PITTSTON — Their idea of bundling up for winter used to be a light jacket on a chilly morning.
Welcome to winter in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Rev. Carlos Esquivel, OSJ, the new pastor of St. Joseph Marello Parish in Pittson, and his assistant pastor, the Rev. John Shearer, OSJ, are shoveling and scraping their way through their first real winter.
The Oblate priests are both natives of Madera, Calif., and have had little experience with low temperatures and wet snow.
Madera, which is dead center in the middle of California, and Pittston have a few similarities, such as a large population of ethnic immigrants, but the weather is like night and day.
“The weather is much different and it’s taken some time to get used to,” Esquivel said. “The winters in Madera get down to about 30, 28 degrees would be freezing for us. And in the summers, it heats up sometimes to 105.”
The priests arrived in Pittston in August.
“I’ve never been stationed out here, never been this far east,” Esquivel said. Shearer, a recent seminary graduate who was ordained on June 28, visited the area once as a seminarian and the Rev. Paul McDonnell, OSJ, showed him around.
The Oblates’ East Coast Province, based in Pittston, and the West Coast Province, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., were merged into one in March and McDonnell, an Exeter native, was appointed leader of the order.
They said there is snow about an hour from Madera in the mountains, where the Oblates have a cabin, but they must travel to it.
“There, we have to drive to the snow; here it comes to you,” Esquivel joked.
Navigating the snow-covered roadways is something even seasoned NEPA drivers sometimes find tricky.
“I was headed to the seminary (in Laflin) and I was turning onto Oak Street from the Bypass and my car spun out,” he said. “And when I was going up the hill in Yatesville, I got stuck.”
Once winter hit, a warmer wardrobe was needed. Scarves and gloves and hats are all items the two had to buy. Shearer said his friends gave him a scarf as a going-away present.
“We definitely had to go out and buy for the weather here,” Esquivel said. “I didn’t really bring anything. What we consider winter attire in California is considered fall clothing here.”
Esquivel, 59, will celebrate 31 years in the priesthood this year. St. Joseph Marello is his third assignment as pastor. He’s previously served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bakersfield, Calif., and at his home parish of St. Joachim in Madera. He was an assistant pastor there when he first met, Shearer, then only a high school student.
Shearer, 34, was born in Sacramento, but lived in Madera most of his life. The Pittston assignment is his first as he was ordained on June 28, 2013. “I’m a newbie,” he laughed.
Six months in, they’re getting climatized. Clearing off windshields? “We’ve got that down; we have all the tools we need,” Shearer said. “And the people here have been such great help.”
The two men are aware that this is the most brutal winter the area has experienced in several years.
“When we first got here up until recently, everyone here was telling us to get ready for the snow, get ready for the snow,” Esquivel said. But, he said, they may have jinxed it.
“They kept talking about how much snow we’re going to get and here it is,” he said with a laugh.