He was born on February 4, 1959 to Marion and Joseph Pavone in Port Chester, New York. His father supplied shoe makers with machinery and leather supplies to repair shoes in the family business called Frank Pavone Leather and Shoe Findings. Little Frank was named in honor of his grandfather Frank Sr. who began the business and employed his son Joe. Frank's mom worked as a bookkeeper until she became pregnant with Frank. When little Frank was two years old, Marion and Joe were gifted with another son Joseph Jr.. The family was the typical cradle Catholic family, living just two buildings from Holy Rosary Church where the children were baptized by the Salesian Fathers, the Order founded by Saint John Bosco. The Salesians were a strong force in Port Chester, a burgeoning community on the Connecticut border on one of the main thoroughfares into New York City. As the community grew the family moved to Corpus Christi Parish also run by the Salesians where Frank received his First Holy Communion and was confirmed there as well.
Always the adventurer and a great student of the space program while attending school, he wrote a personal letter to then President Richard Nixon requesting the opportunity to go along on one of the space shuttles. The White House wrote back that they didn't have room for him, but to keep trying. The astronaut program's loss was the Church's gain for it was shortly after that - at the age of fifteen - that he began attending daily Mass at Corpus Christi and was inspired to begin serving Mass for the pastor Father Peter Rinaldi, SDB who also asked him to be a lector. During his final year in high school one day Frank cornered Father Rinaldi to ask him what he thought about the idea of becoming a priest and the holy priest responded, "O, I have been praying just for that." A vocation was born.
He graduated as valedictorian of his class, one year younger than the rest of his classmates. He had excelled in his studies, receiving awards in science, math, language and English as well as being involved in numerous extracurricular activities such as the year book, school newspaper, various debate teams, statistician for the football team and a National Honor Society member. His valedictory address gave an indication of what was in store for this dynamo youth when he centered his talk around God, Faith and service to others. His peers voted him the "most likely to succeed." Oh, how right they were!
Following his heart he enrolled in Don Bosco College and Seminary in Newton, New Jersey. He had been offered scholarships to various Ivy League schools, but he knew where God wanted him and he politely declined. But he did not decline the opportunity to march in the Annual March for Life procession held on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade each year on January 22. He joined others in praying and witnessing to the dignity of life, realizing abortion was not an alternative. In 1981 he graduated again as class valedictorian receiving a degree in Philosophy and a teacher's certification in English, math, and the classical languages. After a year of novitiate in 1982 he made his first temporary vows and became a professed Salesian brother, entering the major scholasticate to continue his pursuit of the priesthood. During the summers he worked with youth in summer camps. As happens often with young men making such a life-changing decision as the priesthood, they take some time off to truly discern their vocation and whether they want to be a religious or diocesan priest.
It was in 1983 that Frank, while pursuing various jobs as he prayed for guidance in his life, attended a retreat at an abbey and felt the lure to enter the LAMP (Lay Apostolic Ministries with the Poor) Ministries program and follow that up by submitting his application to Dunwoodie Seminary in Yonkers also known as St. Joseph's Theological Seminary, the main scholasticate for the Archdiocese of New York where he entered in 1984. There he was privileged to study under such luminary professors as Monsignor William Smith, Father Benedict Groeschel, Father Andrew Apostoli, and Monsignor Eugene Clark to name a few. Some of Frank's duties included serving as Master of Ceremonies for liturgical functions for two years as well as training candidates for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of New York, a program he continued for several years after his ordination. He received his degrees in Sacred Scripture and a Masters in Theology. He cut his pastoral teeth on hospital and prison ministries plus parish experience in New York City and a deacon internship at St. Ursula's parish in Mt. Vernon, New York.
On November 12, 1988 he lay prostrate in humility in the sanctuary of St. Patrick's Cathedral before God as Cardinal John O'Connor ordained Frank a priest at the age of 29. His first assignment was St. Charles Parish in Staten Island, a large and extremely active parish where, in addition to his regular priestly duties, he expanded his three major areas of activity. The first was teaching the Archdiocesan Diaconate program and the Institute for Religious Studies both at St. Joseph's Seminary as well as teaching various Scripture courses throughout the Archdiocese. The second activity was communicating through a cable television program he began with the help of Anthony DeStefano, a parishioner whose expertise translated into the latter eventually becoming Executive Director for Priests for Life. That evolved from Father Frank's third activity which entailed extensive pro-life education and awareness throughout 35 parishes and schools on Staten Island itself. Soon his activities expanded beyond New York to the entire nation. It wasn't long before he became one of the more well-known pro-life leaders in the country.
