Father Pasquale A. Papalia, center, retired pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, is joined during Mass by its current pastor, 
Father Evarist Kabagambe, right, and Deacon Bob Scharen, left. 
Mike Ehrmann photos
Father Pasquale A. Papalia, center, retired pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, is joined during Mass by its current pastor, Father Evarist Kabagambe, right, and Deacon Bob Scharen, left. Mike Ehrmann photos
When Father Pasquale A. Papalia departed as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting, in late June, he raised up prayers that God would grant him years of retirement spent “in good health” while assisting in parishes and ‘‘the quiet ability to pray, think, study and visit friends.”

After 48 years of an active priesthood, it sounds like the recipe for contentment, he said, and “a dream that is about to come true.” As he sees it, such a retirement will be the fulfillment of a mission that began nearly half a century ago. “And God willing, I’ll return to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish on my 50th anniversary and celebrate a Thanksgiving Mass.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Father Papalia's Retirement Mass

The dream began to unfold for Father Papalia in Teaneck where he was born in 1946 to devout Italian American parents Frank, a bricklayer, and his mother, Mary, who “practiced the faith in all the colorings that come from that part of the world,” and passed the traditions on to him and his brother, Vincent.

“It was a wonderful family life,” he said, describing the “different world” of his formative years where the lack of a parochial school education was compensated for by priests who “set wonderful examples” and encouraged vocations.

At age 20, Father Papalia, who was attending Seton Hall University in South Orange, took his recommendations to heart and began studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Newark May 25, 1974, by Auxiliary Bishop John L. Dougherty.

In the early years of his priesthood, Father Papalia served in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Montclair, where he directed a branch of the Third Order Carmelites and the parish’s large altar servers group along with various parish societies and was Chaplain of the Serra Club of Montclair and West Essex.

He went on as parochial vicar in the parishes of St. John, Linden; Mount Carmel, Newark, and Holy Family, Nutley.

Then, in 1994, he requested and was granted permission to assist for three years in the Eparchy of Passaic (Byzantine rite) under Bishop Michael Dudick who appointed him administrator of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Somerset.

“Early on as a parish priest, I became enamored of the Christian East,” he reflected. “I wondered if God was calling me there. It was a great experience,” he said. “I met a lot of lovely people” but in the end, God  “called me back..”

After his time of service in the Eparchy, and realizing that his parents, who had taken up residence in the Diocese of Trenton, were getting on in years, Father Papalia requested and received a transfer there.

Father Papalia was assigned to St. James Parish, Red Bank, in 1997, serving there for three years. He spent one year in St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel, before transferring to St. Mary Parish, Middletown in 2001.

After his incardination into the Diocese of Trenton Feb. 13, 2003, he continued to serve as parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish. He was named administrator of Holy Name Parish (now Resurrection Parish) Delran in 2004 and installed as pastor in 2005.

In 2008, Father Papalia left Resurrection/ Holy Name after a parochial consolidation of two parishes and spent several months in residence at Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro, serving many communities in the area until Sept. 10, 2018, when he was named pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish following the retirement of longtime pastor, Msgr. Joseph C. Shenrock.

Father Papalia shared that the variety and scope of his years in the priesthood has been a great experience. “I couldn’t think of anything else I would have done that would have resulted in such a profound experience. The fact is, that God takes a man with all his limitations and fills in what’s lacking.”