The kids of St. Anne School, Bethlehem, may be too young to remember Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy, but chances are they will have lasting memories of their very own clerical comedy duo — Father Anthony Mongiello and Father Giuseppe Esposito — long after the pandemic ends.
The priests have recorded a series of funny videos to stay in touch with students at the elementary school. The crazy clips already have 20,000 views on Facebook.
Father Mongiello, pastor of St. Anne parish, plays the straight man, pretending to be exasperated while Father Esposito goes through his antics, whether it be juggling toilet paper (“Careful,” says Father Mongiello, “that’s very valuable”), making the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich by dousing it with hot sauce, or insisting on piling on pancake syrup, hash browns, French toast and bacon while learning to make pizza.
But the roles reverse in what is the most popular video so far. Father Esposito strums a guitar while Father Mongiello gamely goes through all the motions of the popular kids’ song “Father Abraham,” eventually collapsing in exhaustion into a chair.
“Part of the fun is that we don’t over-rehearse for these videos,” says Father Esposito. “In fact, we don’t rehearse at all. We laugh at our own jokes because we are hearing them for the first time ourselves.”
“This is our way of keeping the school kids engaged,” says Father Mongiello. “They can relate to us as their priests, and also as people. It’s also our way of delivering a life lesson or two, and showing that everyone can have fun, even in the midst of this trying time.”
The priests devote most of their time, of course, to more standard clerical duties – livestreaming Masses, reaching out spiritually to parishioners, and caring for the sick and dying. But the overwhelmingly positive reaction from their school community tells them that investing a little time nurturing their blossoming comic careers is time well spent.
The videos also give Father Mongiello a good reason to dip into the box in his closet, the result of one of his most cherished hobbies. Commenting on the wide variety of headwear that shows up in the videos, he says, “I’ve been collecting hats for a long time.”