By Jennifer Neville, Of The Catholic Virginian
Portsmouth native Anthony Joseph Morlino, now Father Paschal Morlino, O.S.B., has definitely made a mark on the world. Among his achievements is a non-profit child care agency he started decades ago in Pennsylvania to help at-risk youth and their families, and for the past 33 years he has led his West Baltimore parish in serving the poor in the surrounding inner city community.
He was honored for his selfless love and service at the annual gathering of alumni of Portsmouth Catholic education April 1 at Portsmouth Catholic Regional School (PCRS). He became the third member of the alumni community to be inducted into the organization’s Circle of Saints. His predecessors were Sister Grace Malonzo, D.W., in 2015 and Bill Ficenec in 2016. (The alumni include all former students of Catholic schools in Portsmouth. St. Paul, Holy Angels and Little Flower schools consolidated to form PCRS in 1970.)
“Father Paschal is a model of all that we hope Catholic education inspires in our students,” proclaimed PCRS Assistant Principal Donna Henry who organized the event. Calling Father Paschal “a light in the darkness” and “a loyal servant of God,” Mrs. Henry said he has deep faith, is hard working and has “an all-encompassing kindness.”
Father Paschal was born and raised in Portsmouth. He received the sacraments of baptism, first reconciliation, first communion and confirmation at St. Paul Parish in Portsmouth. He attended St. Paul’s School for first through ninth grade and Belmont Abbey in North Carolina for 10th through 12th grade. He studied pre-med and later theology at Belmont Abbey College. He was ordained in May 1966 in the Order of St. Benedict.
In a speech at the Portsmouth alumni gathering, Father Paschal credited Catholic education for inspiring his life of service. He said it taught him the value of prayer, made him alert to others’ needs and taught him the importance of serving his “fellow human beings.” He added that Catholic education instilled in him the value of working together to live out faith, to make it alive and vibrant. He said every day brings “new challenges, new adventures and new faces.”
Father Paschal said he has mentored numerous seminarians, priests and deacons through the years, but what he takes the most pride in is the creation and oversight of Adelphoi. This private nonprofit child care agency in Pennsylvania provides a continuum of care to 2,500 disadvantaged minors a year through group homes, foster/adoptive care, education, mental health services and a charter school. Established in 1971 as a single group home for troubled boys, Adelphoi now assists boys, girls and their families from 63 counties in Pennsylvania. It now has 32 programs and 22 residential settings facilities. Adelphoi has helped approximately 55,000 individuals since its inception, making it the largest program of its type in Pennsylvania, according to Father Paschal who is on three boards of Adelphoi and who visits it frequently during the year to make sure it is running smoothly.
Under Father Paschal’s helm as pastor of St. Benedict Church in Baltimore for the past three decades, the parish has grown from a fledging parish of about 180 members to a thriving one of approximately 1,400 parishioners (about 550 families). It now has its own Catholic radio station. Parishioners work together on outreach efforts to the disadvantaged in the community in a myriad of ways including operating a food pantry, gifting children in the community with school supplies twice a year, and having a Christmas distribution which provides families in need of assistance with fresh food and staples, warm coats, sweaters, hats, gloves and blankets and gifts such as clothing, toys and books for every child in the family. Opportunities boosting community fellowship include summer concerts and movies on church grounds, spaghetti dinners, BINGO and bus trips. Because the church’s surrounding area is riddled with run-down and vacant row houses, the parish’s most recent effort is to build 100 apartments near the church. The project is currently in the planning and fundraising stages.
Father Paschal’s mark on the world has not gone unnoticed as this honor has shown.
“He is a living model of what Catholic education is,” said PCRS Principal Mary Ellen Paul. “He listened to God’s call for his life to be a model of Jesus in all of us.”