St. Robert Bellarmine welcomes new pastor

The Rev. Sam A. Sirianni joins Freehold Twp. church


The Rev. Sam A. Sirianni has come to Freehold Township to tend to the spiritual needs of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. Sirianni succeeds the late Rev. Thomas J. O'Connor. The Rev. Sam A. Sirianni has come to Freehold Township to tend to the spiritual needs of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. Sirianni succeeds the late Rev. Thomas J. O’Connor. FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — The members of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Freehold Township received a special Christmas present this year — a new pastor, the Rev. Sam A. Sirianni.

Since June 11, 2008, the parish has been without a pastor due to the death of the Rev. Thomas J. O’Connor, who had been St. Robert’s pastor for more than 20 years.

Sirianni, a native of Long Branch, comes to the St. Robert Bellarmine Parish after about two-and-a-half years as a pastor ministering simultaneously to three parishes: Holy Trinity, Our Lady Star of the Sea, and St. John the Baptist parishes, all in Long Branch.

He was part of the first pastoral team approach in Monmouth County for the Diocese of Trenton and served about 2,500 families in the three parishes.

“I was not expecting a new assignment by the bishop (Bishop John M. Smith, the bishop of the Diocese of Trenton) and am humbled by his trust in me,” said Sirianni, whose assignment at St. Robert Bellarmine was effective Dec. 1, 2008. “There is the surprise element and the emotional aspect to say goodbye to the three communities and the relationships I enjoyed while serving in Long Branch. Relationships are always very important to me.”

He said he was in the first graduation class of Holy Trinity Elementary School, Long Branch, and was the pastor when the last class graduated and the school closed. A graduate of Long Branch High School, he said he enjoyed working with his contemporaries as well as the contemporaries of his family who live in Long Branch.

“My heart will always be in Long Branch,” Sirianni said. “I’m in a transitional mode now and my boxes haven’t been all unpacked. I hope to join my strengths with the strengths of St. Robert’s parish, whose members have been most welcoming to me.”

He said one of his strengths that he hopes to share with parishioners of St. Robert’s is his love of liturgy.

“I have a love for liturgy and the liturgical life of the Church,” said Sirianni, who is the Diocese of Trenton director of the Office of Worship. “I hope to share that love and how it assists people in their spiritual lives.”

One aspect of liturgy that Sirianni would like to establish is the celebration of the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, and its traditional blessing and sharing of bread.

“It’s a lovely tradition and in Italy St. Joseph’s feast day is considered Father’s Day and has special St. Joseph pastries,” he said.

In November, Sirianni will celebrate 25 years as a priest and said that St. Robert’s is his 10th parish assignment.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what God has in store for me at St. Robert’s,” he said. “My life as a priest has never been dull or boring and I’m ready to give my best wherever I’m assigned. I like people and consider myself a people person and welcome the opportunities to serve at St. Robert’s.”

When time permits, Sirianni enjoys reading mystery and historical novels and spending time with family and friends.

His mother, Marie, currently resides in Florida and his father, Anthony (nicknamed “Tut”), died in 2007. His parents previously owned Sirianni’s Friendly Café in Long Branch.

Sirianni has three brothers, Michael, the director of the Monmouth County Culinary Education Center, Asbury Park; and twins Anthony, who is a priest and the pastor of St. Helena in Edison, and Joseph, a hotel general manager in central New Jersey.

In additional to Sirianni, St. Robert Bellarmine Parish, which was established in 1971 and currently has more than 3,000 families, is served by a parochial vicar, the Rev. Ed Jawidzik, and a retired resident priest, the Rev. Charles Valentine.

Also, three married permanent deacons minister in the parish: Frank Weber and his wife, Debbie; Henry Cugini and his wife, Camille; and Rolf Friedman and his wife, Judy.

“We are very, very, very pleased to have as a pastor a man of the caliber of Father Sirianni,” said Friedman, who is St. Robert Bellarmine’s parish administrator. “He is a true shepherd and we are fortunate to have him.”

A formal installation of Sirianni as pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish is slated to take place in the spring.