A funeral Mass was offered May 9 for Josephite Father Paul Banet.
Father Banet, 89, died April 30 at Baltimore’s St Joseph Manor and was interred May 9 at St. Charles Center of the Precious Blood community in Cartagena, Ohio.
From 1968 through 1976, he served St. Veronica Parish in Cherry Hill, heroically in a troubled neighborhood. He became sole pastor there in 1972 after several years of co-leadership there with Josephite Father Richard Wagner.
Father Wagner said of his partner in ministry, “He had a thirst for freeing people from what enslaved them, whether it was substance abuse, lack of incentive, poor education, or narrowness of vision … in an extraordinary and compassionate manner. … The word ‘Father’ meant a great deal to him. He was that to all ages.”
While at the parish, Father Banet became well known for charity and courage in those days of serious civil rights conflicts.
Youth minister Cathy McClain said Father Banet “understood community church” and made St. Veronica a “one-stop church” where the widest assemblage of human problems could be addressed locally.
Father Banet worked closely with then-Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer, and his chief of staff, Joan Bereska.
Bereska said of Father Benet: “He was one of the funniest, most caring and wonderful people I ever met in my life.”
Father Banet served in the U.S. Army Infantry Ordinance and Signal Corps, which required special studies at Princeton University. In June 1944, he went to war, part of the “long tail” of men and supplies moving inland from Normandy.
His war experiences included participation in the Battle of the Bulge and time as a POW until he was freed by the Russian Army. He was discharged as a corporal with the Purple Heart and combat badges. He said that the war’s brutality led him to the priesthood.
In 1949, Father Banet began studies with the Josephites and was ordained to the priesthood June 4, 1955.
Father Banet retired in September 2008.