Michael Jordan Minichiello, O.P.
Father Minichiello was born in Boston, Massachusetts, May 25, 1907. Educated in the public schools of Boston; Tufts College, Medford, Massachusetts; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; St. Rose Priory near Springfield, Kentucky; Dominican House of Studies, River Forest, Illinois; St. Joseph Priory, Somerset, Ohio; Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C., where he also attended the Catholic University. He also attended Ohio State in 1939.
He entered the novitiate in 1930, taking the religious name of Jordan. He was professed on August 16, 1931. Father Jordan was ordained to the priesthood on June 16, 1938, at St. Dominic's Church, Washington, D.C., by Bishop John M. McNamara, auxiliary of Baltimore, Maryland.
He was a student at Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1939-1940.
For twenty-five years, 1940-1965, he devoted his priestly ministry to the education of young men at Aquinas College High School in Columbus, Ohio.
In 1965, he was assigned to St. Stephen's Priory, Dover, Massachusetts, where he once again worked in the classroom, teaching at St. Sebastian's School in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He died at St. Stephen's Priory January 29, 1969. He is buried in the Dominican plot at St. Francis Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island.
That was his life as remembered in the Dominican “Lives of the Brethren”. Yet, it really did not fully describe the beloved “Mini-no-neck” we knew at Aquinas.
He ran a cafeteria better than any Mess sergeant. Food fights – well, none I can remember. An occasional sandwich flying thru the air,--but nothing else. Student problems in the cafeteria – sometimes, but very rare. Ditch in line, and Father was faster than Superman to help the person back to reality. Joking and smiling were part of his day, but do not mess up his cafeteria. His laugh was hard to describe. It was deep within him, and rolled out of him like thunder. Proper Bostonian accent? Hmmm, not quite! Smart-you can be sure. Knew his students well – absolutely. He knew exactly which of us would never figure out chemistry. Some of us were klunkheads, and he put up with us. I remember that he passed out a chemistry pop quiz one day, but he told me to go outside the classroom. In the corridor, he told me I would probably flunk the quiz so he gave me his keys to the cafeteria storeroom, and had me move boxes instead. He was right of course--I was not ready for that pop quiz.
The first time I met him, he came to inspect his cafeteria kitchen. I was a football manager, and Coach Mamajek wanted the team to have tea after their twice-a-day practices several weeks before school started. How do you make tea for a football team?, I asked. The coach told me to see Fr. McKenna. Fr. McKenna then told me that I could brew the tea in the cafeteria kitchen, and gave me a key. However, he pointed out, the kitchen had to be spotless at all times, because he did not know when Fr. Minichiello would be getting back from vacation.
So for a week or so, I brewed 40 gallons of tea a day. I used a pillowcase as a tea bag, and everyday bought a 25-pound block of ice from City Ice down Mt. Vernon Avenue at Nielson, to add to the tea in a 25-gallon ceramic pot. Then one morning, as I was brewing the tea, in walked Fr. Minichiello in his spotless white habit of tunic, scapular and capuce (hood) with his 15-decade belt rosary.
Bellowing to me that his kitchen had better not be messed up, I shook with fear. He reminded me of a bulldog, and I was the bone. He looked all over the kitchen for spilled sugar or tea, dirty pots, or anything out of place. Luckily, all was in order and he seemed satisfied.
He did say using a pillowcase for a teabag was a little unusual, but as long as I did not drip anything on the floor, I was safe. He made a little joke about a tea party, and then smiled and let out a belly laugh. He also told me he would be checking daily to make sure I cleaned up the kitchen to his satisfaction. He kept that promise, and twice a day appeared to inspect his kitchen. Occasionally, he found a grain of sugar or speck of tealeaf that he graciously pointed out to me with a bellowing voice that made thunder seem like a whisper.
I later worked for him. For two years or so, I stacked the student milk cartons into the coolers before the 8:05 am student Mass. My reward was a free breakfast consisting of a milk and doughnut. Every day, before classes began he came to see Mrs. Slater and Annabelle, who were preparing the student lunch. One thing I noticed, Father always joked with them, and listened to their problems. As tough as he seemed, he was really a person who just wanted order in the world, especially his world in the cafeteria.
One hot day in his chemistry class stands out in my memory. Someone came in, and gave him his large set of keys. He casually put them in the side of his tunic. The resounding clank of metal echoed throughout the classroom as the keys fell directly to the floor. It seems Fr. Minichiello decided to keep cool that day by leaving his trousers in his room. He stooped to pick up the keys and his white jockey’s showed through the side of his tunic. The laughter was spontaneous and loud. However, our laughter quickly stopped when he became red-faced with embarrassment, and he became angry over our obvious ridicule. Turning side to side, since he really did not have a neck, he forcefully told us to be quiet. No more sounds were heard, and class resumed. Yet, it did answer the question - What does Fr. Minichiello wear under his tunic when it was hot outside? Actually it made pretty good sense, if you think about it. Of course, he found out the hard way that he should not try to put keys into non-existent pockets.
Fr. Minichiello was a devoted teacher and a compassionate person, who just liked to act like a bulldog. I often wondered why he wasn’t teaching at Providence College, instead of devoting his life to us klunkheads. He was an excellent Chemistry teacher. Perhaps, as someone suggested, “He knew he did a good job at Aquinas, that he was valuable to students in the sciences, and there was no need to go elsewhere”. I am glad he chose us because he taught us more about life than just chemistry.
At 61, Father Minichiello died young, but left many of us with fond memories. I bet when he left Aquinas for the last time, his beloved cafeteria kitchen was still spotless, even for the wrecking ball.
Thanks to Fr. Richard Ambrose McAlister, O.P., Aquinas Class of 1952, for providing the obituary. Special thanks for his advice and prayers.
Thomas Aquinas Burke – Class of 1963
Aquinas College High School
November 25, 2003