Meet Father Paul English, CSB
Leading people through change may be difficult, but as a Basilian Father Paul English, CSB is prepared for the challenge and can always count on his confrères for support. During his last appointment as pastor at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Rochester, New York, Fr. English ministered to parishioners as the Basilians concluded their ministry in 2019. “It was an amazing blessing for the Basilians to minister at that location for 43 years and there were many occasions everyone to say goodbye: it was a special and holy time,” he said.
Now in his current role as director of novices at the English-speaking novitiate, Father English, CSB is focused on the future of the Congregation. Throughout his many appointments, the constant has been community life.
His fond experiences of living in a community began as a child. Born in Syracuse, New York to Robert and Rosemary English, Paul was the second oldest of seven siblings. “It was a happy family with many playmates and opportunities to enjoy one another.” As a member of the strong Catholic family, he always knew he was a part of the greater Church family. “Jesus was my brother; I belonged and I was loved,” he said.
After high school, Paul attended St. John Fisher College to study Spanish. Before classes began he met with Father Norman Tanck, CSB, who helped him select his courses and orient him to the college.
Through his involvement with campus ministry and leading Liturgical music at St. John Fisher, he also became familiar Father Joseph Trovato, CSB. Paul witnessed how naturally these men ministered to young people on campus. When he was invited for dinner at their home he gained insight into their lives. “They lived and prayed together and despite all of their differences they were brothers,” said Paul.
Throughout his life, Paul was open to the possibility of a religious vocation and during his last month at St. John Fisher College he let the Basilians know of his desire to join the Congregation.
He was welcomed into the associate program and spent two years teaching Spanish at Andrean High School in Indiana, then a Basilian-run high school. “The biggest surprise was that I did so well. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and community life. That combination made it easy to move forward,” said Paul.
The formation process that had allowed Paul move safely, step by step, now required a leap of faith. In 1980, as a novice he moved into the Detroit novitiate. “It was a whole new world; Detroit was undergoing so many difficulties and trials. Yet despite the poverty, people maintained their dignity. It was a learning experience and the direct contact with people who were poor was a tremendous help for someone who was considering taking a vow of poverty for the rest of his life,” said Paul.
In addition to doing apostolic work at a nursing home for the poor, he spent a great deal of time in prayer in mediation. “Creating quiet within myself caused me to look inward, confront what was inside. I asked a lot of questions about whether I was making right decision,” he said.
As a scholastic, Paul attended the University of St. Michael’s College for his Master of Divinity and was permitted to live and study his second year of theology with the Basilian community in Mexico. This experience gave him a new perspective as he was studying theology not only in Spanish, but in the Latin milieu. Reading the works of South American theologians while witnessing the upheaval and unrest in nearby Central America at the time, gave Father Paul a different world view. “It opened my eyes. I was able to see my own country in a different way. To understand the influence that my country had on a good part of the world was painful and challenging. With eyes wide open it helped me understand myself, the world, and God more clearly,” he said.
After he was ordained, he served in the Hispanic ministry at Ste. Anne de Detroit parish before following in the footsteps of his early mentor, Father Trovato, working in campus ministry at St. John Fisher College for 10 years. “I found it to be a tremendous ministry and helpful to me and hopefully the young people,” he said.
Following this, he worked once again in Hispanic ministry at St. Anne parish in Houston, and he was elected as a member of the Basilian General Council, a position in which he served for eight years. As he came to know the Congregation more fully, his affection grew. “I’m so honoured to be associated with this group of men. Knowing them personally, their achievements, and common history make me feel both proud and humbled to be a Basilian,” he said.
He continues to find himself reflecting on the Basilian Way of Life and the Congregation’s customs in his current role. “As the novices study the Basilian Way of Life, I find working through the implications in my own ministry and that has been helpful to me to become as well in becoming more aware of how to serve the Congregation.”
Before he became director of novices, his only experience in initial formation had been from his own experience. He has been participating in ForMission, a two-year program provided to those involved in religious formation in preparation for his role as director of novices. “The program’s presentations on spiritually in religious life have been helpful in understanding my role in serving the congregation and knowing which areas to emphasize within the novitiate.”