Rev. Roberto Balducelli, OSFS

BalducelliAugust 10, 1913 – August 9, 2013  

Father Roberto Balducelli, OSFS, a priest with the Oblate of St. Francis de Sales for 77 years as a priest, died on August 9–just 100 minutes shy of his 100th birthday–at the retirement center of his religious community in Childs, Maryland.

A Wilmington, Delaware legend, Father Roberto was born in Costeluccio (Bologna), Italy, on August 10, 1913.  He graduated from Collegio Murialdo in Albano in 1928, after which he entered the Rome Minor Seminary and the Oblate Novitiate in Marin.  In 1930, he was professed and became a student at Propaganda Fide University in Rome, followed by three years at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland where he received his education in philosophy and theology, along with a major in art.  He was ordained to the priesthood on July 12, 1936, in Fribourg, Switzerland at St. Peter Canisius Church.  The first year of his priesthood was spent as superior of the Oblate Minor Seminary in Albano, Rome.  For two years following, he assisted at Our Lady of Hope Church in Paris, France.  From 1939 to 1946, Father Roberto returned to Albano to teach at the Oblate Scholasticate.

Father Roberto came to America in 1946 to serve as assistant to Father J. Francis Tucker, OSFS, founding pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and then as assistant to Father Joseph McCoy, OSFS, second pastor of St. Anthony’s.

In 1959, Father Roberto was appointed Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua.  He was first and foremost a priest seeking to fulfill the spiritual needs of his people—a shepherd looking after all the needs of his flock—and dedicating his priesthood to showing those in need that God and his people love them enough to help them.  Father Roberto’s achievements include the development of lay leadership and volunteerism; the vision of the parish as an extended family; and the extension of this “family” concern to a broad range of community needs beyond the parish serving all without distinction.

Father Balducelli was also a great builder.  His vision, spirit, and hands built two schools—St. Anthony’s Grade School and Padua Academy, a new parish house, the establishment of three convents for the sisters associated with the Parish, and a summer camp, St. Anthony’s in the Hills, developed on 140 rolling acres in Kaolin, PA, all constructed by the famous St. Anthony’s Construction Company, with volunteer labor at substantial savings and Father Roberto as the CEO.  He worked daily at the camp until two months prior to his death.

As the people of the community are of all ages and social and cultural backgrounds, the needs of the community are varied.  To address these needs, Father Roberto established St. Anthony’s Community Center, one of the largest social service agencies in the state, providing daycare for children, a senior activity center, and an extensive social services program.  Father Roberto is also responsible for the founding of the Hilltop Renewal Association Program, a program of housing rehabilitation, reconstruction and new housing development.

The Antonian, a 138-unit high rise apartment building for the elderly was constructed on the old Wilmington Armory site with state and federal assistance.  The lease was Father Roberto’s kind of deal—$1.00 for 99 years.  Along side the Antonian, the old Drill Hall was converted into a two story comprehensive Senior Center with a few community development grants, a corporate grant, and volunteer labor.

Other very noteworthy achievements of Father Roberto include:

  • Recipient of the Pro Ecclesia and Pontifice Award given by Pope John Paul II
  • Awarded “Commendatore” by the Italian Government
  • Honorary Ph.D. in Humanities from DeSales University, Center Valley, PA
  • Honorary Ph.D. in Humane Letters from Goldey-Beacom College, Wilmington, DE
  • The foundation of the first educational supplement foundation for aid to pupils and schools
  • The founding of the Wilmington Friends of Italian Culture
  • The expansion of the ”Parish Carnivale” to the “Italian Fesitval”
  • The annual production of the Via Crucis

Father Roberto never lost faith and St. Anthony’s was growing and building.  Father met the challenges of the changing times, and the changing needs with new institutions and new programs.  He was an outstanding clergyman who truly saw God in all his fellow men and women.  Each accomplishment has been marked with the stamp of Father Roberto’s spirit, a distinctive blend of engaging humility, winning gentleness, deep faith, unfailing charity, a great sense of humor, and absolute disregard of self.

In addition to his Oblate religious community, Father is survived by his sister, Maria, who lives in Italy.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, August 14, 11:00 AM, at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Ninth and DuPont Streets, Wilmington, DE.  Viewing will be held at the church on Tuesday, August 13, 2:00 – 7:00 PM, followed by Vespers.  Interment is at the Oblate Community Cemetery, Childs, MD, at 2 PM on Wednesday, August 14.


18 Responses to Rev. Roberto Balducelli, OSFS

  1. Sharon Facciolo Burg says:

    So sorry to hear of the loss of Fr. ROBERTO he will be sadly missed by all St. Anthony people and Padua ladies. He was a wonderful priest. RIP FATHER!

  2. Mrs. Anne (De Rocili) Smigielski says:

    St. Anthony of Padua Parish was blessed with the presence of Father Roberto Balducelli! He was a very humble & friendly priest & will be greatly missed! He will always be in our thoughts & prayers. Our parish is very saddened by his passing but he is celebrating his 100th birthday in Heaven! Thank you, Father Roberto, for your dedication, love & the many talents you brought to our parish!
    With Sympathy, Anne, Joseph & Brian Smigielski

  3. Fr. Jordan Kelly, O.P. says:

    Fr. Roberto was a wonderful Oblate and epitomized the spirit of St. Francis de Sales. He was always very kind to me and encouraged me greatly at difficult moments of life. His vision for a Parish and what a pastor should be were ahead of his time, and stand as a timeless example of what both should be!

    May the Lord welcome his to paradise where the Lord will build Roberto a mansion beyond compare!

