of unity, outreach

Mount Carmel Guild an important part of Marie Gladney's goal to help others

His faith guided him throughout the whole of his adulthood, inspiring him to attend Mass faithfully while serving four years in the Air Force, including a tour in Vietnam.  Once married and seeking to start his family, he moved to South Jersey’s Gloucester Township (Camden Diocese).  He also became an active member of Our Lady of Hope Parish (formerly St. Agnes) and for the last 36 years has served in a number of different ministries, including religious education and sacramental preparation programs, faith formation team, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and several parish leadership bodies, to name but a few. 

So it would have come as no surprise to those who knew Mingarino how significantly faith would factor in to his thoughts and hopes as he, while in his 50s, considered how he’d like to lead the rest of his life. 

Now, many corporate executives who spent 35 years working and commuting five hours each day to and from New York City would likely plan for a retirement that involved golf courses, warmer climates and lots of down time.  But Mingarino had something different in mind.  He recalled, “In the first phase of my life I did what I had to do.  In the second phase, I was going to do what I wanted to do.”

What he “wanted to do,” in keeping with the way he had always lived, was to serve the Church.  He said, “I thought I could use the skills I had gained from my career in business to help my parish, or the wider Church.” 

Nudging the thought process along was his return to work and his grueling commute after having major surgery.  “I really came to see that the commute was a killer.”

Thinking about making the move, and acting on it, however, are two different things. 

It was 2003 when an opening for CAO in the Diocese of Trenton was advertised in his diocesan newspaper.  He applied “on a lark,” he said.  But the Diocese took him quite seriously.  He was called for a first interview, then a second and a third.  The job offer followed shortly thereafter.

Mingarino struggled with the decision.  “It was not easy to make a move like this – leaving a perfectly good job at Emigrant Savings Bank to work for the Church at half the pay.”

He told a good friend that he was hoping for some kind of sign.  God came through for him when, on Aug. 14, New York City experienced a major blackout and there was no way for Mingarino to get home.  “I spent the night on my desk in 95 degree heat because there was no air conditioning.” 

His friend helped to put the experience in context.  “He told me, ’There is your sign,’” Mingarino recalled.  And he chose to agree.

Innovative Collaborator, Compassionate Leader

As he looks back to his first days in the Trenton Chancery, Mingarino’s first impression was the pervasive quiet in the building.  After decades of working in a second floor office above 42nd Street, it was a welcome change for him. 

An even more salient memory was how dedicated to their ministry everyone was.  “I couldn’t believe the enormous amount of time they gave to the job.  Not just 9-5, Monday through Friday.  But evenings and weekends … with great joy and happiness.  It was very inspiring.”

He quickly set to work, identifying priorities and forming partnerships and teams who could bring about positive change.  He felt very comfortable working with priests and in the Church environment, possibly because of diocesan-level work he had done in his own Camden Diocese.

He takes little credit for his list of accomplishments, and most people wouldn’t realize just how impactful the work was.  But in his tenure, Mingarino helped to develop an administrative infrastructure that would support and facilitate the many ministries and projects of the Diocese.  Systems and processes that would strengthen viability and accountability were put in place as a result of his and others’ efforts, such as guidelines for parish trustees, finance councils and the building commission; a salary and benefit guide for priests, establishment of accounting norms and ensuring the viability and sound funding of the priest and lay pension plan. 

His work in the Chancery allowed him to identify problems and develop strategies to address them.  It drew upon his critical thinking and creativity.  He had the opportunity to see things from their origins to their institution.  It was challenging and fulfilling at the same time.

But for Mingarino, it was his work with the priests, and especially the pastors, that brought him the greatest sense of reward.  “I considered it a real privilege to be a resource to them, when they called or met with me to ask advice.  It brought great satisfaction.”

He added, “I hope in some small way I was able to ease the burden of their parish administration.” 

Among the Chancery staff, Mingarino has been known for his open door policy and his listening ear.  It was widely understood that he may not always be able to give you what you were asking for, but he would be fair, honest, and, most of all, compassionate.

He makes no apologies for his focus on financial concerns, and considers the matter of finances to be integral to the life of the Church.  While he is sure he didn’t invent the slogan, he found himself frequently saying, “No money, no mission.”

A Future Full of Promise

While Mingarino is keenly aware of the challenges that face the Church at this time – the need for evangelization primary among them – he is also hopeful that measures and structures put in place now will bring about important progress. 

He feels particularly hopeful about the diocesan pastoral planning initiative, Faith in Our Future.  Mingarino observed, “The opportunities are really unlimited.  It’s up to the pastors, the cohorts and the people to get on board and really support it.”

Even after his last official day in his current roles, Mingarino will continue to serve the Diocese.  Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., has asked him to stay on as his counsel.  So Mingarino will dedicate a few days each week – both in the Chancery and from home – being a resource not only to the Bishop, but also the individuals who will take over his responsibilities.

Most importantly, Mingarino knows that retirement brings with it an opportunity to enjoy the gifts  that God has given  – most especially his family.  He and his wife have been blessed with three daughters and their respective husbands – Christine and Dave Roscoe; Michele and Frank Jones, and Jennifer and Bryan Hicken – as well as nine grandchildren.

Mingarino tried to describe the sense of joy his family brings him: “My family is my life. It’s a wonderful feeling to have your family, kids and grandkids want to spend time with you. We are still the gathering place for all holidays.”

He added, “Being a grandfather is better than being a father.  All of the joy without the responsibility. We get to spoil them and irritate their parents but I know they love to watch us with their kids.” 

A fan of country music, Mingarino will likely have his tunes with him when he goes to the beach this summer, one of his goals. “But my first goal is to sleep a full eight hours.”

He also hopes to do volunteer work for sure.  He recalled, “A wise man and colleague told me that I should continue to contribute whatever skills I have to benefit others. That is what I’ll do.”