A legendary Wilmington priest has died just short of his 100th birthday.
Father Roberto Balducelli died Friday night. Balducelli served a pastor of the St. Anthony's Parish from 1959 through 1988 and was still active in the Wilmington community at the age of 99. He would have turned 100 years old on Saturday.
Balducelli is credited with building the Saint Anthony Grade School and Padua Academy in Wilmington.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell called the longtime priest a revered community leader and Wilmington treasure.
“As we mourn the passing of a Wilmington treasure, we also celebrate the indelible impact Father Roberto has left on the city, the people who knew him and the thousands more who will continue to benefit from the loving and caring community he leaves behind,” said Governor Markell.
“In reflecting on Father Roberto’s life, many have told stories of his knack for requesting assistance for the many projects he undertook to help others. What’s also clear from those stories is that those who were touched by Father Roberto gained more from their experiences with him than they could ever give through their work on new buildings or at his summer camp. My thoughts and prayers are with the Balducelli family and the many Delawareans who became part of his extended and lasting family established over the years.”
Wilmington City Council President Theopalis Gregory also took time to remember the beloved priest on Sunday.
"Our hearts are saddened by the passing of Father Roberto Balducelli. Father Roberto was a spiritual leader and a father figure for generations of Wilmingtonians. We are very grateful that he was an essential part of our community for decades. Father Roberto was responsible for institutions such as St. Anthony's Parish, St. Anthony's in the Hills, Padua Academy and the Antonian which help nurture the hearts, minds and souls of young and old alike. He was known as a humble man, yet was forceful when it came to his faith, his church and his community. City Council extends condolences to Father Roberto's family, his Oblate family and to the thousands of people who knew him as a friend, a mentor and as a person of faith,” according to the statement.
A viewing will be held Tuesday evening at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington and Mass of the Christian Burial will be held Wednesday at the church.