Trinitarian Father Joshy Abraham Mappilaparambil, parochial vicar of Incarnation-St. James Parish, principal celebrant of the Mass, prays before Mr. Romanello's casket. Also pictured from left are, Deacon James Alessi, homilist, and concelebrants Msgr. Edward Arnister and Msgr. Dennis Apoldite.
Trinitarian Father Joshy Abraham Mappilaparambil, parochial vicar of Incarnation-St. James Parish, principal celebrant of the Mass, prays before Mr. Romanello's casket. Also pictured from left are, Deacon James Alessi, homilist, and concelebrants Msgr. Edward Arnister and Msgr. Dennis Apoldite.
Angelo Romanello was a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, devoted Catholic, faithful parishioner, diocesan leader and friend.

But on the day of his Dec. 9 Mass of Christian Burial in St. James Church, Trenton, all in attendance were reminded that what he would want to be remembered for, first and foremost, was his friendship, relationship and commitment to Christ.

Mr. Romanello’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Trinitarian Father Joshy Abraham Mappilaparambil, parochial vicar of Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing, and was attended by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who presided from the sanctuary. At the end of the Mass, the Bishop offered closing remarks and led the Final Commendation.

“As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I am honored and privileged to celebrate the life of Angelo,” Bishop O’Connell said of Mr. Romanello who died Dec. 5.

“We hope you know the goodness of this man and the work he did during his life, how many lives he touched, especially the most needy,” Bishop O’Connell said, referring to Mr. Romanello’s service of some four decades as president of the diocesan Federation of the Holy Innocents Society and more than 30 years as director of the Holy Cross Learning Center, Trenton, where instruction was provided to children ages seven and up with learning disabilities.

Directing his remarks to Mr. Romanello’s wife, Rose Anna, the Bishop added, “I thank you for Angelo. Rose Anna, I thank you for all the work he did as you stood by his side. May God be with you, comfort you in your sadness and give us all peace as Angelo enters eternal life.”

In his homily, Deacon James Alessi reflected on the Gospel about the Raising of Lazarus, during which Lazarus’ sister, Martha, confronted the Lord for not allowing her brother to live.

“Martha confronts/questions Jesus, but her profession of faith and love for Christ is always sincere and real. It was as real and sincere as Angelo’s love for Christ here on this earth,” he said. “Martha spoke of Jesus as a friend when Lazarus died. [Similarly] Angelo spoke of Jesus as friend during his life. Angelo acknowledged his friendship, his relationship, his commitment to Christ.”

A Life Well Lived

Mr. Romanello was born in New York City and resided in Ewing for the past 65 years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Rider College (now University), Lawrenceville, and worked as specialist project coordinator for AT&T, Morristown.

A faithful parishioner of St. James Parish, Trenton (now part of Incarnation-St. James Parish, Ewing), Mr. Romanello was involved numerous ministries including serving as a parish trustee. He was also a past grand knight of the Trenton Council, Knights of Columbus, and a fourth degree knight with the Bishop Griffin General Assembly.

It was in 1974 when Mr. Romanello was introduced to the Holy Innocents Society through his membership in the Knights of Columbus. The council had been asked to reactivate the learning center in Mercer County after having been closed in another area parish.

“I had no previous training in this area, but when I saw the students, I realized that everyone had a right to know God’s love, including them,” he said of the students with cognitive and/or developmental disabilities including autism, are emotionally and physically challenged, neurologically impaired or learning disabled. “They needed to know that Jesus was with them too, and I wanted to help them,” he said in a Monitor interview.

Mr. Romanello’s contagious passion for the Holy Innocents Society spread to his wife, who went on to become coordinator of the Holy Cross Learning Center which was based in the former Holy Cross Parish and then Divine Mercy Parish, Trenton. Both Holy Cross and Divine Mercy Parishes are now part of Sacred Heart Parish. There are five other parish-based learning centers in the Diocese.

“Rose Anna and I consider our ministry a gift from God,” Mr. Romanello had once said when asked what they found to be most heartening about their work in providing for the spiritual welfare of special needs children.

Lasting Legacy

Even though it’s been many years later, the work of the Romanellos will be remembered by the students and families who attended the Holy Cross Learning Center.

Deacon Alessi, in his homily, shared that his son, who has a learning disability, was not only among the many students to receive his religious instruction through the Holy Innocents Society but he also advanced to helping with instructing classes and working with other children.

“Everyone knew him and loved him,” Deacon Alessi said of Mr. Romanello. “He was a wise, kind and peaceful man. He is reaping his rewards in heaven now.”

Tears glistened in Edward Malinak’s eyes as he told of having first served with Mr. Romanello in the Knights of Columbus and then becoming an aide in the Holy Cross Learning Center. The experience, Malinak said, eventually led him and his wife to adopt 11 children with special needs.

“Angelo was my daughter Alicia’s godparent,” said Malinak of Sacred Heart Parish, Mount Holly.

Jo Ann Fort of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, West Trenton, smiled when talking about first meeting the Romanellos 37 years ago when her then 16-year-old son, Johnny, joined the Holy Cross Learning Center.

“They gave all of their time, love and energy” to the students, she said of Angelo and Rose Anna. She noted that Johnny flourished in learning about his Catholic faith and was proud when he became an altar server. “They were a gift to special children. Angelo’s death is a loss, He was one of the best.”

The now 53-year-old Johnny Fort added how happy he is to have learned so much from Mr. Romanello about Jesus and to receive his Sacraments.

“He was a good teacher to me,” Johnny said.

Mr. Romanello was predeceased by his parents, John and Frances Borneo Romanello, and brother Anthony Romanello. In addition to his wife, Rose Anna and two daughters Deborahann (Nicholas) Solimando, and Diane (David) Glover, he is survived by three grandchildren; five great-grandchildren, and a sister-in-law.

Burial was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Hamilton. Memorial donations may be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children, 3551 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19140 or St. Jude Children’s Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tenn. 38105 or the charity of the donor’s choice.