A Higher Vocation: A Catholic Priest Celebrates His 90th Birthday And Continues To Devote His Life To Church Service

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Reverend George T. DeVille filled the gold-plated vessel – called a ciborium – with 15 consecrated Holy Communion hosts. He places it in the left pocket of his jacket.

DeVille gets into his car.

After distributing Communion to members of St. Oscar Romero Parish inside the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Cecil during a mass at 8 am, he still has work to do.

Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Light filtered through a stained glass window casts rainbow colors on Reverend George T. DeVille as he prepares for mass at Holy Rosary Church in Cecil, Wash. On August 5th.

He is on his way to bring communion to the residences of the faithful, some confined to their homes, others recovering from surgery or medical problems. Others are not yet comfortable returning to services due to the pandemic.

Most are between the late 80s and early 90s.

They are awaiting his arrival.

Praying with them while they receive the host is “an honor,” said DeVille, who has been a priest for 64 years. As Senior Parish Vicar, he is the oldest priest still active in a mission in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

DeVille will be serving midday mass on Sunday – his 90th birthday – at the Holy Rosary. Then there will be a celebration of his nine decades of life.

A call made

His call to the priesthood came when he was a second year student at Saint Vincent College near Latrobe. DeVille was at his home in McKeesport during the school holidays and watched a priest bring Communion to his grandmother, Mary “Mame” Worth.

“I saw how important a visit from the priest was to my dying grandmother,” DeVille said. “He visited her almost every day. I saw how she reacted to him and how important it was for this priest to come and see my grandmother. When I saw that, it put me on top of the hill.

He enrolled at Saint Vincent Seminary then at Saint Charles Seminary in Philadelphia.

DeVille was ordained a priest on May 25, 1957.

His first assignment was St. Rosalia Parish in the Greenfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh, where he served from 1957 to 1963.

DeVille was invited to receive training in psychiatric chaplaincy at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC While there, he attended evening classes at the nearby Catholic University. Returning to Pittsburgh, he was posted to Woodville State Hospital in Carnegie from 1964 to 1992. He then served at Mayview State Hospital in Bridgeville from 1992 to 2000.

He said there was camaraderie among mental hospital staff, and that they “did things that others did not or could not.”

“The highlight of my career as a psychiatric hospital chaplain came when two patients were seriously arguing,” he said. “A patient turned around and said, ‘Ask Father DeVille.’ The other patient said, “He’s crazier than us. I knew I had succeeded.

While there, he was severely beaten, burned by a cigarette butt, and “a woman crushed a chair with me sitting in it. I was wearing a new costume and thought, “She’s going to rip my costume.” She wiped the floor with me.

It’s DeVille’s sense of humor that keeps him going. His personal email address begins with “fatherdevil” and he has several demonic characters on his desk.

“I love helping people and being there when they need me,” said DeVille, who has served Holy Rosary in Washington County since 2000. “I love helping them spiritually, mentally and physically. I’m just enjoying this life.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Reverend George T. DeVille reports a ring and diamond belonging to his mother that are part of his chalice at Holy Rosary Church in Cecil Township.

He said his mother, Mary Jane Worth DeVille, was right when she told him that he had served a woman by being a priest.

“She was right,” he said.

More than a job

Looking at DeVille with the parishioners, one can easily see that it is his vocation, that it is in his blood. DeVille still celebrates Mass every day and one to three times on weekends, depending on the schedules of the other priests.

He arrives at Mass early in the morning at 7:30 a.m. to read the scriptures, review the pronunciation of words, and prepare for his sermon.

“Father DeVille is humble and his sermons are short and to the point,” said parishioner Bill Prost of North Strabane. “He cares about us. “

Cecil’s Judi and Mike Kondas attend mass regularly and said DeVille is always on the move. He is also a local historian. He knows so much about the area and shares these stories.

“It’s a gem,” said Judi Kondas. “We like it.”

Rita Meyer de Peters, a parish sacristan, said they were “so lucky to have her”.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Reverend George T. DeVille gives Communion to Mable Lucciola at her home on August 5th.

On his way to give Communion, DeVille knocks before entering. He starts to say hello as he opens the door, announcing his presence. The people he visits immediately smile. They walk towards him, using a walker or cane or by rolling forward in a wheelchair.

A woman got out of bed to go to the kitchen for Communion.

