Ms. Reginald Russo, OFM Cap.
July 30, 1941 – –
February 15, 2021
Father Reginald Russo, OFM Cap., Died late Monday evening at Shadyside Hospital of pneumonia after COVID. He entered eternal life in the presence of eternal Capuchin monks, including his older brother, Father Francis X. Russo, who prayed with him when he died.
Father Reginald, named Carmen when he was born, was born on July 30, 1941, the sixth of seven children of John and Theresa (Izzo) Russo of Mahoningtown, Pennsylvania. He was baptized in St. Lucy Church in Mahoningtown and taught in the local public elementary school before following his older brother by enrolling at St. Fidelis High School and College Seminary in Herman, Pennsylvania, where he was in 1955 both his high school and his received college education.
In 1961, after his sophomore year, he went to Saint Conrad Friary, Annapolis, Maryland, where he was endowed with the Capuchin habit and entered the novitiate. There he was given the religious name Reginald, by which he would be known for the rest of his life. He took the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on July 14, 1962 before returning to St. Fidelis to complete his college degree.
Father Reginald was an excellent student who graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Philosophy in 1964. He studied theology at Capuchin College in Washington, DC and was ordained a priest in 1967.
In 1968 he received a Master of Arts in religious education. After completing his studies in Washington, DC, he returned to Pennsylvania and was parish vicar in the St. Cecilia Congregation in Rochester, Pennsylvania, shortly before being transferred to the St. Augustine Monastery in Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh begins his work on a Masters of Pittsburgh Library Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He graduated in 1970.
Father Reginald began his service as the high school and college librarian at St. Fidelis, Herman in 1970, an important time in the history of the school. The school was recently accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the quality of the library collections and their management were key elements of that accreditation. The young Father Reginald took on the complexities of modernizing and maintaining the St. Fidelis Library. It is evidence of Father Reginald’s keen intelligence and compassionate heart that he carried out this critical task effectively and amicably.
While at St. Fidelis, he was approached by his provincial minister in the summer of 1975 about participating in an important Franciscan program at St. Bonaventure University. At that time, Father Reginald apologized for his deep commitment to the efforts of the library. just to reconsider a few years later.
In 1978, Father Reginald’s hard work in the library allowed him to leave the library in other capable hands and to study seriously the life and history of Saint Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Order. Father Reginald was enthusiastic about St. Francis, the patron saint and founder of the Franciscan Order to which Father Reginald belonged. He wanted to understand his Franciscan heritage and share the story and inspiration of St. Francis with others. He earned an MA in Franciscan Studies in 1982.
Father Reginald dedicated the next 10 years of his life to secular Franciscans of the Third Order as local, regional and provincial spiritual assistants and as chaplain to the nuns of Poor Clare of the Second Order of St. Francis in Cleveland.
In 1986, Father Reginald was asked by his superiors to minister to the sick and elderly brothers and he was appointed Guardian (local superior) of St. Augustine’s Convent in Pittsburgh, the geographical and fraternal heart of the province and the residence for disabled and sick brothers , appointed. During his five-year tenure, the severely deteriorated monastery was demolished and a new structure erected, which required him to lead the congregation in the diaspora at Phelan Hall at St. Paul Seminary for three years before returning to Lawrenceville in 1991 and one new monastery opened.
Agricultural Workers’ Union organizer Cesar Chavez once remarked: “The people who give you their food give you their heart.” Father Reginald said he was an excellent cook, and anyone who loved his culinary endeavors would surely agree. He loved cooking for brothers, friends, and family and always worked to put the food back in its right place in the human experience. Father Reginald loved to cook and bake and he enjoyed creating a meal that would gather people around a table. Father Reginald thrived in the kitchen and he thrived in the community. He understood that the Capuchin community worked best when brothers sat around the table and enjoyed good food. Part of his legacy has been feeding others, and he leaves many memories of good meals in monasteries in York and Rochester in Pennsylvania, Dover in Ohio, Cumberland, Maryland, St. Louis, and Washington, DC
In 2000, Father Reginald returned to Pittsburgh and settled in the Convent of Our Lady of the Angels. For the next 20 years he was chaplain of the Vincentian Sisters Mother House, Vincentian Home and Vincentian Regency Manor in North Hills and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. If necessary, he served as confessor at St. Mary of Mercy am Point in downtown Pittsburgh for 11 years from 2007 to 2018 while also supporting the local secular Franciscan fraternity at St. Augustine Church and as a regional for three years spiritual assistant in the women’s poverty region of the Order of the Franciscan Seculars.
Due to decreasing health and physical limitations, he moved to the newly built St. Augustine Monastery in November 2020.
On January 16, Reginald began an extended battle with the COVID virus. He was hospitalized and stabilized and recovered enough to be taken to a rehab facility but quickly returned to lack of oxygen and hospitalization. As the attempts to stabilize his health necessarily became more aggressive, it became clear that only miraculous intervention would restore Father Reginald. Father Reginald understood that he was dying and refused annoying and useless medical procedures.
Father Reginald told his family and monk visitors that he would not survive and that he was in God’s care and that he was ready to go to his heavenly home. Last Monday, February 15, when his family gathered around him, he said goodbye and comforted his visitors with the promise that they would be together again in heaven. Shortly before 10 p.m. he entered eternal life and returned in full faith to the God whom he had served as a monk and priest for more than 50 years.
Father Reginald was preceded in death by his parents; his sisters Mary (Calabrese) and Rose (Evanoski) and his brother Anthony.
He is survived by his sister Irene (Scaramazza) of Butler, Pennsylvania and two brothers: Father Francis X. Russo, OFM Cap. from Washington, DC, and younger brother Vincent, from New Castle.
The Brothers of St. Augustine Monastery will receive the body of Father Reginald and offer their fraternal prayers on Friday afternoon February 19, before transferring his body to St. Augustine Church in the Parish of Our Lady of the Angels in Lawrenceville where visits take place from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. 8 p.m. A vigil service is held in the church at 8 p.m. The Christian burial mass will be celebrated on Saturday, February 20 at 10 a.m. in St. Augustine’s Church. The burial takes place on the brothers property in St. Augustine Cemetery.
Contributions in memory of Father Reginald can be sent to the Capuchin Brothers, 220 37th St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201. Professional services from D’Alessandro Funeral Home & Crematory Ltd., Lawrenceville, www.dalessandroltd.com.
Published on February 17, 2021