Fr. Massey Lombardi, pictured with his sister, is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Photo by Pietro Arista

Parish surprises Lombardi on his 40th year a priest

By 
  • April 30, 2014

TORONTO - The parishioners of St. Wilfrid’s Church have found what has been lost and replaced what has been stolen to honour their parish priest, Fr. Massey Lombardi.

Forty years ago, on his ordination day, Lombardi’s brothers gifted him with a chalice that was later stolen after he became pastor at St. Wilfrid’s in 1997. For Lombardi’s 40th anniversary as a priest, parishioners have reminded him of that special day with a replacement chalice. They also located a photo of his late mother with St. John Paul II at the Toronto Peace Garden ceremony in 1984.

The parish honoured Lombardi with a special celebration on April 27. The Mass was a surprise for Lombardi, who was led to believe the Mass was to celebrate the canonizations of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II and unveil the church’s new statue of the latter saint in honour of his two visits to Toronto in 1984 and 2002.

When Lombardi first arrived at St. Wilfrid’s, he was full of vitality and good ideas, said Irene Culnan, the parish’s seniors’ group co-ordinator and the parishioner who helped locate the picture of Lombardi’s mother with the late pope. “We were in awe of him.”

He started the seniors’ league, wanted the parish’s multiculturalism to be a focal point and rolled out a range of activities that would involve the whole parish and not just a specific segment, Culnan recalls. At last count, about 40 nationalities were represented at St. Wilfrid’s.

Before he was pastor at St. Wilfrid’s, Lombardi was a high school chaplain at St. Joan of Arc in Maple, Ont., and worked at the social justice office in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

“He’s a proactive pastor,” and is readily available to his parishioners, said Tiffany Zupan, chairperson of St. Wilfrid’s anniversary committee.

“Throughout his life, he’s done so much for the community, for the international community as well,” said Zupan.

The ethnic makeup at St. Wilfrid’s has changed over the years and Lombardi continues to support the diversity. He promotes the Rainbow Cross, representing “one faith, many cultures.” On the day parishioners honoured him, St. Wilfrid’s held a multicultural Mass where churchgoers arrived in traditional clothes from their country of origin.

Lombardi is proud to share his connection with St. John Paul II, the only pope to visit Toronto. It began when the priest helped to create Toronto’s Peace Garden in Nathan Phillips Square. John Paul II lit the eternal flame with an ember from the Memorial for Peace in Hiroshima, Japan. Zupan calls Lombardi’s participation in the garden one of his greatest initiatives.

Then in 2002, Pope John Paul II would lead World Youth Day celebrations at Downsview Park, near St. Wilfrid’s. Lombardi recalls all the pilgrims St. Wilfrid’s hosted. It was a “marvelous experience,” he said.

“We enjoyed the years we spent with him,” said Culnan.

Lombardi is scheduled to retire next year.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

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, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. 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.