The new head of St. Teresa of Calcutta Parish on Sunday greeted worshippers at the two Montclair churches that merged last year to create that new parish, saying he was nervous but excited and eager to serve.

The Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado, known as Father Benny, said the 9 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Pine Street. He then came to the Church of the Immaculate Conception on North Fullerton Avenue to briefly introduce himself at the end of the 10 a.m. service there, and later said the noon Mass.

“I want to say that I am very happy and I’m excited to be here, but also as I told the people at the earlier Mass, I said I’m nervous,” Prado told parishioners at Immaculate Conception.

After talking about his background as a priest, Prado also capped his comments with some levity, sparking laughter from churchgoers.

“And on behalf of all of us here we want to wish you a Happy Fourth,” Prado said. “Enjoy it. And if you are having a barbecue and want to invite me, I like burgers, steak, things like that.”

Prado was named the administrator of St. Teresa, effective Saturday, July 1, replacing the Rev. Joseph Scarangella, who as pastor oversaw the divisive merger of Immaculate Conception and Mount Carmel that was ordered last fall by Archbishop John Myers. Mount Carmel’s parishioners feared the merger would end with their church being closed, although the Archdiocese of Newark never specified that it wanted the church shuttered.

“There’s been no conversation of any alteration in the merged parish," Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness said last week. "We hope people can come together and at as one community.”

Leaders of the Save Our Lady of Mount Carmel Committee have cheered Prado's arrival.

The Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado says an early Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Sunday.
The Rev. Amilcar Benito Prado says an early Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Sunday.

On Sunday Prado told parishioners how Newark’s new archbishop as of this year, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, called him on May 7 to offer him the post at St. Teresa. Prado said he was driving, going to get lunch, when he got the call from Tobin.

“And I said Holy Cow, what does he want?” Prado said. “I didn’t know what to say at the moment … [the cardinal asked] are you still there? I said yes, I’m still here.”

Prado accepted the post, and said since then, “It’s been a roller coaster of many things: joy, excitement, scared.”

The Nicaraguan-born Prado, bespectacled and sporting a goatee, said he’s been a priest for 13 years, serving 10 months in Jersey City and seven years in Hoboken. Most recently, he was at Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River for five years. But this is the first time he has held a job as head administrator of a church, according to Prado.

“It’s a different role, and I tell you, I’m very nervous ... I will make mistakes for sure. That’s why I ask for your prayers,” he said during his remarks, which got applause twice.

Another new priest is joining Prado at St. Teresa, with the Rev. Samuel Monaco Jr. appointed parochial vicar. A Maywood native, Monaco has served in churches in Jersey City, North Arlington, Saddle River and East Hanover. Monaco takes the place of the Rev. Tony Kuizon at Immaculate Conception.

In his message in St. Teresa’s weekly bulletin, Prado wrote about his immigrant past, saying that he arrived in the United States as a teen-ager 30 years ago this September.

“I wound up spending the opening chapters of my new American life in the Bronx and it was a rough go at first because I spoke no English and I was on my own living with my mother’s relatives,” Prado wrote. “Six months later my dad arrived and a year later my
mother and sister came. We eventually left the Bronx and made our way to the Van Cortland Park section of Riverdale.”

His parents are retired and live in South Hackensack now, Prado wrote, and he has a married sister who has three children.

He attended St. John’s University in Queens, earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology, and was ordained a priest in 2004 and earned master's degrees in divinity and theology.

“Allow me to know you, and I promise that you will know me,” Prado said at Immaculate Conception. “I love what I do, I enjoy my ministry.”

Scarangella, who had a strained relationship with some Mount Carmel parishioners, has been sent to the Church of St. Mary in Closter. Frank Cardell, chairman of the Save Our Lady of Mount Carmel Committee, is upbeat now that Prado has been assigned to St. Teresa by Tobin.

"Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church has a future," Cardell said on Facebook. "Our task all along was to save our beloved Church and I think we have. We will exist as Saint Teresa Of Calcutta Parish and we will still worship at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. We have been given a reprieve and now it is up to each and every one of us that fought the battle to keep our beloved Church open and to continue on."

After the 10 a.m. Mass, Prado shook hands and spoke to churchgoers. Deana Campion introduced herself to him.

"We're excited to have someone who comes with good recommendations, and I think he'll bring new energy," Campion said afterward.