Father John Arnone, 49, beloved pastor and mentor, dies following heart procedure
Father John C. Arnone, a pastor who joined the Notre Dame Seminary faculty last year to guide seminarians in the day-to-day pastoral realities of serving in a parish, died May 5 at East Jefferson General Hospital due to complications following a heart procedure.
“He served as a great priest to the people of God, and he also was a priest’s priest,” said Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who was scheduled to be the principal celebrant and homilist at Father Arnone’s funeral Mass on May 10 at St. Rita Church in Harahan.
Father Arnone, who was ordained in 1999, had served as pastor at Holy Name of Mary and St. Stephen’s in New Orleans, Our Lady of Lourdes in Violet, St. Bernard in St. Bernard and St. Rita in Harahan.
He joined the seminary faculty last year at Archbishop Aymond’s request.
“I chose him because he was a good pastor, and he loved people,” Archbishop Aymond said. “He understood them and he was very compassionate. He took initiative. In the seminary, we need priests (on faculty) who have been pastors at a reasonably young age in order to help the seminarians know not only the theology and the specifics of pastoral care but who are also able to be flexible enough to walk into difficult situations and be present to people in the name of Christ.”
It was only within the last year that Father Arnone was telling friends and relatives that he was feeling weak, Archbishop Aymond said, and he went for a medical checkup in October.
“They did several tests but he was saying he just felt tired all the time just from walking from his room (at the seminary) downstairs,” the archbishop said.
A humble prayer
In November, Father Arnone addressed a letter to his family and friends that he wanted them to read “in case he didn’t survive” medical procedures that were being planned, the archbishop said.
“In the letter, he basically said goodbye to his family and friends, whom he loved dearly,” Archbishop Aymond said. “He said that his 18 years of priesthood were the greatest joy of his life. He apologized to anyone that he had not been reconciled with, and he hoped they would forgive him. He said he knew that they would see each other again. He said, ‘Don’t weep for me. Be happy and live life to the fullest with Christ.’”
Father Arnone went in for a heart procedure on April 10 – the beginning of Holy Week – and he developed complications later in the week, Archbishop Aymond said.
“When I saw him on Wednesday night he was having trouble breathing, and by Thursday night, he had three cardiac arrests and was in critical condition on Good Friday,” the archbishop said. “So, his way of the cross began on Good Friday.”
In a 2016 interview with the Clarion Herald, Father Arnone said he was looking forward to his new role of helping seminarians understand the practical nature of being a parish priest – the fact that not everything can be understood from a textbook.
His goal was to help seminarians translate the human, spiritual and intellectual formation they receive in the seminary into becoming pastorally sensitive priests.
“The guys want to be as good and as faithful and as perfect to Holy Mother Church as they can,” Father Arnone said. “But when they get into the parish, we realize we don’t live in a perfect church, a perfect parish or a perfect world. Maybe the idea is to give the seminarians that authority to know they can have some pastoral flexibility.”
Visitation for Fr. John Arnone will be Tuesday evening at Notre Dame Seminary, 2901 South Carrollton Ave., New Orleans, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Visitation will continue beginning at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at St. Rita of Cassia Parish, 7100 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 1 p.m. at St. Rita.