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Home WHO WE ARE Assumptionists Profiles Fr. DONALD ESPINOSA, A.A. (1942 - 2020)

Fr. DONALD ESPINOSA, A.A. (1942 - 2020)


Interviewer – Would you share with us a bit of your family’s background and your early education?

Fr. Donald – I was born in Willimantic, CT just outside of Hartford. At that time my parents’ marriage was considered ‘mixed’ because my father was Italian and my mother was French Canadian. However, when I came along, my mother’s family became more accepting of the marriage, as my grandfather wanted to get to know his new grandson.
We moved to Danielson, CT, my mother’s hometown about the time when my Dad left for the war. We lived in a La Salette parish where I was an altar boy and where I had the Sisters of St. Joseph in elementary school. While they all had an impact on my early years, it was one sister in particular who was instrumental in setting the course for my life. It was Sr. Albertine who convinced my mother to buy health insurance from a French Canadian group. One of the benefits of this purchase made me eligible to take scholarship exams for high schools. The one critical condition was that the schools under consideration had to teach French. That eliminated the La Salette school where I had expected to go. As I did win the CT scholarship, my parents chose Assumption Prep. Thus my relationship with the Assumptionists began.

– How did you like this shift in direction?

– Well I did well academically and enjoyed participating in dramatic and theatrical productions. By the end of my senior year, it was an easy transition to move on to the college. Another significant occurrence during that time was growth on my journey toward religious life. I noticed and experienced many happy Assumptionists and the differences they made in the lives of their students.

– How did this realization move you toward entering the congregation and further your education?

– After two years at the college, I went to Saugerties, NY where I did my novitiate in 1962-1963. Following profession, a couple of us went to Layrac, France to study philosophy. It was a challenging experience for us to adapt to the French culture, language and model of education. When the summer came, we were sent to Spain, as it was considered important to the province that Assumptionists speak Spanish. After spending my second summer back in the U.S., we were sent to an Assumptionist seminary in Belgium for theology. The next summer took me to Athens, Greece because I had hoped to eventually teach the classics. After my second year of theology in 1966-1967, when the Church began to experience the impact of Vatican II, I returned home to the U.S. and lived in Dedham, MA at the African Missionary Fathers and finished my studies at the Jesuit School of Theology. My hope for my fourth year of theology was to attend Harvard Divinity, where I was accepted to pursue a Ph.D in Medieval Church History. I was very interested in the Reformation and medieval monastic reform, especially in the context of the post Vatican II Church.

– Did you complete your studies in Cambridge?

– No, because the community asked me to move to Worcester, MA to teach at the Prep and serve as a proctor, while doing research for my doctoral work. Unfortunately, my studies suffered as I put all my efforts into the Prep which eventually closed in 1970. It was a very difficult time for everyone involved. But on a happier note, I professed final vows in 1971 which was followed by diaconate and ordination.

– Did you remain in teaching?

– Yes. A group of us had begun to explore ministerial possibilities beyond New England. We were invited by Bishop Joseph Hodges of Wheeling, West Virginia to establish a house in his diocese, work in two parishes and teach in a school in Weirton. I spent the next five very happy years from 1971-1976 teaching religion at Madonna High School. By the end of our time there I had been Assistant Director of Religious Education in Catholic Schools in the diocese.

– Where did your next assignment and ministry take you from there?

– I then moved back to Worcester as Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry at the college for six years and lived at Old English Road initially. Because we wanted to be more present on campus, we moved down to the ‘white house.’ After that I was asked to take on the position of Provincial Treasurer which required me to move to 108th St. in NYC until we moved the Provincial House to Milton, MA. Meanwhile I was doing degree work in religious education at Boston College. In addition to the treasurer’s work, we, as a province, were looking at our properties in the Boston area. Eventually we sold the three properties we had in Brookline and Milton and bought St. Columbkille’s convent in Brighton as our Provincial House community.

– Where did you go from there?

– After a brief time on Barry Road in Worcester, where our community established a vocation discernment house in where we welcomed two Korean postulants, I moved to St. Anne’s in Sturbridge, MA as pastor for nine years. There we worked to develop adult lay leadership and foster various pastoral ministries, especially faith formation and re-create the parish council. From there I moved to Emmanuel House in Worcester to do some formation work.

– But from there, it seemed that Boston was beckoning you, was it not?

– Yes. I returned to Brighton to help Bro. Steve Goguen in the treasurer’s office as we began moving forward in the area of promotion and development with the eventual hiring of Mr. Tomasz Jaster as his assistant. I eventually returned to the provincial treasurer’s office.

– How did the present mission of the Assumptionist Center come about?

– As the structure of our provincial and regional government changed and with the reduced number of men on formation, the ‘center project’ grew in so far as we opened the house to single laymen, who were studying in the area or were young professionals, to come live with us and share an experience in Christian community life in the Catholic tradition. This has proven to be an incredibly enriching endeavor for all who have been involved.

– How do you enrich yourself by way of hobbies or particular interests?

– I enjoy most board games, especially backgammon, along with reading.

– Do you have any particular happy memories that you would like to share?

– Some of my happiest years were in Weirton and in Brighton with the center community. The fruits of sharing these years with residents have been rich from a communal, educational and formational perspective. It is exciting to see this dream of Fr. d’Alzon coming true in assisting these young men to be grounded in an experience of Catholic Christianity, as they prepare to take their place in leadership for the world and the Church.

– What is your dream and hope for the congregation?

Fr. Donald – My dream and hope for the congregation is to see a significant growth in the extended Assumptionist family. While this is a challenge for us, it is also a gift and responsibility for us to bring this about. It is important for us to contribute, through the reality of partnership, to the Church and the world. That is who we are: religious and lay with Christ at the center. We are all sons and daughters of Emmanuel d’Alzon. Together we must continue to proclaim the Coming of the Kingdom!

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