Santiago worked for presidents, now preaches in Jeannette
For the Rev. Vicente C. Santiago, the road to the ministry has taken him from his birthplace of Puerto Rico to Washington, DC, and then to Jeannette as the pastor of the Church of the Advent, located on Clay Avenue.
Having been installed in June 2012, about 17 months ago, he responded to the advertised position, while he was the pastor of St. James Episcopal Church. After some rearranging, according to John Hose, church administrator, Santiago set up spiritual residence in Jeannette.
He attended classes in the University of Puerto Rico and, after earning his degree, he began to work in Washington, DC as an electrical engineer for the office of the President of the United States from 1976 to 2000. That is, he worked under the administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush on the design of Federal Buildings. He said, laughing, “It wasn't as exciting as it sounds.”
His calling happened in the late 1970s. He said, “The Lord called me as I drove to work and said ‘You are going to be a minister,'” but Santiago also likened himself to the Biblical character Jonah of the Jonah and the Whale story, saying he ran from his calling. He said he was “on the fast track and was making good money,” and knew that becoming a minister would drastically reduce his income.
During the mid-90s, his calling to serve became more intense and by the year 2000, he'd retired from the government and entered seminary at the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry and was ordained in 2004. Since then, he's been the pastor of the Church of the Advent.
Santiago said he receives his inspiration for his sermons “from the Bible.”
He studies the lectionary, or Bible readings for the week, reflects on them, and preaches the common thread message that is shared in all three.
Sometimes, current events make it necessary to deviate, though, as Santiago recalls his sermon after the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He said, “People needed comfort.”
He lives in Greensburg with his wife, Gwen, whom he met when they attended seminary together. She is also an Episcopal priest, assigned to a church in Donora. Together they have raised five daughters, Susan, Patricia, Anna, Gwen and Sara.
All are married, three live in Virginia and two live locally.
“They have been protected by God,” Santiago said, and have blessed the couple with four grandchildren, all boys.
When asked about his favorite hymn, Santiago pulls out a song book. “There are 700 songs in here, and they are all my favorites,” he said.
The church serves 30-35 parishioners and is involved with assisting in the activities of Catholic Charities. Santiago said there are other projects in the works, too.
On Nov. 12, a new handicapped-accessible ramp was reinstalled to replace the older, damaged one.
On Dec. 8, the Rev. Dorsey W. M. McConnell, Diocesan Bishop, will arrive to make his yearly visit to the church with a reception immediately following.
With the Christmas season arriving, services are offered Dec. 22 at 9 a.m. which is the annual service of lessons and carols, and on Dec. 24, the traditional Christmas Eve service is scheduled for 8 p.m. There will be no worship service Christmas Day.
The church sits at the apex of Clay Avenue, tucked in an historic, bricked street neighborhood in Jeannette.
Regular Services are at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings, all are invited to attend and all are welcome.
Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.