St. Martha Catholic Church pastor Father Fausto Stampiglia turns 80 surrounded by friends and parishioners.
Five years ago, St. Martha Catholic Church parishioner Marsha Panuce needed a shoulder to lean on when her husband, Don, died. Through her mourning, she relied on the Rev. Fausto Stampiglia.
“You lean very heavily on those around you when you go through that,” Panuce said. “I was not a burden for him.”
In her 20 years of knowing Stampiglia, she’s come to rely on him for guidance with her faith, as well as friendship. The two have bonded over a love of classical and religious music.
“I’ve enjoyed learning about the church’s music through his eyes and ears,” Panuce said.
She recalled these details at a gala for Stampiglia’s 80th birthday. His actual birthday was Oct. 7,but the event was held Oct.17, at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Stampiglia was surrounded by friends and colleagues for the occasion.
“...Old age forces someone to slow down and stop running like crazy to stop and smell the roses,” he told the Sarasota Observer. “I’m going to stop and smell them all.”
Originally from Rome, Stampiglia was ordained in November 1960. He is the first pastor of St. Martha Church who belongs to the religious order The Society of the Catholic Apostolate, known as the Pallottines. He has been serving in the priesthood for more than 50 years and was awarded the Papal Medal of Pro Ecclesia et Pontiface by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.
In July 1991, Stampiglia arrived at St. Martha. Immediately, he began making an impact.
Louis Zazarino met Stampiglia, whom he now calls a dear friend, when he was on the other side of a confession booth 10 years ago. Zazarino wasn’t yet a member of the St. Martha congregation, but his brief time talking to Stampiglia persuaded him to join.
“Talking with him you forget he’s a priest,” Zazarino said. “He’s made such a difference in my life. He made it easy to come back to the church and strengthened my religious belief. He’s brought a lot of people back to the church.”
Stampiglia is known for his one-liners or “Faustoisms.”
“Jesus is crazily in love with all of us,” he says. Or “I’m a sinner. Are you a sinner? Jesus forgives us all.”
Even his emails and letters are signed with a loving reminder, “Smile, God loves you and so does Father Fausto.”
Bishop Frank Dewane said Stampiglia brings his optimism into everything he does.
“When something can be seen as a challenge, Father Fausto can see the hope that is in it,” Dewane said. “He’s 80 going on 42 and a young man at heart. I think that comes from his ability to live la bella vita (a beautiful life).”