Fr. Todd Molinari
Fr. Todd Molinari
It takes dexterity for a young altar server not to trip as he walks, censer in hand, around a church in a eucharistic procession. Periodically he must turn and walk backward while incensing the elevated Eucharist.

Todd Molinari was in the fourth grade when he experienced a poignant moment during that skilled pivot.

“As I turned toward the Blessed Sacrament I remember having this sense of calling and love for Christ, for the priesthood, the people and the liturgy,” said the now-priest.

The awe he felt for the faith’s treasures has stayed with him throughout his years of ministry — as he probed the Catholic intellectual tradition, ministered to parish families and now, as vicar for clergy, supports his brother priests.

Born in Portland in 1968, young Todd attended St. John the Baptist School in Milwaukie and later Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where he began regular spiritual direction. The guidance helped him gain further clarity about his vocation and “became a common thread throughout my priesthood,” he said.

Following studies at the Pontifical North American College and Pontifical Gregorian University, both in Rome, he was ordained in 1995 by Archbishop William Levada.

He went on to serve at St. Anne in Grants Pass, St. Francis in Roy, St. Edward in North Plains, St. Joseph in Salem and his childhood parish of St. John the Baptist.

Over the years he’s remained committed to hard work and a rich intellectual and artistic life. He runs regularly, has mastered two languages (Italian in Rome, Spanish in Mexico), studied frescos, and, by a number of accounts, can play a mean electric guitar.

His artistic talents are on display in a fresco at St. Joseph and the jaguar mascot in the gym at St. John the Baptist School.

“I wanted something to scare the other team, but not too much,” he said with a laugh.

At St. Joseph, a diverse parish Father Molinari called a “microcosm of the universal church,” he helped boost enrollment at the school and promoted the sacred liturgy. He also improved catechesis and strove to “build up and support Catholic family life,” he said.

Rural St. Francis Parish remains “especially close to my heart,” said the priest. There he oversaw the renovation of the church and recalled how parishioners, many farm families, showed up with trucks and trailers to help remove the pews and temporally store them in their barns and shops.

“There was a big gathering with beer and bratwurst afterward,” recalled Father Molinari, who’d bless the fields at the start of ploughing season.

In 2014, he was named vicar for clergy and moved to St. Rita in Northeast Portland, where he serves as priest moderator.

In his current post he primarily tackles human resource matters for priests of the archdiocese. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work, but he also spends time visiting clergy.

No matter the assignment, he’s felt the “absolute necessity of a prayerful relationship with God,” he said.

In the past 25 years he believes he’s “become more real — stripped down from false expectations and pretense.”

“I’m thankful for that,” said Father Molinari, adding that he’s also learned the importance of “taking people as they are and relating to them and loving them as they are.”

As he grows in his vocation, the priest anticipates he’ll be “drawn more toward contemplation and reflection, of having a more slowed-down and meditative view of life.”

And perhaps he’ll have a little more time to coax some rock or blues tunes from his guitar.

katies@catholicsentinel.org