One of Father Guiseppe Siniscalchi’s earliest memories is riding in the backseat of the family station wagon. He was about 5 years old, and his mother and grandfather were in front speaking in Italian. Suddenly his mom turned around. “Tell nonno that you want to be a priest,” she said.
“I panicked,” recalled Father Siniscalchi, who is now 42. “I said ‘yeah, I do,’ and I remember diving under the seat and kind of hiding. I guess that’s basically been the story of my vocation. There was some kind of calling there, but so many times I just ran away from it. But it kept on coming back.”
It followed him throughout his life, even after he had attained a certain level of what would be considered success by most people.
Born in Springfield, Mass., to Francesco and Elisa Siniscalchi, he graduated Law School at Boston College in 1993 and practiced four years in Miami, Fla., in the Public Defenders Office. He had a girlfriend he considered marrying but broke that off. He again started thinking about the priesthood, coming close to joining a religious order. Once more, he backed away.
“I kind of panicked and ran away. I moved back to my hometown and worked there for five years in a law firm and went through a period of real darkness,” he acknowledged. “I was trying to deny this call.”
Two things brought the issue to a head. First, his mother was diagnosed with cancer, and then two jet planes crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“They both made me really think,” he said, “what is the most important thing I can do? What do I have that can make the best contribution to the world? I remember one night saying, ‘I got to face this,’ and when I started to face it, more peace came in, more joy.”
He began to look for religious communities to join. Eventually, he came to New York and met the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He admits that his first impressions were less than favorable.
“I mean they were living in bad neighborhoods and the friaries were in kind of bad shape, kind of rough food and they were walking around with beards and sandals or bare feet,” he recalled. “But then I heard a voice. God speaks to us in ways we can understand. He just said, ‘Shut up, you’ll be back.’ ”
And back he was. In 2002, he entered Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in Harlem, this time with a less worldly outlook.
“I could see they were real men, normal guys trying to serve the Lord Jesus,” he said. “They were genuine.”
Father Siniscalchi’s first assignment is to Newark, N.J. Not running any more, he’s prepared to give his all.
“I’ve come here to give everything I have,” he said. “I didn’t come here to hold anything back.”
His first Mass will be celebrated at Our Lady of Carmel Church in Springfield, Mass., on Sunday, June 19, at 10:30 a.m. Father Eugene Fulton, director of Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, will give the homily.