BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – If a person’s life is measured by the number of people who attend their funeral, then Father Joseph Fata’s life was a good one.
Fata passed away on Monday at the age of 74 after a ten-year battle with cancer.
Eight hundred came to St. Luke Church in Boardman, where Fata was pastor for 28 years, for the funeral Mass. The church could only fit 550, so the other 250 were in an overflow tent.
“I think Father Fata was a wonderful man that was really able to help us understand the blend of the human and the holy,” said St. Luke parishioner Colleen Kelty.
The funeral mass began with Fata’s casket being passed from the shoulders of six pallbearers into the arms of six others. It was then placed in the middle of the church and blessed by Bishop George Murry, before being draped by Fata’s family.
“When I would come to celebrate Mass, I was always impressed by the spirit of the people and that was reflection of Father Fata,” Murry said.
Beforehand, a steady stream of people passed through the church to pay their respects. They told stories about how Fata built and maintained the landscaping, and how he designed the bell tower. The bottom two bells are from old Youngstown churches and the top one is from Italy.
What parishioners brought up most often were his homilies.
“He has a book of his homilies that he published, so he was very talented along that line and he was a really good guy,” Tim Moriarty said.
Fata was also known for his work in the community, specifically as a leader of ACTION, an organization of churches whose goal is to improve neighborhoods in Youngstown.
“He was very clear about his role, his obligation, his responsibilities to speak to his community relative to bringing about racial harmony and reconciliation,” said Reverend Lewis Macklin of Holy Trinity Missionary Baptist Church.
There were some sadness and tears, but the funeral was a grand show of respect for Father Fata and the life he lived.