  4. Sal Inzillo says:

    You are going to be miss dearly

  5. Sal Inzillo says:

    You are with the angel

  6. NinaBG says:

    My family and I live in South Jersey but have traveled to Wilmington almost every year for the last 28 years to celebrate St Anthony’s feast day at the Italian Fesitval. Though we did not know Father personally, we did greet him each year, and remember him being honored a few years ago at the Sunday closing Mass of the festival, where we heard a little about his life and accomplishments. Who could do all of that today??!! It was obvious to us that he was revered and loved by all, and his humility was most striking – and likely the reason he was loved so much.

    May his life be a shining example for all priests and laity: “heart to God, hands to work.”

  7. Michael Rogerson says:

    I did not know Father on a personal base but I knew of him. My thoughts and prayers are with you Father and all the people you touched through the years. R.I.P. GOD BLESS.

  8. Lynne Bucaro says:

    Did not know if father but reading about his beautiful is inspiring. How blessed those were who knew him. I feel very blessed to know a few Oblate Fathers who must be following g his lead. God bless you all.

  9. Doris and Bill Marsilii says:

    We met Father Roberto one summer night in 1957, when my husband (boyfriend then) drove up to one of the houses across from the church (the rectory at that time) went up and knocked on the door in order to ask some “urgent” questions about the Catholic faith. To teenagers so many things are “urgent”. I was not Catholic and we had been having some,
    at times heated, discussions about his religion. We had dated for some time and I was a “long range” thinker. I had bought into all the old myths and actual lies I had been told about what the Church teaches. Being a person who always believed we should take our religion seriously, I was seeking truth and had misgivings about the potential of marrying someone with whom I could not share the same beliefs. It was probably 10:00 p.m. or so, but Father talked briefly to Bill and then Bill came back to the car and told me Father wanted to meet me. The rest is history. We began meeting with him regularly (there was no RCIA or adult religion classes, though Father did start one shortly thereafter) and I was brought into the church at midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1959. Father often spoke of what Father Tucker had told him. That was, that the doors of the Church must always be open to anyone who knocks. Thank God that was true for two teenagers who wanted to talk about God late one summer night. Father married us in May 1960 , renewed our vows for our 40th and 50th anniversaries and was a frequent (though not enough) guest in our home. He spent last Easter with us and we celebrated his 100th birthday with him then, cake and all. Our family loves him and will miss him greatly. Of all the things for which Father will be remembered, and there are many, the one thing I know he would most want to be said is that he was a good and holy priest, whose first call was to “Live Jesus” and proclaim the good news. That he was and that he did. Thank you God for Father Roberto Balducelli. May he now knock and be welcomed through the open door into the home of his and our Father with the words “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

  10. Lee Monroe says:

    I traveled to Italy and France with Fr. Roberto when I was 12 years old he showed me the world of art. We went to Louvre where I said I wasn’t fond of the Mona Lisa I thought he going to faint! I saw the David and heard the story of the marble, went to St. Peter’s, I fell in love with the Pieta, I remember her foot being so smooth from people touching her. I went to see the Moses and learned about Michelangelo taking a hammer to the knee and asked” why don’t speak” I learned my love of art from his careful tutoring. I would never have learned these things otherwise.
    He also wanted to throw me off the Eiffel Tower because he knew I could fly! I was quite a hellion in those days.
    There are quite a few I’s in this narrative but Fr. Roberto was a wonderful teacher and truly the Holiest man I have ever met. His service to God was incredible. Nothing was ever to hard or to much trouble.
    Harry Simeone quoted in the newspaper how my father Bob Simeone loaned Fr. Roberto a dump truck and never got it back, my dad didn’t mind in the slightest because Fr Roberto needed it! He was truly loved by all. I believe he will be remembered for many years to come and one day he will be canonized, his miracles have already been done.
    He Baptized me when I was 7 years old and married me at 20, He was part of my family for as long as I can remember.

  11. Lawrence Miller says:

    Another legend is called home. Rest in well-deserved eternal sleep.

  12. Arnie Sher Samson '59 says:

    A remarkable man who knew how to get people get things done.

    TENUI NEC DIMITTAM—“I have taken hold and will not let go”…latin
    motto of Salesianum “Sallies”.

  13. Mrs. Anne (De Rocili) Smigielski says:

    In Memory Of Father Roberto Balducelli’s First Anniversary of his passing..August 10, 2014. We miss seeing you in the neighborhood! You’ve been in Heaven for a year now.
    We will always remember you! Thank you for all the hard work you did here at St. Anthony’s Parish!

    Anne & Joe Smigielski & our son, Brian J. Smigielski, Ph.D.

  14. Ms Gene Strano says:

    Very impressed and inspired after listening to EWTN about Fr. Roberto. May God Bless Him and help me to follow in his teachings…..I am 88 and not in good health, but my faith is strong……Thank you Lord!

  15. Beverly says:

    Fr passed on my significant other’s birthday! He was also born in the same year as my grandmother! ” The spirit lives, as long as the living remember”! Smile Father R! You are still loved and remembered! 0;)

  16. Lucretia says:

    What a very good and caring Godly person. May God Rest His Soul. I pray all of us follow his good teachings and good ways to everyone we meet.

  17. Deb Eiserle says:

    I just heard about Father through a special on EWTN. What a beautiful, kind heart. It brought me to tears. I will be praying for his help!
    Thank you.

  18. Anne (De Rocili) & Joseph Smigielski says:

    Thinking of Father Roberto Balducelli on the 3rd anniversary of his passing.
    We miss you, Father Roberto. You are always in our thoughts and prayers.

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