Fr. Mitchell Wanat CM – 40 years as teacher and pastor

Of forty years in priesthood almost a half of it he dedicated to teaching and educating young people being idolized by students either at St. John Kanty Prep in Erie, PA or in Bishop Brady High School, Concord, NH. For the other half, he has been living in parochial ministry as vicar, administrator and pastor. Fr. Mitchell Wanat CM, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Ansonia, CT is celebrating ruby priesthood anniversary this month. A Mass honoring his jubilee will be celebrated on Thursday, June 16 in Ansonia.

A Jubilee Mass at 6:30 PM on Thursday, June 16, 2011 in St. Joseph Church, honors this special anniversary and reception prepared by parishioners will follow in the church hall.

Rev. Mitchell “Mitch” Wanat CM was born on August 5, 1942 in New Haven, CT. As a child he met Vincentians in St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Parish. Records of  The Holy Name Society of St. Stanislaus Parish (established 1951) list him among prominent members who later became priests. After pursuing normal schooling Mitch Wanat joined the Congregation of the Mission in then Polish Vice-Province in the USA on June 11, 1963. He got through seminary formation in the Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, PA staffed by Vincentian from Eastern Province. He graduated with Master’s of Divinity and on May 29, 1971 he was ordained priest in Mary Queen of All Saints Chapel there.

Known for his athletic ability, immediately after ordinations Father Mitchell was assigned to St. John Kanty Prep in Erie, PA where he proved his worth till the end of athletic activities with the closing of the school in 1980. He was idolized by the students as a teacher and last athletic director in the school’s history.

Sport was very important and significant activity at Kanty Prep. The first sport to be organized in Kanty was baseball, because there was no gym for other sports. Tha ball playing took place in the cornfield, before the baseball diamond was laid out, with donated equipment. The first basketball game in the “old” gymnasium, built over the boiler room took place on February 12, 1924.

The excellence of sports at Kanty continued until the school’s closing in 1980. Beside the regular sports of football, basketball, and baseball, there were at times, winter skiing and sledding, tennis, bowling, golf, cross country running and even horseback riding.

A hiatus occurred in Kanty athletics when Kanty ceased to be solely a boarding school and became a day school in 1967. The resumption of an athletic schedule was slow but gained strength with time until, in 1980, there were undefeated in footbal (The Eagles), 10-0. The basketball (Varsity) record was excellent as well with 16 wins and 6 losses in final year.

When the Kanty Prep was closed in June 1980 Fr. Wanat together with Father John Sledziona CM and Brother Joseph Zurowski CM moved to Concord, NH, invited by the Bishop of Manchester to take over management of the Bishop Brady High School. While Fr. John became principal of the school and Bro. Joseph headed English department, Father Mitchell was a chaplain. Assigned to teaching and chaplaincy work at Bishop Brady High School Concord, NH Vincentians lived at Laboure House, expressly formed for that purpose at Bow, NH. When the parish of  St. Peter’s in Concord, NH was acquired in 1983, Father moved into the rectory and continued his teaching and chaplaincy activities at Bishop Brady until the contract expired in 1989. Father Mitchell honed in parochial work as vicar in St. Joseph’s Ansonia, CT until 1992.

Next, Father was sent to Lisbon Falls, ME in Diocese of Portland. Vincentians took over the parish of  SS. Cyril & Methodius in Lisbon Falls in 1976. Once it was an ethnic parish community created by Slovak immigrants. During the years and due to various circumstances number of parishioners declined almost leading the parish to closure. With the arrival of Fr. Edward Gicewicz CM as pastor life retuned to the parish. Thus, the Bishop of Portland initiated the project to merge three parishes in Lisbon Falls in to one. Besides St. Cyril and Methodius (placed on National Register of Historic Places on May 20, 1977) Vincentians started to work in Holy Family parish and St. Ann’s parish. Fr. George Dabrowski CM became pastor of first two parishes in 1992 and Fr. Mitchell a pastor of St. Ann’s parish. In 1993 he was appointed pastor of all three parishes. By the bishop’s decree of January 1, 1995 the three parishes became one – Holy Trinity Parish. In 1996 Fr. Anthony Kuzia CM replaced Fr. Wanat as pastor. In 2000 Vincentians left Lisbon Falls.

In 1996 Father Mitchell returned to St. Peter’s Parish in Concord, NH as Pastor and community Superior. Also in 1996 Father was elected Provincial Councilor and continued until 1998. His pastorate in Concord finished in 2001 when he was moved to St. Michael’s Parish in Derby, CT as pastor and superior again. Finally, in 2008 Father returned to Ansonia. First as administrator and then, since September 2 as a pastor of St. Joseph Parish. Meanwhile, on September 9, 2005 he has been elected as Provincial Councilor for another time.

You can view more pictures in the Facebook gallery

On this special day we wish Fr. Mitchell
plenty of graces from Heavens.
May the Lord bless, strengthen and protect you
on your Vincentian pathway!


4 comments to Fr. Mitchell Wanat CM – 40 years as teacher and pastor

  • Congratulations Fr. Mitch!

    We’re going to be holding a St. John Kanty Prep Reunion/Celebration in Erie this year. It would be great to see you again. for details. Many of us had the utmost respect for you during our years at Kanty. You were a fantastic teacher, Coach, Priest, and Mentor to all of us. (how else could I get straight A’s in Latin?!) Thank You and Take care…. Mike (G77)

  • Bill Consiglio

    Hi Mitch,

    New Haven and trips to the beach in your Mom’s car are a happy memory. Being rushed by you playing football at St. Joe’s, not so much. I’ve stopped by the rectory a few times while traveling between home in Brewster and relatives in New Haven, but never managed to find you in. I’ll keep trying. Congratulations on your 40 years of priesthood.

    BTW, we just got back from spending a weekend with Dick Devine at Breezy.

    Bill Consiglio

  • Judith

    Hello, I’m not sure you will remember me, when I was a child I lived in the 3rd floor of your mom’s house on State St. With my mom Helen Ciesielski. And use to help out a little with the store, I was just a kid. I hope all is well for you. Judy.

  • Carolyn Welker

    In the 90s, my family attended St Joes when Father Mitch was there. He is one of those people who leaves a positive impression on you forever. He converted my dad to Catholicism at that time. Even decades later, my family is still effected by the love and peacefulness he exudes. He is certainly up there with the most wonderful people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing in my life. We are about to adopt a new puppy and my fiancée mentioned the name Mitchell because of a mountain in the Carolinas. I instantly loved the name because of a wonderful man I once knew. Love you father Mitch- thank you for making this world a better place. I thank you for all you have done for us and the communities you have worked in.

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