The Conferral of Papal Honors for Monsignor Donald Cieniewicz was celebrated Sunday (3/19) during a Vespers Evening Prayer Service at the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown. He was named a Chaplain of His Holiness with the title of “Monsignor.”
Father Eugene Ritz, Chancellor of the Diocese of Allentown, read the “Rescript” from the Holy See. Then Bishop Alfred Schlert presented Monsignor Cieniewicz to those assembled, and presented him with the document, which reads:
“Francis, Supreme Pontiff, has chosen Donald Walter Cieniewicz, from the Diocese of Allentown, to be included among his chaplains, and that he be made aware of this at the opportune time. Given from the halls of the Vatican, this 18th day of November 2022. Signed by the Substitute for General Affairs to the Secretary of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra.”
Pope Francis in 2014 limited the conferral of the title “Monsignor” on diocesan priests unless they meet certain criteria. Being just over age 65 and serving in the unique position as Rector of the Cathedral were enough for the Pope to grant the honor, which Bishop Schlert announced Jan. 8 during a Mass for the Epiphany at the Cathedral.
The day of the conferral was the Fourth Sunday of Lent, in the penitential season of Lent, but also Laetare Sunday, “a time of rejoicing in the Church … to celebrate joy, to celebrate who we are as a Catholic people, as a local Church of Allentown, and of course, our unity with the Holy Father in the Universal Church,” said the Bishop.
He added, “While our Holy Father has bestowed this honor of bringing Monsignor Cieniewicz into membership in the papal household, he is emblematic and exemplary of all the clergy of the Diocese of Allentown. We are so good as a people, and so blessed as a people, to have such devoted priests and deacons in our Diocese; religious who are so giving; and good and faithful lay people.”
Noting that the date, March 19, was also the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Bishop Schlert reflected on the qualities of St. Joseph – quiet, unassuming, obedient, a provider – “that also are present in the life of any priest. The work, the obedience, the desire to provide for the spiritual family that’s entrusted to the priest’s care – this is so true in the life of Monsignor Cieniewicz.”
In his remarks, Monsignor shared a line from an examination of conscience for priests that could be applied to all of us: “Do I remember that the blessings of my ministry come from God, and that with the grace of the Holy Spirit, I need to identify myself with Christ and give my life for the salvation of the world?”
“That is a call of every one of us – priest, laity, any faithful follower of the Lord – that we give our lives in service to Him, the God who created us, the love that Jesus extends to us, and the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the strength to go forth and to witness. That is a call for all of us just to consider,” he said.
Monsignor Cieniewicz thanked his family and others in the Diocese, and Bishop Schlert also thanked Monsignor’s family “for nurturing and sustaining him in his priestly vocation.”
“It’s so important in the life of a priest to feel the love and support of his family. It really is such a strength that I know all of us priests appreciate in our own personal lives,” said the Bishop.
“And it’s good for us to remember our seminarians, too, who are discerning a call to the Priesthood, that they might feel the support and the love of their families, and that more families in our Diocese would be supportive of a vocation to the Priesthood. It’s a beautiful vocation for the whole family to experience.”
Background on Monsignor Cieniewicz
Monsignor Cieniewicz was born in Reading to Edward V. and Helen T. (Pietruszynski) Cieniewicz. He was baptized at St. Mary Church, Reading.
His childhood parish was St. Anthony of Padua, Millmont, Reading. He attended St. Anthony Elementary School and Holy Name High School, also in Reading. He studied for the Priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, and was ordained by Bishop Thomas Welsh on May 14, 1983.
Monsignor Cieniewicz has served in the following primary assignments: Parochial Vicar, Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena, Allentown (1983-86); Reading Central Catholic High School, as teacher, spiritual director, and later vice principal (1986-2000); and pastor, St. Mary Parish, Hamburg (2000-21). He has been pastor and rector of the Cathedral of St. Catharine of Siena since last year.
In addition, he has served as: Regional Director, Catholic Youth Organization, Lehigh County; Regional Director, Youth Ministry, Lehigh County; member, Vocations and Priestly Formation Committee; member, Commission for Orders and Ministries; and member, Council of Priests.