A Priest and a Hometown Boy

08-19-2018From the Pastor's Desk

In place of this week's pastor's column, we have a tribute to Fr. Harold Noviello.

In many ways, Fr. Harold Noviello’s life was quite typical for someone raised in Smithtown. He attended St. Patrick School and St. Anthony’s High School, followed by C.W. Post College. He then pursued a successful career in accounting. Life was not without its challenges - in Fr. Noviello’s case, serious health issues. But along the way, there were signs pointing in a different direction and a heart receptive enough to respond.

Fr. Noviello was born on March 11, 1962, the third of four children (Donald, Barry, Harold and Barbara) born to Donald and Lorraine Noviello. The family moved from Richmond Hill to Smithtown when Fr. Noviello was two years old. It was here, with his family, that his faith took root. “My parents laid the foundation,” Fr. Noviello said. “We were a very Catholic family.” There was Mass every Sunday, of course, but Fr. Noviello also witnessed the strength of his parents’ faith as they dealt with his father’s illness. For years, his father struggled with polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disorder that took the lives of his aunt, grandmother and eventually his father. Fr. Noviello said that despite dealing with an illness that had his father “on his deathbed several times,” his parents “kept their faith. They never complained.”

Fr. Noviello attended St. Patrick School and received his First Holy Communion and Confirmation at St. Patrick’s. An early role model for him was Fr. Joseph Canning (pastor of St. Patrick’s from 1963 to 1976). “He was a very holy priest and an inspiration to me at an early age,” Fr. Noviello said.

As a young person, Fr. Noviello played “every sport imaginable.” After graduating from St Patrick School in 1976, he attended St. Anthony’s High School, graduating in 1980. He then went on to receive a degree in accounting from C.W. Post College, graduating on May 13, 1984.

Fr. Noviello began his accounting career at Price Waterhouse where he worked from August 13, 1984 to September, 1986. He also became a Certified Public Accountant in 1986. He then worked for Grumman from October 13, 1986 to March, 1995. During that time, he also received his master’s degree in taxation from C.W. Post College on May 13, 1990. His work also took him to Estee Lauder from March, 1995 to October 1996 and Luitpold Pharmaceuticals from 1996 to June of 2004.

Through the years, his career flourished and with it came money and material possessions. What did not come was fulfillment. “There seemed to be an inverse relationship between the money I made and happiness,” Fr. Noviellos said. He began to contemplate the priesthood. Initially, the pull of money and material possessions held him back. In a 2014 column in the St. Patrick’s bulletin, Fr. Noviello wrote: “[I] worked at various jobs in accounting making a good amount of money, both working and investing, but the more money and material assets I accumulated, the less fulfillment I had in life. I was doing well financially, but not doing well spiritually. There was always an existential doubt in my mind that I was on the wrong path in life. I was always saying to myself, ‘There must be more to life than this.’” There was another consideration as well. In January of 1989, Fr. Noviello was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, the same disease his father was battling. On August 14th of that year, his father died. At that point, two things began to occupy Fr. Noviello’s thoughts -- his disease and the priesthood.

Eventually Fr. Noviello started dialysis treatments. They would ultimately play a role in his path to the priesthood. In order to hear God, Fr. Noviello said, you need silence and solitude. Ironically, the thing he feared most gave him just that. Dialysis gave him more time to pray and for spiritual reading. He read the book “The Life of Christ” by Sr. Emmerich. He read about the saints and about Mary, particularly Marian apparitions, especially her apparition at Fatima. In reading about Fatima, “something clicked for me,” Fr. Noviello said.

There were numerous occurrences in Fr. Noviello’s life that connected him to the Blessed Mother, to Fatima (numerous significant events in his life taking place on the 13th of the month, for one thing), and ultimately to the priesthood. He entered the seminary in August of 2004.

His time in the seminary was not always smooth sailing. Fr. Noviello admits to feeling “wiped out” at times, dealing with dialysis three times a week on top of everything else. But he also found that, “if God is calling you to something, he will give you the strength you need.” At the end of his second year in the seminary in May of 2006, Fr. Noviello’s kidneys started to bleed. The decision was made to take out both kidneys. The operation, which took place on June 14, 2006, went well but infection followed. It was a rough summer but in September, right on  schedule, Fr. Noviello began his pastoral year at St. Patrick’s in Huntington. On December 8, 2008, he was ordained a deacon. His ordination to the priesthood took place on June 13th, 2009 followed by the celebration of his First Mass here at St. Patrick’s the following day, June 14th.

Fr. Harold’s first assignment as a priest was to St. Patrick’s in Bay Shore where he served as associate pastor for five years. During that time, he also received a kidney transplant (the donor being one of our parishioners). The transplant required Fr. Noviello to take medication that would suppress his immune system so that the transplanted kidney would not reject. This meant he had to be ever mindful of his weakened immune system, offering “elbow bumps” rather than hand shakes to avoid picking up germs. After his five-year term was up in Bay Shore, Fr. Noviello served as associate pastor here for a year and was then assigned to St. Thomas More in Hauppauge. In August of 2016, Fr. Noviello was named chaplain at St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home in Smithtown. It would be his final assignment. In a note to parishioners written as he began his assignment in our parish, Fr. Noviello wrote that his message as a priest was message of Fatima: “to live holy lives, to live sacramental lives by going to Mass at least every Sunday and holy days of obligation and by going to confession on a regular monthly basis.” He sought to remind people to “stop offending God by our sins and that there are consequences to our actions.” He quoted St. John Paul II who said, “We are our actions and we will be judged by our actions.” Fr. Noviello wrote: “With our free-will we can either accept God and heaven by our actions or we can reject God and heaven by our actions. Just because we are Catholics does not mean that our eternal life in heaven is assured to us which is why St. Paul tells us that we need to ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’” Health problems altered Fr. Noviello’s time as a priest, but he bravely fought his illnesses, hoping to one day return to active ministry. He left us far too soon, but left behind a stellar example of determination to bring good out of life’s worst circumstances and a whole-hearted trust in God.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.