Home Diocesan News Fr. Beneleit looks back at 40+ years of priesthood as blessing
Fr. Beneleit looks back at 40+ years of priesthood as blessing Print E-mail
Written by Pete Sheehan   
Friday, 09 February 2018 15:20

CANTON – As he looks back on more than 40 years as a priest, Father Edward Beneleit expressed satisfaction and a sense of having been blessed.

“I could not have chosen any other life,” said Father Beneleit, who retired last year and is now in residence at St. Joseph Parish here. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it all.”

Father Beneleit, son of Clarence and Mary Alice Mitchell Beneleit, grew up in this very parish. He has one sister, Bonnie Mitchell. “We lived nearby and would walk to the parish school every day.”

Here in the parish was where he first got a sense that he might have a calling to the priesthood. “We had a lot of priests and a number of them were there on their first assignment,” such as Father Coward.

“The younger priests had a lot of enthusiasm,” Father Beneleit noted, which appealed to the younger parishioners and got him thinking about the priesthood. He continued contemplating his vocation as he graduated from St. Joseph School and progressed onto nearby Canton Central Catholic High School.

After two years at Central, he decided to pursue his vocation, transferring to St. Gregory High School Seminary in Cincinnati, and then to their college seminary program.

“I really enjoyed it,” Father Beneleit said. He found the academic rigors stimulating and the course content interesting.

“In those days you were not allowed to leave the grounds,” Father Beneleit explained, “so we had to find our own entertainment,” such as sports and other pursuits. “We grew closer to each other.”

After St. Gregory he advanced to St. Mary of the West Seminary in Cincinnati in 1969  for his advanced theological studies. In 1974 he was ordained a deacon and served St. Joseph Parish in Alliance. On Nov. 11, 1974, he was ordained a priest at Alliance St. Joseph.

His first assignment a couple of months later was as associate pastor of Holy Family Parish in Poland.

“I think most priests fondly remember their first assignment,” Father Beneleit said. “It was a parish with a lot of young families and it was very active. There was a big school and I enjoyed visiting there.

“I also became interested in the parish history,” Father Beneleit noted, when the diocese encountered resistance to the founding of a parish in Poland because of anti-Catholicism prevalent at the time.

In 1980, Father Beneleit was assigned to Warren Blessed Sacrament Parish. “They also had a large school and it was a very active parish.” He remained there until he was transferred to Youngstown St. Edward Parish in 1987.

A year later, he was transferred to St. James Parish, Waynesburg, his first pastorate. “That was a great assignment. It was a whole different ballgame,” serving in a smaller, close-knit community.

“It was also different being a pastor as opposed to an associate,” Father Beneleit said. “One of my first pastors used to say that when you are an associate everybody loves you,” but it becomes more complicated as a pastor because the pastor has to make the difficult decisions,

In 1990, he returned to St. Joseph Parish in Alliance, where he had served as a deacon. “It was good to go back there.”

In 2001, he returned to his home parish, St. Joseph here, as an associate pastor. After a couple of years here, he moved on to St. Joan of Arc Parish up the road, where he served for a year.

Father Beneleit moved on to St. Clement Parish in Navarre in 2006 – first as administrator and a year later as pastor.”It was different. It was an older community,” but he enjoyed the people there.

He also had to deal with the difficult decision to close the parish school, “though the parishioners were supportive.” Eventually the decision was made to combine St. Clement with St. Teresa in Brewster to form Holy Family Parish.

In 2011, he became pastor of St. Peter Parish here. “It was an interesting time.” He was excited when the candidacy for canonization of a parishioner, Rhoda Wise, who died in 1948, was opened by the diocese. Rhoda Wise’s home, which has become the Rhoda Wise Shrine, is located within the parish boundaries.

The church is a magnificent older building and both St. Peter and the nearby Basilica of St. John the Baptist Parish were facing older and shrinking populations. “Father (Ronald) Klingler, rector of St. John, and I figured that the two would eventually be joined together.”

Last year, Father Klingler retired and Father Beneleit was named to the additional responsibilities of pro tem administrator of St. John. When Father Beneleit retired last summer, Father John Sheridan was named both pastor of St. Peter and rector of St. John.

In retirement, Father Beneleit is living in the rectory of his home parish, St. Joseph. “It’s nice because most of my assignments have been not far from here so I know a lot of people.”

“I’ve enjoyed my priesthood, offering Mass and the sacraments to the people and I also enjoyed teaching adults – especially Scripture,” Father Beneleit said. “The one difficult thing has been administration and dealing with money but now I’m retired so I’m getting to do what I love best about the priesthood.”


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