June 8, 1925 – July 18, 2020
Monsignor Joseph Milani passed away peacefully from natural causes on July 18, 2020 at the Villa Siena Senior Living Community in Mountain View.
He was born June 8, 1925 in Marin County, the son of Tony and Maria Milani, immigrants from Lonate Pozzolo, Italy. The Milanis were a typical close-knit, happy Italian family. Young Joe loved sports, especially baseball, which he played with his friends often. His plan was to finish high school, get an engineering degree at UC Berkeley, and work with his father in the family business. But that’s not quite the way it turned out. The local pastor began to visit the Milanis and ask when Joseph was going to take the test for the seminary. Joe and his father weren’t receptive to the idea, but the pastor kept coming around and asking the same question. As Monsignor Joe later put it, “The next thing I knew I took the test and passed!”, and shortly afterward he began attending St. Joseph Seminary in Los Altos. Eventually Joe began to see things differently. In his words, “Now I was seriously saying this is what God wanted me to do”, and “by the time I got to the end of college, my mind was fairly made up [to become a priest]”.
Joe completed his studies at St. Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park and was ordained as a Catholic priest on June 16, 1950 by Archbishop John J. Mitty. His first parish was Sacred Heart in San Jose. Father Milani was assigned to a number of other parishes in San Jose and San Francisco before becoming pastor at St. Catherine in Morgan Hill in 1970 where he served for 11 years.
In 1981, San Jose split off from the Archdiocese of San Francisco and became a separate diocese led by Bishop Pierre DuMaine. Bishop DuMaine asked Father Joe to become the diocesan chancellor, but Father Joe had no idea what the diocesan chancellor did and was not at all receptive to the idea. He saw the job as being in an office all the time and doing administrative work, which was definitely not his preference. Bishop DuMaine explained that he himself had almost no experience as a parish priest and needed someone on his staff with that experience. Ultimately, Father Joe took the job and is one of the Founding Fathers of the diocese. For many years he served as chaplain of the Italian Catholic Federation of the Diocese of San Jose. He was a lifetime member of the Clergy Personnel Board, who earned ‘honorary historian’ status for his invaluable ability to have total recall from past events and decisions.
In 1985, Father Joe was appointed pastor at St. Joseph of Cupertino and stayed in that post until he retired in 1995 at age 70. In recognition of his invaluable service to the Church, Father Joe was made Honorary Prelate by Pope St. John Paul II in June of 2000, giving him the title of Monsignor.
For the 60th anniversary of his ordination in 2010, Monsignor Joe was interviewed by the St. Joseph staff. Looking back on his life, he said he was satisfied with how it all turned out. “I’ve always been happy in my priesthood. And if the Lord wants you, he’ll get you.”
Monsignor Joe had an active social life, with many close friends throughout the Bay Area from his parishes over the years. He loved visiting friends’ homes for dinner, drinks, and watching 49ers and Giants games. For many years he spent his summer vacations at Tahoe with his close friends from San Francisco, Bob and Josephine Saylor and their children, Ann (Rick Seramin) and Kathy (John Beckerley). Over the years, the friendship with the Seramins and the Beckerleys developed into many a weekend spent visiting them in Marin and traveling together to Tahoe and many destinations around the world.
Monsignor Joe was very proud of his Italian heritage and enjoyed his role as chaplain with the Italian Catholic Federation and all of the wonderful friendships that evolved from that affiliation. In addition, he cherished his occasional trips back to his parents’ hometown to spend time with his cousins. Monsignor was committed to family and was a frequent guest for Sunday dinner and holidays at the home of his sister, Mary, and her husband, Frank Fabbro, and their six children: Cate, Barbara, John, Frank, Mary, and Michael, all of whom enjoyed the lively dinner conversations and great stories he would share. They loved him and will miss him dearly.
After retirement, Monsignor Joe continued to participate in the church by saying mass at St. Joseph of Cupertino, and remained an active member of the Diocesan Personnel Board. In his latter years, he enjoyed socializing with the residents and many visitors at his new residence, the Villa Siena Senior Living Community in Mountain View. Monsignor Joe was preceded in death by his sister, Mary (Milani) Fabbro, and his brother-in-law, Frank Fabbro. He is survived by an extended family of nieces, nephews, and their children and grandchildren.