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TV Comic Priest Appears In Recruitment Ads

September 19, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ He’s a parody of the clergy on television, but Father Guido Sarducci is serious in his latest calling: recruiting men to a Roman Catholic religious order.

Sarducci, portrayed by comedian Don Novello, is appearing in his wide- brimmed hat and white collar in an advertisement for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which has about 6,000 priests and brothers worldwide.

The ad, in Newsweek’s current On Campus issue, promises prospective priests such ″padre perks″ as ″sleeping late, getting first crack at parish rummage sales and helping your fellow man.″

The headline reads ″Eat free at Italian restaurants,″ and the ad shows Novello enjoying a plate of spaghetti at a Chicago restaurant.

″We’re after college-aged students, and he enjoys recognition among that group,″ said the Rev. Alan Maes, Midwest vocations director for the missionary group. He said there was a dwindling number of candidates for religious posts.

Novello, who was raised a Roman Catholic in Cleveland, achieved celebrity status with the Sarducci character on NBC-TV’s ″Saturday Night Live.″

The ad cost $12,000, but Novello donated his time, Maes said. The comic’s picture also will appear on employment bulletin boards on college campuses.

Maes, who is based at the Catholic Theological Union divinity School in Chicago, said the ad would run only once in On Campus. ″I don’t want to offend a lot of other people,″ he said.

But he has already raised the ire of one educator who said he disagrees with the ad’s tone and content.

″What depth are we reaching that we have to use a comedy approach?″ asked the Rev. Gregory Sakowicz, voactions director at Niles College, a Chicago seminary.

″I love a good joke, but I was turned off by it. A lot of the things they said (in the ad) are just not true,″ he said.

A Chicago priest, who was disciplined by the late Cardinal John Cody in 1979 for inviting Novello to discuss religion and humor on a television program, called the recruitment gimmick a ″hoot.″

But the Rev. Robert J. Roll, pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, said none of the promises made in the ad are true ″except for the thing about the rummage sales.″

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