True happiness is found when one believes that God has a plan and is willing to follow that plan.

That’s the mantra Father Felix Venza has firmly held onto throughout his life and especially during his 50 years of priesthood which he celebrates this year.

“God has a plan” and everything will fall into place, he said.

Father Venza was a youngster in his home parish, St. Joachim, Trenton, now part of Our Lady of the Angels Parish, when he began to see God’s plan for his life to pursue a priestly vocation.

On the occasion of his retirement in 2017, Father Venza shared a number of thoughts about his priesthood, including his early sense of a vocation. “I was always at the altar serving several Masses a day. I was in the boys’ choir and spent all of my childhood in that church. The priests told my mother they thought I had a vocation and it turns out they were right,” he said.

Father Venza, who was born in 1946 in Trenton, received his early education in St. Joachim School, followed by Mother of the Savior Seminary, Blackwood, which is now the current site of Camden Community College. He prepared for the priesthood in St. Charles College Seminary, Catonsville, Md., for two years, then St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore.

A pleasant memory Father Venza remembered from the day he was ordained a priest by Bishop George W. Ahr in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, was the heavy rains that fell early in the morning. But on that day, May 20, 1972, as ordination was set to begin, he said, the sun was shining.

The newly ordained Father Venza’s first assignment as a parochial vicar was Christ the King Parish, Manville, which is now part of the Metuchen Diocese. He then served subsequent assignments in St. Agnes Parish (now part of Our Lady of Perpetual Help-St. Agnes Parish), Atlantic Highlands, and St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Middletown. In April 1988, he relocated to Burlington County when he was named to his first and only pastorate in St. Clare Parish, Florence, where he served for 20 years.

Father Venza treasured his time in St. Clare Parish, especially in knowing he was providing for the pastoral needs of the parishioners and having the opportunity to develop close relationships with many of the families. He also found his ministerial experience to be enriched when his parish engaged in ecumenical efforts with area churches of other faith traditions, and through his service as the spiritual director of the Holy Name Society in Burlington County.

Father Venza left St. Clare Parish in 2008, when the parish was merged with neighboring Holy Assumption Parish, Roebling, and became the new Sts. Francis and Clare Parish, Florence Township. Following St. Clare Parish, he served as a senior priest in residence in St. Mary Parish, Bordentown, which is now part of Mary, Mother of the Church Parish.

“I’ve made so many friends,” he said, then recalled the added blessing it was that once he retired from active ministry, he was able to move into a private residence in southern Mercer County, not far from Bordentown and Florence, and remain close by.