“It is important that the priest brings Communion to the sick and visits them,” said DeVille. “It makes a difference.”

Prayer

DeVille begins with a sign of the cross, then they say the “Our Father” prayer.

“Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to the supper of the lamb. Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof. But just say one word, and my soul will be healed. “

He offers the host as he says “the body of Christ”.

They pray quietly.

“Almighty God, we ask that your divine providence watches over us and protects us, and by receiving this sacrament, may we obtain eternal salvation. We ask it through Christ our Lord, amen. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, ”said DeVille.

Ed Miller and his partner, Agnes Zuccero, were waiting outside their front door DeVille, which brings in Miller magazines such as Scientific American and Air & Space.

“He’s such a great guy,” Miller said. “He’s a friendly face to see, and we appreciate everything he does.”

DeVille asks how they’re doing. At each stop, he talks about a topic specific to that person – be it health, family, sports and even the weather.

He remembers everything from a step taller than the rest or the best entrance to the house to which the people are in the pictures on the wall.

Mable Lucciola stood up to receive Communion, a smile on his face.

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Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review

Dorothy Czartorski, parishioner of Holy Rosary Church in Cecil, Wash., Makes the sign of the cross during a visit with Reverend George T. DeVille to her home on August 5.

Dorothy Czartorski’s expression was priceless. Snuggled up under a blanket in her recliner, she pulled her arms out from underneath to bless herself.

“Pray for me, father,” Czartorski said. “He makes me so happy when I see him. It’s the best part of my day.

DeVille has been bringing Communion to Gloria D’Amico for over 20 years. She and her daughter, Linda Romano, shared a few laughs with the priest.

“I loved it every time he’s here with me,” D’Amico said. “It’s so wonderful that he kept coming to see me all these years.”

Janet Calabro said conversations with DeVille are as much a highlight of her day as receiving Communion. It’s easy to talk to him, she said.

Rose Roman considers DeVille a good friend.

“If he didn’t bring me Communion, who would?” she said. “I truly appreciate it.”

“Everything I have done has made me the priest that I am today,” said DeVille. “I’ll stay as long as I can. I always say, I don’t know if I’m going to Heaven or Hell, but I know I’m leaving from the Holy Rosary.

The last communion stop was at John Miller and his wife, Phyllis. The couple from North Strabane have said how much they appreciate DeVille.

“I want people to see that I am more than a priest,” DeVille said. “I can help them with so many other things. … It is not just a question of the religious aspect. There are so many other aspects in a person’s life.

Blessing to the community

DeVille is a blessing to the community, said Rev. Carmen D’Amico, pastor at St. Oscar Romero. “He is remarkable, full of joy and energy. He’s so approachable, and that’s what makes him so comfortable around him.

D’Amico said DeVille cares about everyone and all aspects of their lives. He is like a father and a grandfather to the people he serves.

“He treats everyone with dignity, regardless of their situation in life,” D’Amico said.

D’Amico said that in DeVille’s more than 60 years as a priest, he has probably lived through every possible situation. He has practiced CPR on several occasions and administered the last rites in several fires, including one where three young boys died in Greenfield and for a priest who died in a fire in Oakdale. On another occasion he was called to administer the last rites to a young man in an industrial accident involving asphalt. The worker had fallen into a hopper and could not be recovered. A firefighter held DeVille upside down so he could approach the man.

The many accessories in DeVille’s simple priestly wardrobe are significant. He wears a pin as a Knights of Columbus chaplain. Another pin indicates his 60 years as a priest. And a red pouch represents personal and spiritual devotion.

The adornment is a tribute to Rev. Walter A. Mahler, a Navy chaplain during World War II, who always wore a red pocket square. DeVille helped Mahler for the last two years of his life, looking after him in a seminary rather than letting him go to a nursing home – cooking his meals, dressing him, giving him medicine. When Mahler was dying, DeVille offered him absolution. He chose the clothes Mahler will wear after his death.

During these years, DeVille served Mahler’s Communion several times a week.

Offering the Eucharist is at the heart of his priestly mission. “When I say mass and lift the host, I hold God in my hands, God who created the universe, and that’s how I feel,” DeVille said. “I bring Christ to these people. I try to be a reflection of Christ and I try to bring Christ to these people.

He closed the lid of the ciborium and slipped the golden box into his left jacket pocket.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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