Monsignor James Treston, ordained a priest in 1960, has served the Diocese of Allentown since its very beginning in 1961.
Growing up in West Chester, Monsignor Treston’s family and their relatives all lived on the same block, as he describes, “in the shadow of St. Agnes Church.” There, he served as an altar boy and attended school all the way through high school.
He remembers always being close to priests in his youth, particularly while playing on St. Agnes High School’s basketball team. Such proximity was pivotal in his decision to become a priest.
He graduated high school in 1952 and entered St. Charles Borromeo seminary the same year. While most seminarians at that time began their studies with two years of Latin, Monsignor Treston was able to start in the third year of seminary due to his previous Latin schooling at St. Agnes.
That year, Monsignor Treston recounts, was the first year that St. Charles admitted students from dioceses other than Philadelphia and Harrisburg. “There were men from Worcester, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; and Santa Fe, New Mexico,” he says. This development proved a blessing for him as he says that many of these students “were the closest friends I made.” He and his classmates still have yearly reunions.
On graduating from the seminary and being ordained a priest, he received his first assignment to St. Peter’s Parish in Reading. There, along with his pastoral duties, he taught senior religion classes at Reading Catholic High School.
The following year, the Diocese of Allentown was created from the five northernmost counties of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The creation was announced on Ash Wednesday.
Everything was new, not only for him as a young priest, but for all priests within the new Diocese. “There were many firsts,” he says, “We grew with the Diocese.”
Reflecting on his life as a priest, he says, “Most of my time has been spent in parish life, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad day.” Now, as a retired priest, he lives at St. Catharine of Siena Parish in Reading where he continues to celebrate Mass and serve the parish, stating “It’s what I went in the Priesthood to do. And now I’m retired so I don’t have to worry about the business side of things.”
He advises young men discerning their call to the Priesthood to “Learn as I did – by example.” He encourages them to involve themselves with the parish by serving at Mass and serving the community. It is important, he believes, for young men to simply be around priests in order to see what their vocation entails.