WETHERSFIELD – Father James G. Fanelli, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Hartford from 1974-89, died peacefully on April 18, 2015, at St. Mary Home in West Hartford.
Father Fanelli was born on Oct. 9, 1930, in Hartford, a son of the late George and Nicoletta Lamarra Fanelli. He attended St. Augustine School in Hartford, St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore and the American College in Louvain, Belgium.
He was ordained on July 1, 1956, in the chapel at the American College by Bishop Russell J. McVinney.
Father Fanelli’s first assignment was as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Meriden. He earned a master’s degree in education from Boston College and in 1961 he was appointed assistant superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. He became the superintendent in 1974 and served in that position for 15 years. During those years, he also was a weekend assistant in a number of parishes, including Immaculate Conception in Hartford, St. Christopher in East Hartford, Our Lady of Peace in East Hartford and St. Therese in Granby.
Also during those years, he established the first archdiocesan development program for Catholic elementary and secondary schools, introduced the HOPES dinner to recognize archdiocesan and school volunteers and, with support from business leaders, established the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools, a nonprofit corporation that supports Catholic schools in the archdiocese.
Father Fanelli also adopted a family life program as part of the elementary religion curriculum and a program to help children who suffer a loss through death or divorce, and he strongly promoted school choice on the state and federal levels.
After completing his assignment as superintendent, Father Fanelli was appointed to St. Christopher Church in East Hartford in February 1990, serving as co-pastor with Father William McGrath. Upon Father McGrath’s retirement in 1992, Father Fanelli was appointed pastor and remained at this assignment until his retirement in 2006.
While in retirement, he served as weekend assistant at the Church of Incarnation in Wethersfield.
Father Fanelli was a member of and served on many committees and organizations, including the Superintendent Department of the National Catholic Educational Association as president, Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, Committee for American Private Education, Connecticut Association of School Administrators, Citizens for Educational Freedom, and State Department of Education Advisory Committee for School Approval. He also served as a member of the Priests’ Councils of the archdiocese, including the archdiocesan Liturgical and Ecumenical Commission, and Preliminary Personnel Board.
Father Fanelli is survived by his sister, A. Eleanor Fanelli of Manchester, a brother-in-law, sister-in-law, nieces, a nephew, grandnieces, grandnephews and a great-grandnephew.
He was predeceased by his parents; his sister, Rose Fanelli Blanco; and his brother, Joseph J. Fanelli.
A parish Mass was celebrated on April 22 at St. Christopher Church, where Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was the principal celebrant of a Mass of Christian Burial the next morning.
Burial followed in Mount St. Benedict Cemetery in Bloomfield.
Memorial donations may be made to the St. Christopher School Endowment, 560 Brewer St., East Hartford, CT 06118; or to St. Augustine School, 22 Clifford St., Hartford, CT 06114.