Fr. Vitaliano Papais. Photo courtesy Shepherd’s Trust

A faithful shepherd never stops caring

By  Vanessa Santilli- Raimondo, Catholic Register Special
  • December 19, 2022

Retirement is typically defined by its slower pace of life. But this isn’t the case for Fr. Vitaliano Papais. In fact, he is striving to lead an active retirement as he continues to serve our community of faith.

“The joy of service and the happiness that comes from helping others — that is important,” says Papais.  

At 83, this faithful shepherd is living out his priestly vocation in his golden years by celebrating Mass as often as possible.Each week, he celebrates Mass in the chapel at Radio Maria in Toronto, a 24-hour Catholic radio station evangelizing to the faithful. While both staff and volunteers participate in-person, the Mass is live-streamed via the station’s “Angelcam” as a media ministry to a wide and diverse audience. 

Bringing the Good News to seniors is an important part of his current ministry. Every Saturday, he visits the chapel at Casa Abruzzo, an independent living residence for seniors, to offer Mass to residents. Before the pandemic shuttered Masses at long-term care homes, he regularly celebrated Mass at the Downsview Long Term Care Centre and the Weston Terrace Care Community, home to more than 200 seniors.

The care and service priests like Papais continue to do long into their retirement is reciprocated by The Shepherd’s Trust, which supports the needs of retired diocesan clergy of the Archdiocese of Toronto who have served our family of faith. The Shepherd’s Trust gives retired priests the dignity of a monthly allowance, health care and other assistance in their golden years. It helps priests like Papais, who though retired is still eager to continue giving back to his Catholic community.

As the world slowly opens back up, Papais is hoping to once again celebrate Mass and give the Sacrament of Confession at Villa Forum Long Term Care Residence, run by the Mississauga Italian Canadian Benevolent Association (MICBA), of which he was a founding member. MICBA provides apartments for low-income families and individuals with special needs, independent living for seniors and a daycare. 

Papais fondly recalls pitching the idea of creating a multi-purpose facility for an under-served populations to then-Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion in the 1980s, who welcomed the vision with open arms. 

“She embraced us and supported our idea, she said, because we were proposing something that the community needed,” says Papais. 

Alongside celebrating Mass for those in their twilight years, Papais celebrates the Italian Mass at St. Alphonsus Parish every Sunday. He’s also on call at a handful of parishes for both daily and weekend Masses, as well as funerals. From St. Bernard de Clairvaux Parish to Transfiguration of Our Lord and St. Augustine of Canterbury to Sts. Peter and Paul, he’s always grateful for the opportunity to pray and to be present to the faithful.

His is a pastoral ministry — giving as much time as he can for home visits with those in the community who can’t make it to Mass. Sometimes he’ll bring Holy Communion; other times, people just want some spiritual accompaniment or simply friendly conversation. He’s always available, he says. 

“That is part of our pastoral attitude as priests.” 

Born during the Second World War, Papais grew up in Italy, where he was an altar server from a young age. The Church was always a big part of his life. As a kid, he attended a summer camp led by seminarians that left a lasting impression on him. Years later — when he was a seminarian — it was his turn to take on a leadership role at the same camp, helping with the formation of the next generation. 

His pastor played a big role in discovering his vocation, he adds. 

“Our pastor was there for us like a good father. In every moment of our life he was there, giving us strength. He was like a member of the family,” he said.  

“We learned how to pray and, at a certain point, how to jump in faith. Jump, and God is going to catch you. Trust and jump.” 

And jump he did. After attending the seminary of Pordenone and earning an annual scholarship, he was ordained as a priest in 1964 and worked in various parishes.

He immigrated to Canada on Dec. 13, 1979 — the feast day of St. Lucia, one of the early Christian martyrs. 

Over the years, he has served as pastor at St. Fidelis Parish, St. Peter’s Parish in Woodbridge, St. Norbert’s Parish, St. Bernard de Clairvaux Parish, St. Nicholas of Bari Parish and St. Patrick’s Parish in Brampton. He recalls so many Catholic elementary schools being built in Brampton during his tenure as pastor at St. Patrick’s that one year he celebrated nine First Communions and Confirmations. He also served as associate pastor at St. Wilfrid’s Parish and Sts. Peter and Paul Parish. 

And while he may serve the elderly population during the year, his focus in the summertime turns to young adults.

Every summer for the past 35 years (minus the pandemic summers), Papais has been and continues to be involved in leading the faith component of a trip for youth and young professionals to northern Italy. Young people from the archdiocese with roots in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region (which borders Austria) join those from countries with high concentrations of emigration from this region such as Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia and the United States as they explore their ancestral homeland.

“It’s cultural, but the trip is also about rediscovering the values of our Catholic faith,” says Papais, who serves as the ecclesiastical advisor. “A lot of the historical monuments are in the churches. The culture and spirituality go hand-in-hand. We are supposed to be Catholics in all that we do.” 

For many of the young participants, the highlight of the trip is being escorted to a Sunday Mass by a procession of about a dozen local townspeople carrying banners representing various municipalities, alongside a marching band — en route to celebrating Mass with a local bishop. 

If you ask Papais if he’s busy, he’ll humbly say no. In fact, he says he’s always looking for more to do. His journey in serving the Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Toronto is ongoing and he has no intention of slowing down. After all, a faithful shepherd never stops caring for the flock.

For more information on The Shepherds’ Trust, please visit

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.