Another pro-life leader - Father Lee Kaylor, who had founded Priests for Life, enlisted Father Frank's help, going so far as to ask Father Pavone to take over as the new director of the group. After receiving Cardinal O'Connor's blessings in this new endeavor, he set up shop in Port Chester on September 1, 1993 with a skeleton crew of volunteers, including Janet Morana who would become the Chief of Staff for the non-profit organization. Realizing he had to get the word out, he began networking with leaders in the Church and the pro-life movement, contacting the bishops who in turn invited him to speak in their dioceses. It wasn't long before he had journeyed to all fifty states including Calcutta, India where Mother Teresa personally invited him to speak to the Missionaries of Charity and the clergy of India who had gathered to hear him. He gained greater recognition with his frequent visits to EWTN where Mother Angelica featured him often on her show and offered him the opportunity to produce an annual series entitled "Defending Life." Besides the Eternal Word Network, he has appeared on national television and radio, has had a series on Odyssey, as well as the new network of Catholic Radio founded by Father Joseph Fessio, SJ and headed by John Lynch. He has also been heard on Vatican Radio. He has written countless articles on the Sanctity of Life that have appeared in nearly every major publication and numerous books carry his writings including The Right Choice on pertinent sermons of renowned religious leaders released in 1997 and In Imitation of Christ, the Victim Priest which compiled talks from the International Clergy Seminar Retreat on the Alliance of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, held in Rome in October 1998.
Probably his greatest achievement is his compassion for others, especially for enemies of the Church who, through prayer, understanding and dialogue, he has touched and often converted to realizing the horrors of abortion. Paramount among these is Norma McCorvey, the Texas woman who was the "Jane Roe" in the landmark, horrible Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973 legalizing first-trimester abortions. It was indeed a dark day for mankind and McCorvey, who in truth was a pawn for NOW and feminist radicals, lived with the guilt for decades going through a spell of lesbianism and bitterness where she worked for an abortion promoter next door to Operation Rescue on McKinney Avenue in North Dallas. But it was a few years ago that Father Frank made contact with McCorvey while in Big D and, as she puts it, "Father Frank was the catalyst that brought me into the Catholic Church." She was baptized a Catholic last year on August 17, 1998 through the inspiration and help of Father Pavone in Rome where he worked with Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo for the past two years as an official of the Pontifical Council for the Family, coordinating pro-life activities worldwide for the Church. Through this august assignment Father Frank was able to advise pro-life leaders and bishops around the world and meet often with His Holiness Pope John Paul II who cherishes the work Father Pavone is doing as director of Priests for Life in extolling human dignity and the Sanctity of Life.
His fame and respect is not limited only to the Church for he serves on numerous Christian and pro-life boards of directors such as the Advisory Committee for the Caring Foundation, Board of the National Pro-life Religious Council, Board of America's Crisis Pregnancy Helpline, Advisory Council for Ramah International, Advisory Board for the Ivy League Coalition for Life, and the Board of the Center for Bioethical Reform. In addition he is active with the Board of A Baby's Prayer Foundation, Theological advisory Board for the Culture of Life Foundation, Board of Saints' Stories, and the National Board of Advisors for K-IHM Catholic Radio. He is also a member of International Right to Life, the Catholic Press Association, National Religious Broadcasters, Roe No More Ministries, and the Common Ground Network for Life and Choice. He is also an Honorary Advisor to the Society of Blessed Gianna Beretta Molla.
He is also interested in helping promote the efforts of another Gianna - Gianna Jessen, a young lady who survived a saline abortion in 1977. There is a campaign underway to convince the powers that be to allow her to speak at the Republican National Convention next year. She has already shared her story at the Constitution Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Father Frank has also been on Capitol Hill a number of times himself, including 1996 when he was asked to speak to the pro-life caucus of the House of Representatives. Besides his activities with the politicians, with numerous boards and organizations, he is also Spiritual Moderator for National Cops for Life and Project Truth, a Catholic pro-life educational effort.
With so many irons in the fire one would think Father Frank was spreading himself too thin, but when one is doing the Lord's work, God always makes room. And so, at only 40 years-old this dedicated priest continues his unyielding mission to save as many lives as possible and educate millions as to the intrinsic right to life from conception to a person's last natural breath. Through cooperation with the Holy See, he is also hoping to eventually form a religious order of priests dedicated to the charism of the defense of human life. When he is not constantly on the go traveling everywhere as the National Director of Priests for Life, he maintains an excellent website which we highly recommend at www.priestsforlife.org to learn more about this worthwhile organization composed of a network of priests and laity which increases daily, all under the guiding hand of Father Frank A. Pavone, who many consider the "Fulton Sheen of the 90's". While Frank's parents are named Marion and Joseph, he is not the son of a carpenter but rather the son and grandson of a shoe maker's supplier who has seen fit to walk in the footsteps of Christ on behalf of God's little ones fashioning souls for Our Lord and His Blessed Mother. Yes, the innocent unborn have a better chance today because of Father Frank's wholehearted fiat.
Contact Priests for Life at
Staten Island, NY 10314