By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
Msgr. Alexander J. Palmieri, 58, long-time Chancellor and Vicar for Religious for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, died Aug. 1.
At press time, Cardinal Justin Rigali is scheduled to celebrate his funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 7, at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. The Mass will be preceded by a viewing from 9 to 10:45 a.m.
“I knew him as a dear friend,” said Bishop of Raleigh Michael F. Burbidge, who is scheduled to return to Philadelphia to preach at the funeral. “He was a holy, joyful priest, who treasured the gift of priestly friendship and fraternity. He took great joy in so many ministries; he loved being a parish priest and in an administrative office. He loved being chaplain for the Sisters of Mercy in Merion and especially teaching at our seminary.”
Bishop Burbidge, a former St. Charles Seminary rector, said, “He taught canon law and to me he was the perfect model for the seminarians. He knew the law, he understood the law, he conveyed the law and he carried out the law with compassion, in imitation of Christ.”
Born in Philadelphia, the son of the late Alexander J. Palmieri Sr. and the late Rose (Iaquinto) Palmieri, he attended St. Monica and St. Gabriel Schools and then-Bishop Neumann High School before entering St. Charles Seminary.
Ordained May 15, 1976, by Cardinal John Krol at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, his early assignments include parochial vicar at SS. Cosmas and Damian, Conshohocken; St. Donato, Philadelphia; and St. Catherine of Siena, Horsham. He received his doctorate in canon law from the Catholic University of America in 1994.
He was appointed Vicar for Consecrated Life in 1993 and Chancellor in 1996, and served in both posts until beginning medical leave in May of this year.
Gifted with a beautiful singing voice, earlier in his priestly career he was one of three priests who would annually sing the Gospel during Holy Week services at the Cathedral.
Also noteworthy in his career as Chancellor was serving as vice postulator for the causes of two saints. He had the key role of documenting the evidence of the necessary miracles for the 2000 canonization of St. Katharine Drexel and 2001 canonization of St. Leonie Aviat.
Theresa Selvaggi, his executive secretary for 16 years at the Chancery and Office for Consecrated Life, said, “He had a brilliant mind and at work he was a perfectionist, but most of all, he had a huge heart and was generous. He loved Christmas; that was his big thing.”
St. Joseph Sister Kathleen Leary, who as coordinator for Vocations to Consecrated Life worked with Msgr. Palmieri almost as long, remembers him as “the most generous, thoughtful, intelligent priest I’ve ever been blessed to work with.”
Father James Oliver who served as vice chancellor under Msgr. Palmieri, said his intellectual gifts were recognized even before he was ordained. “After he received his graduate degree he taught a philosophy course to the younger seminarians,” he said. “He had great intellectual sense and pastoral sense. He loved people and enjoyed life as a gift from God.”
The motto on his chalice was from St. Paul: “Rejoice always. Never cease praying. Render constant thanks.”
“That’s a snapshot of him,” said Msgr. William J. Lynn. “He was a wonderful priest who spent his ministry helping priests and sisters fulfill theirs. He was a great resource; he helped us with our canon law, and he was never too busy to take a call if we had a question.”
In addition to Bishop Burbidge, the scheduled concelebrants of the funeral Mass are Msgrs. Lynn, John C. Marine, Michael T. McCulken and Tomas Marin and Father James E. McVeigh.
Msgr. Palmieri is survived by his sister Roseann Carroll and her husband John P. Carroll; nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
Interment will be at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Springfield.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.