The first time Father Tom Colucci, Most Precious Blood’s new parish administrator, was asked if he would consider entering the priesthood, he thought the priest who asked him was crazy.
“I go, Father, please, I just dropped out of college. I don’t think I’m priest material here,” Colucci said.
Colucci heard this suggestion as a lost 20-year-old taking a year off from college. He did enter the priesthood—forty years later, at the age of 60.
After obtaining his degree and completing a stint as a physical education teacher, Colucci entered the New York Fire Department in 1985. His 20-year career in the department brought him to three firehouses in the north Bronx, mid-town Manhattan and lower Manhattan.
He forged life-long bonds with his fellow firefighters, running to between 5,000 and 6,000 calls a year. It was a busy life, but he enjoyed it.
He was at ground zero on 9/11 when the second tower collapsed. His firehouse lost five men, and he knew 100 of the 343 firefighters who died in the attacks. The weeks after were spent digging through the rubble, recovering bodies and attending funerals for the fallen first responders.
Amidst all the death and horror of that day, Colucci witnessed acts of great courage from emergency personnel, doctors, nurses, and ordinary people.
“You saw the worst in humanity that day, but then you saw the best,” Colucci said. “Everybody said where was Christ that day? And I just said in the people that responded, not just firefighters, police, EMS people, nurses, doctors.”
Always a religious man, the idea of joining the priesthood had stuck in his mind. He planned to enter the seminary upon retirement, but then he got into an explosion on the job. Recovering from a major head injury, he decided to enter Mt. Savior Monastery near Pine City, New York.
His daily life at the monastery included prayer seven times a week, waking up at 4 a.m., and daily chores. His chores involved cooking and manual labor, such as mowing the lawn and plowing snow, because he was the youngest monk.
“My last day at the firehouse, I was 48, and was the oldest guy in the firehouse,” Colucci said. “I go up to the monastery; I’m the only guy under 70.”
The monastery sits on a hill with sheep roaming the grounds, a postcard-perfect pastoral scene nestled in upstate New York. Monks tended the garden and orchard and sold crafts in the gift shop for extra income.
“I made candles,” Colucci said. “Every monk had an indoor craft.”
Eventually, Colucci was called to work with people, and entered the New York Diocese in fall 2012 at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers. Being out of school for more than 30 years, he had to adjust to new computerized teaching methods and being in the classroom with peers half his age.
He was ordained at St. Paul in May 2016. As the first retired New York firefighter, Colucci’s ordainment was a big event. His entire family and extended family converged on Manhattan to attend the event. About 300 firefighters were inside the church and 1,000 more were outside. Several TV stations covered his ordination, including an Italian television station.
“I had my 15 minutes of fame,” Colucci said, chuckling.
Colucci thanks God for helping him through all the challenges that life has thrown at him, and for all the talents and blessings God has bestowed.
“I owe a lot to God. He’s given me a lot of graces,” Colucci said.
His first assignment was at St. Mary Mother of the Church in Fishkill as a parochial victor. His first day at Most Precious Blood in Walden was March 1, his first assignment as a parish administrator. The next step is to be declared a pastor by the cardinal.
“I saved lives, now as a priest I’m saving souls,” Colucci said.
Colucci is replacing Father Bill Muhm, who was named Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese for the Military Services.
His favorite part of ministry is working with people, from baptism to weddings and everything in between.
He looks forward to serving the parish’s congregation and helping them in their spiritual journeys.
“I want to be the best priest I can for the people, be available for them and help them anyway I can to get closer to God,” Colucci said.