Cover photo for Rev. Donald W. Arel, OMI's Obituary
Rev. Donald W. Arel, OMI Profile Photo
1938 Rev. Donald W. Arel, OMI 2023

Rev. Donald W. Arel, OMI

July 22, 1938 — June 23, 2023

Oakland, CA

Missionary Oblate for 59 Years

Rev. Donald W. Arel, OMI, passed away on June 23, 2023.  Born in Providence, RI, he was the son of Philippe and Priscilla (Bienvenue) Arel.  He is survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Richard and Dorothy Arel of Sierra Vista, AZ.

Don (as he preferred to be called) was educated by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Bucksport and Bar Harbor, ME, as well as in Natick, MA, where he completed his bachelor’s and Master of Divinity degrees.  He professed first vows as a Missionary Oblate in 1958, and he was ordained to the priesthood in January 1964.  

The words of Isaiah, the prophet, captures the heart of Don’s ministerial vision: Make the tent you live in larger.  Stretch the tent curtains wide; do not hold back.  Strengthen its ropes and drive the tent pegs deeper.  Extend your boundaries on all sides. (54:2) All of Don’s ministry assignments opened new experiences and provided new encounters with many individuals. 

His ministerial assignments included:  editor of the mission magazines for the Northern Province (formerly St. Jean Baptiste Province); retreat ministry in Hudson, NH; secondary education in Bucksport, ME; and pre-novitiate formation in the Boston area.  Between 1965 and 1980, he was involved in the Marriage Encounter movement and working with individuals with serious disabilities. He found both groups to be deeply formational for his own journey.  In 1980, Don was appointed pastor of Ste. Jeanne d’Arc parish, Lowell, MA.  At the same time, he served two terms on the provincial council.  Don was elected Provincial of the Northern Province of Missionary Oblates in 1986.  

In 1992, after serving two terms as provincial, Don moved to Berkeley, CA, to enter a sabbatical time in the Institute for Spirituality and Worship at Jesuit School of Theology.  A year later, the Jesuit School hired him as co-director of the sabbatical program, a position he held until 1998. Seeking to minister to unhoused people and individuals with AIDS, Don trained and received certification as a massage practitioner. He ministered in San Francisco with Care Through Touch and in Oakland with Providence House, a low-income residence founded by the Sisters of Providence.

Don loved poetry and theater.  The words of a favorite poet inspired the next part of Don’s journey: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?  (Mary Oliver, The Summer Day selection). Don would offer these words to numerous men and women over the next 31 years of spiritual direction, meditation, and retreats.  

Don resided at the Lenox House, the former provincial residence of the Western Province in Oakland, CA.  Don had the vision to transform Lenox House into a spiritual urban oasis, offering individuals from various faiths and religious traditions a space to continue their spiritual journey, this ministry continues today.  He continued his spiritual direction and retreat ministry, touching the lives of men and women from across the world. For 10 years, until 2016, he served as the local superior of the Missionary Oblates in Oakland.

In 2021, Don retired as director of Lenox House, but remained in residence and continued his ministry as a spiritual companion. With his death, Don entered a new part of his journey, just shy of his 85th year; a celebration he wanted to share with many friends.  At that celebration, Don would have used the words of another poet: “I live my life in widening circles that reach out across the world. I may not complete the last one, but I give myself to it (Rainer Maria Rilke).  

We welcome family and friends to gather at 9:30am at Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence, 486 Chandler St., Tewksbury, MA, on Friday, July 21st, where the Funeral Mass will also be celebrated at 11:00am. Interment follows at 1:45pm at St. Joseph Cemetery, Chelmsford, MA.   Donations in Fr. Don’s memory may be made to Lenox House (c/o Missionary Oblates), 290 Lenox Avenue, Oakland, CA  94610.  To view Fr. Arel's Funeral Mass remotely, please visit https://client.tribucast.com/tcid/2809920387     

Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Friday, July 21, 2023

9:30 - 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Chapel at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence

486 Chandler Street, Tewksbury, MA 01876

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Funeral Mass

Friday, July 21, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

Chapel at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Residence

486 Chandler Street, Tewksbury, MA 01876

Livestream

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Burial

Friday, July 21, 2023

1:45 - 2:45 pm (Eastern time)

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