The Reverend Frank Palmieri, CRM, is a multifaceted Roman Catholic priest who hails from a medieval European town with a ninth-century church and who now serves at an American parish that has yet to build a church. He was born and bred in Italy, and now thinks in English; he is a traditionalist philosophically, and a big supporter of the changes agreed to at the Second Vatican Council; he speaks three languages, and believes the ethnic groups in his parish should each be given the freedom to maintain their individual identities.

His given name is Franco but he prefers to be known as Father Frank. He is the pastor of Jesus Our Risen Savior Catholic Church in Spartanburg, one of three parishes within the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, managed by his religious order, the Clerics Regular Minor (CRM), better known as the Adorno Fathers.

The Adornos were founded in 1588 in Italy by three men, Saint Francis Caracciolo, Venerable Augustine Adorno and Fabrizio Caracciolo; the priests and religious men of the order are also known as Caracciolini and are found in the Philippine Islands, Germany, Africa and India, as well as in their homeland and the United States. Palmieri has been stationed in this country since before he was ordained to the priesthood on Dec. 22, 1962.

Palmieri has been bound to his religious congregation from childhood: “I have always been an Adorno.”

He went to pre-seminary at the age of eleven in Anagni, south of Rome, leaving his parents (his mother is still alive at age 97) and four siblings back in Triea, a walled and gated hill town of 13,000 in Macerata province in the central Italy region known as Le Marche. From Triea, a national treasure of antiquity, one can see the Adriatic to the east and the Apennine mountains to the west. He left all that to serve his community in the New World. Sometimes today, he says, when he speaks to his mother he lapses into English and doesn’t realize it until she tells him she can’t understand what he’s saying.

He went to the University of St. Thomas, a Dominican institution in Rome, where he earned a bachelors in philosophy despite not speaking English.

“The courses were in Latin and I spoke Latin then,” Fr. Frank said.

The young novitiate was then sent to St. Francis Seminary in Loretto, Pennsylvania, for theology training and more priestly formation. There the texts were in Latin but the language of the school was English. The seminarians taught the young Palmieri English, while the Franciscan professors taught the philosophy of John Duns Scotus, famous as being both complex and nuanced. Palmieri was a Thomist.

“I was caught in the middle, and one of my professors called me The Little Heretic because I disagreed with some of his philosophy,” he said.

But he earned an A in the course and graduated in 1962. He was ordained six months later in Rome. He then studied the social sciences at Seton Hall University from 1962 until 1965, serving at the same time at St. Joseph’s Church in Lodi, NJ. At the parish he was parochial vicar, youth minister and director of religious education (DRE). He celebrated a children’s mass as well as adult masses and revived an old parish tradition, the Feast of St. Joseph. He ran Bingo games and raised funds for the parish. He stayed in Lodi for 18 years.

Palmieri then went to St. Michael’s Seminary in Ramsey, NJ, where he filled many positions, “including cutting the grass.” He raised more than $500,000 in Ramsey, where the main order house is located, and was on the staff of the seminary when the Adornos expanded to India and Africa. Thirteen years later, in 1996, he was assigned as pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Goose Creek, SC.


The Adorno priest became the first superior of the order House in Goose Creek, and was there when the congregation followed the lead of Fr. Edgardo Enverga, now pastor of St. Philip Benizi in Monck’s Corner, into the Philippines. Pastor Palmieri accepted the first Adorno vocation from those western Pacific islands. His vicar at JORS, Fr. Ted Kalaw, is a native Filipino.

Palmieri believes that the Church should keep her roots deep into the tradition of Catholicism, a tradition that continues to evolve as the people of God live it.

“Vatican II went back to the roots of tradition but changed things according to the realities of the ‘sixties (when the Council convened),” he said. “The Church must have room for everybody.”

He cites the old rule of abstinence from meat on Fridays as an example of evolving tradition.

“I have a friend in New Jersey who doesn’t eat meat on Fridays, but he goes out to an expensive restaurant and eats lobster. Fridays are supposed to be the day of the week when we observe a spirit of penance. How is eating lobster a penance? Not eating meat is no longer a burden, so the Church dropped it. But penitential Fridays are still our tradition.”

He believes that the church building is the house of God, but also the place where the people of God – the Church – meet on Sundays: “You should say hi to your friends. I expect silence only when the mass starts.”

He also thinks families should bring their children to mass (“A mass is lonely without kids”); we should sing hymns at mass with twenty-first century meanings (“Why sing 15th century songs?”);  and worshippers should dress appropriately for mass (“I won’t ever say anything, but remember, clothes are a man and woman’s best friends: they cover a multitude of sins.”).

Father Frank Palmieri also knows that the absolute truths of the Catholic Church can never evolve. For instance, abortion is always wrong, he said, because our tradition is rooted in respecting life in all forms.

He is energized about his parish on Reidville Road and its brand-new adoration chapel named after St. Francis Caracciolo. He thinks the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities at JORS should work together while respecting each other’s unique gifts: “When you form a melting pot, like making minestrone, all the individual flavors disappear; the parish should be more like a salad bowl, where each individual specialty brings a richer identity for all of us.”

He said that the Adorno Fathers are in Spartanburg to stay, with Jesus Our Risen Savior as the centerpiece of their mission.

By Paul A. Barra
Parishioner of Jesus Our Risen Savior