Prior brothersUnder the banner “The brothers Prior are perfect fit as Vincentian Fathers in the Slate Belt” Tami Quigley writes of their ministry in the Allentown Diocese…

The two Vincentian (Congregation of the Mission, CM) Fathers – who happen to be brothers – who serve Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Roseto, have long been the fabric that weaves together aspects of life in the Italian parish nestled in the heart of the Slate Belt.

Vincentian Father James Prior, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, has been at the parish for more than 50 years, and pastor for 22 years, since 1993. His brother, Vincentian Father Thomas Prior, has been assistant pastor for 16 years.

The brothers’ ministry in the Slate Belt is a varied one, according to Father Thomas Prior. “We have the usual parochial duties which are enhanced by a special ministry to the sick because of six hospitals and four nursing homes in the area.

“It’s a practical ministry – the hands on ability to bring Christ to the people.”

The brothers were born in Bayonne, N.J., and were inspired to follow a Vincentian vocation by their cousin, Father Frank Hinton, a Vincentian priest. The brothers liked that for Vincentians, “ministry wasn’t only in the parish, it was in different areas,” Father Thomas Prior said.

The brothers attended Vincentian Seminary Minor, Princeton, N.J. for six years, then spent two years at the novitiate at Eastern Province USA Vincentians in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. They then attended the former Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton, which was run by the Vincentians, for six years.

Father James Prior was “loaned,” Father Thomas Prior said, to the Diocese of Allentown in 1964 to be principal of Pius X High School, Bangor, across the street from Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He served as principal for 18 years before becoming assistant pastor, then pastor, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Father Thomas Prior ministered in different areas before coming to the Slate Belt, including teaching at St. Thomas More High School, Archdiocese of Philadelphia; and St. John’s Preparatory School, Queens New York. He also worked in a parish mission church in Panama.

Father Thomas Prior was then part of the Miraculous Medal Novena Band for 28 years, traveling the eastern United States giving novenas in honor of the Blessed Mother. For the last 14 years of this ministry he was stationed at St. John’s University, Queens, N.Y.

When he became assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel 16 years ago, some of his fellow priests wondered how the brothers would get along working together. “We get along well,” Father Thomas Prior said. “Jim does all the paperwork, and he works hard. This frees me up to be able to take care of the hospital visits.

“There’s a variety of parish work. There’s so much opportunity for contact with the kids on up.”

There’s also a special time each July for faith, fellowship and fun with the Our Lady of Mount Carmel-sponsored Big Time Celebration. This year will mark the 122nd celebration, which famously features processing with an image of Mary on Garibaldi Avenue, the crowning of a queen, sausage sandwiches, rides and fireworks.

This year’s Big Time Celebration is slated for Wednesday, July 22 through Saturday, July 25. The public procession and crowning of the Blessed Mother will take place Saturday at 2 p.m.

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