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On Sunday, April 26, the congregation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Montrose, sadly said goodbye to the Reverend Canon Charles A. Cesaretti. Father Charles (as he is known to the legions of his fans all around Susquehanna County) has served St. Paul’s as Interim Rector since January, 2006 and retired after a long and poignant career. The farewell began with the worship in the Church, followed immediately by a reception in the Parish House. Noted Vocalist Paul S. Adkins was the soloist at the worship service.
Reverend Canon Charles A. Cesaretti.
The ministry of Father Charles has had an astounding and unforgettable impact on the people of St. Paul’s and the surrounding community. He quickly became a friend, mentor and spiritual guide to the congregation of St. Paul’s. He revitalized a parish that was experiencing lackluster attendance and poor community involvement into a bustling, energetic place of worship. From his support of the Coats for the Community project that has become an annual necessity for hundreds of needy families, to the spearheading of the Bountiful Blessings project which provided ham dinners to 700 hungry families this Easter, Father Charles has extended the outreach of St. Paul’s into the far corners of our county. By providing this model of unselfishness and compassion, he has given St. Paul’s a vision for the future and a long-term plan for community involvement.
Father Charles’ pet peeve became the notion of “But we’ve never done it that way before…,” and he sought to open the minds of the congregation to new and innovative approaches to breathing life into a stagnant spiritual atmosphere. By putting everything from finances to worship practices under a microscope, he engaged the various groups and committees of the church in a self-examination process that sought to expose faults and create a mission worthy of a successful place of worship. The people of St. Paul’s feel he has done exactly that. Vida Finlon, 95 years young and a member of St. Paul’s for 63 years, says “Father Charles has made a big difference in St. Paul’s. Our congregation has come together because of what he’s done.”
Fr. Charles is a native of New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers University before attending the Episcopal Church’s seminary in Philadelphia. He was ordained priest in 1965 and served parishes in New Jersey before post-graduate studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he earned a master’s degree in theology. He has a certificate in Pastoral Counseling from Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.
In 1976 he was invited to the national staff of the Episcopal Church, serving in positions of domestic and international policy and diplomacy. His appointment to be assistant to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as envoy to oversee the international church and governmental relations of the Episcopal Church took him to assignments in Central America, East and South Africa, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. He was seconded to the staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury to assist with release of religious hostages in the Lebanon and the Middle East.
In 1990, Fr. Cesaretti became the assistant to the Rector of Trinity Church, Wall Street, where he was engaged in the research and development of parish outreach and mission. In 1996 he became executive vice-president of the Jackie Robinson Foundation. He was administrator of the foundation, which provides educational scholarships and mentors minority students at colleges and universities in the United States.
In 1999, Fr. Cesaretti was named the executive director of the Center for Sexuality and Religion, an interfaith agency dedicated to the dialogue and cooperation between the communities of faith and the scientific sexological communities. He first retired in 2001 and moved to New Milford, where he had had a cottage for a number of years.
He is a fellow of the College of Preachers, a member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and was honored by the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey with the honorary title of “canon” for his service to the local, national, and global church. He was adjunct faculty at Widener University, Philadelphia. He was the chair of the board of the Kirkridge Study and Retreat Center in Stroudsburg from 2003-2006, having served on the board since 1997. He is the editor of four books, and author of numerous articles and reviews.
Father Charles will be missed by many who looked forward to his often humorous sermons, his engaging conversations with the children of St. Paul’s during church services, and his endless fountain of wisdom.
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