Auxiliary Bishop-elect Gerardo J. Colacicco is by nature a humble and shy person who fulfilled his dream of being a parish priest and now waits for what the next chapter entails as an auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese.
Bishop-elect Colacicco will be ordained an auxiliary bishop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Dec. 10.
“I still wake up and wonder if this is a dream. It’s going to take a while for it to sink in,” Bishop-elect Colacicco told CNY.
“I’m very excited and very honored, and getting more excited as I speak to my family and friends who are very very excited and happy. It’s nice to hear their excitement and that makes me excited.”
Once ordained, he will reside at St. Mary’s in Wappingers Falls and will oversee Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan and Orange counties.
“It’s very humbling to say the least,” he said. “This responsibility and honor is a different mode of living out my vocation so I don’t really know what it means until I’m in the midst of it. Right now it’s a humbling thing to think that.
“All I wanted to be was a parish priest. That was my dream and I lived my dream and I’m tremendously grateful to have lived my dream.”
Bishop-elect Colacicco was driving to visit someone in the hospital Sept. 30 when he received the phone call from Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, with the news of his appointment as an auxiliary bishop by Pope Francis.
“I was surprised and did not expect that call at all … ever,” said Bishop-elect Colacicco. “Part of me was listening to what he was saying and the other part was, ‘Which one of my priest friends is pulling my leg?’ When I realized it was really him, I had to ask him to repeat what he said to me so I was sure I heard him correctly. He laughed, which I appreciated. He did repeat it.
“Then he said, ‘Are you willing?’ and I said yes because how could you not be willing. In a priest’s life, you always have to be willing. And when I said yes, he said, ‘Of course you are.’ That meant a great deal to me.”
The announcement of his being appointed bishop-elect came at a morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Oct. 10. Father Richard LaMorte, a retired priest and longtime friend who assists Bishop-elect Colacicco at St. Joseph-Immaculate Conception parish in Millbrook, recalled announcing Bishop-elect Colacicco’s appointment to about 40 people at weekday Mass in Millbrook Oct. 10.
“Their first reaction was they applauded and, all of a sudden, they stopped. It just dawned on them that he’ll be leaving,” Father LaMorte said.
“I don’t think I can picture Gerry being anything other than a priest. He’s drawn to people and people are drawn to him. That’s a natural gift. As an auxiliary bishop, he’ll have the opportunity to apply those same gifts and skills to a larger population. That’s the way the Church makes use of auxiliary bishops in this day and age. He’ll do very well in getting people to know him in the territory.”
Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, Bishop-elect Colacicco, 64, is a second-generation Italian-American in his family and is the oldest of four children of Angelo and Irma Colacicco, both of whom are deceased. Angelo worked for the U.S. Post Office in Poughkeepsie, and after retiring from the post office, he was a custodian at St. Mary’s Church in Poughkeepsie.
Linda Colacicco, Michael Colacicco and JoAnn Morgan are the bishop-elect’s siblings, and Linda said receiving the news of his appointment was unexpected and exciting.
“He’s a low-key, humble kind of guy,” said the parishioner of St. Martin de Porres in Poughkeepsie, who is a year younger than her brother.
“He never looked for anything other than (being a parish priest). Not many people get to actually do what they’re called to do and what they love to do.
“He can sit with someone he doesn’t know well and can relate with them to put them at ease and make them comfortable. His mentors were all that type of priest who took time to sit with someone if there was a problem or to celebrate. He can say things and put something together that can relate to everyone listening to his homily. It’s what makes him special.”
Bishop-elect Colacicco knew at a young age he wanted to be a priest. As a kid, he worked in the rectory answering the door and phone at St. Mary’s in Poughkeepsie, giving him the opportunity to see priests outside of Mass interacting with people and living day-to-day in their vocation.
“It only heightened my desire to be like them,” he said. “I was supported in that by my family. My heroes were my parish priests. I watched them in awe and I wanted to be like them. I wanted to do what they do. God blessed me because I was able to become what I always dreamed and not everybody gets that chance.”
The bishop-elect graduated from Marist College, studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, and holds a licentiate in canon law from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He was ordained by Cardinal Terence Cooke in 1982 and became a monsignor in 1999.
He brings a diverse background to his new role after serving as a pastor at a small rural parish with 300 families in St. Joseph-Immaculate Conception, Millbrook, 2015-2019, after a year as administrator of St. Joseph; a large 5,000-family parish at St. Columba, Hopewell Junction, 2002-2014; and a city parish with 2,700 families at Sacred Heart in Newburgh, 1996-2002.
He served as parochial vicar of St. Denis-St. Columba, Hopewell Junction, 1987-1989; Our Lady of Fatima, Scarsdale, 1984-1987; and Good Shepherd, Rhinebeck, 1982-1984.
Bishop-elect Colacicco was a judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal, 2007-2010; defender of the bond and judge, 1992-1996; director of pastoral formation at St. Joseph’s Seminary, 1992-1996; and priest secretary to Cardinal John O’Connor, 1989-1990. After leaving the tribunal, he continued to take testimony from people in the mid-Hudson Valley who could not get to New York City to testify.
“All of our experience helps to form us and continues to form us,” he said. “Now taking on responsibility of being a bishop, all of that comes into play... It forms us, makes us who we are and helps us to better serve the people of God because of those diverse experiences.”
Bishop-elect Colacicco said he’ll miss being a parish priest, especially celebrating Mass for children receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time.
“I always say this to our First Communion children that First Communion day is my happiest day and my favorite day of the whole year because I get to give them Jesus and that’s the most important thing I do, to be able to give them Jesus,” he said.
Bishop-elect Colacicco enjoys reading, mostly spiritual and historical books, in his free time, and shared something not everyone knows about him. “I’m kind of shy which you don’t really think about a priest who’s a public figure and you’re in front of folks all the time,” he said. “I have to kind of push myself sometimes and push through that shyness. That’s something that I’ve worked on for almost all my life.”
Bishop-elect Colacicco waits with excitement to fulfill his new role.
“My initial thought is to help people get to heaven, to help people grow in holiness and to do that by making ourselves available to all that the church offers to help us to grow in holiness,” he said. “That’s certainly first and foremost, Mass, and a devotional life and the sacraments – all of those things. If I’m able to help them to grow in that area of their life, then I will fulfill my role.”