PROVIDENCE — A longtime teacher by profession, Michael J. Santilli has distinguished himself through his many years of service to Catholic schools, religious education and both diocesan and parish youth ministry.
So it was only natural for the founding member of Holy Apostles Parish in Cranston, established in 1991, to use his talents to help his church reach out and provide opportunities to its young people.
“From the beginning he was very actively involved in parish life and engaged in helping to build the community and get the parish off to a good start,” said Msgr. Paul Theroux, pastor of Holy Apostles, in nominating Santilli for a Lumen Gentium award in the area of Parish Service.
In 1995 Santilli was approached by then-pastor Msgr. Richard Sheahan, who hired him to serve in a part time capacity as coordinator of Youth Ministry.
“Since then he has built up and maintained an exemplary youth ministry program based on the pillars of prayer and worship, religious education, service and social activity,” Msgr. Theroux said.
For 19 years Santilli has organized and facilitated a summer overnight retreat for high school teens, one which draws about 70 teens each year along with college students and adults who volunteer as retreat leaders.
This June, Santilli will lead his 11th annual teen mission trip to Blessed Assurance, a Mustard Seed Community orphanage for handicapped children and youth in the hills above Montego Bay, Jamaica.
He is also actively engaged in coordinating middle and high school catechesis. He leads a number of service activities for youth each year, and is involved in many other youth-oriented programs as well.
Santilli describes his founding role in the formation of a Youth Ministry program at Holy Apostles Parish as one of the “greatest joys of my life.”
“I have been blessed to have had so many faith role models in my life,” Santilli says. “I had two wonderful parents who served as my first teachers of the faith. I have also been blessed to have my brother, Father Francis Santilli, as a guiding light in my life.”
He also credits his faith formation, when he was first educated by the Religious Sisters of Mercy at St. Matthew School, Cranston, followed by diocesan priests at Our Lady of Providence High School. Then, at Providence College, he learned much from the Dominican priests and faculty.
After graduating from PC, Santilli embarked on his teaching career at St. Matthew’s School in Cranston. Later, he went on to teach at his alma mater, Our Lady of Providence High School, before moving to St. Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, where he continues to teach after 20 years there, serving as chairman of the Science Department.
He feels a tremendous sense of fulfillment in a life deeply rooted in his parish and school.
“My life at Holy Apostles has been blessed with two wonderful pastors, Msgr. Richard Sheahan and Msgr. Paul Theroux,” Santilli said. “In addition to these two inspiring shepherds, I am honored to be part of a supportive and dedicated staff, both at Holy Apostles and St. Raphael Academy, who understand the importance of teamwork and always looking to bring out the best in others.”
Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the winners of the diocese’s 2018 Lumen Gentium Awards, which formally recognize those who ‘toil in the vineyard’ in service to the Lord, and minister to those in greatest need in their parish or community. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 16. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will support Diocesan Hispanic Ministries — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.