Story by Susan M. Wicker Guerrero / Berkshire Beacon
PITTSFIELD – Father John Salatino’s earliest memories of St. Mark’s Church on West Street are of coming to church and being unable to see everything that was going on. “I must have been three or four years old and wanted to see more,” he said.
He is now pastor of the church of his childhood. This is St. Mark’s 100th anniversary year, being established in 1913. A huge celebration including a Mass, reception and dinner, was celebrated two weeks ago.
Fr. Salatino is the son of Pittsfield residents John, a native of Calabria, Italy, and Suzanne Salatino. His mother is Irish and Slovak.The family moved to Backman Avenue near the church when he was very young. Pastor attended since childhood
He received his First Holy Community and confirmation at St. Mark’s. After graduating from Taconic High School, he studied hotel and restaurant management at Berkshire Community College. He said he thought about going into the seminary since he was eight years old.
After B.C.C., he knew he needed to get a college degree so he enrolled at Westfield State College where he earned a B.A. degree in Spanish.
He also spent a semester at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City. He attended St. John’s Seminary in Boston for five years prior to being ordained.
Fr. Salatino’s first assignment was at St. Patrick’s Church in Chicopee and then he spent eight years at St. Mary’s in Westfield. When first asked to become pastor at St. Mark’s in his hometown, Fr. Salatino was reluctant. “They said, ‘Pray about it,”” he recalled, and then he decided to accept.
It literally meant coming home, as most of his family lives in this area and Pittsfield is his hometown.
Works with Hispanic community
His ability to speak Spanish has come in handy, as he works extensively with the growing Hispanic population in Berkshire County. He has served as pastor of St. Mark’s since November 2003. For hobbies, he enjoys biking, cross country skiing and kayaking. He said the best part of the parish is the people. “They are very generous, very kind and always willing to help,” he said. The parish has a food pantry open to the community, Meals on Wheels once a month and opens its facilities to AA, mental health recovery and the Boy and Girl Scouts. An extremely popular father and daughter dance also originated at St. Mark’s and became a model for similar dances throughout the country. “St. Mark’s will continue to be a vital part of the community,” Fr. Salatino said.
It’s been a busy year for the young pastor and all of his flock
A recent trip to Italy and Turkey was part of the anniversary festivities. Fr. Salatino and about 20 parishioners recently completed that trip. True to his love of cooking, the pastor bought some paprika in a market in Turkey. In addition, Fr. Salatino participated in a concert featuring 15 diocesan priests performed at the Barrington Stage Company last weekend. Proceeds went to the annual Catholic Appeal.