I want to serve the people of God.” And serve he has.
Father Thomas Colucci, 60, is reportedly the first firefighter of the FDNY to become a priest for the archdiocese. In addition to his 20 years of service to the city—including on 9/11, and rising to the rank of captain, he was also a Benedictine monk for nearly a decade.
“I’m very, very happy. The Lord’s blessed me. To accomplish this at my age, He’s given me a lot of graces. I owe it to Him. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a lot work, but I’ve done well and persevered. It had to be His will.”
The call to the priesthood for the former altar boy came sophomore year of college. “I essentially dropped out of school. I took a year off. I started going to daily Mass. It gave me some peace and grounded me.”
His pastor at that time, the late Msgr. Charles Rader, founding pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in West Nyack, asked if he had ever considered the priesthood. “I said, ‘Father, please, I just dropped out of college. I’m not ‘priestly material.’”
The priest disagreed. “He said, ‘Tom, I think you’d be an excellent priest.’”
He returned to college, got involved in campus ministry and kept going to Mass on a regular basis. “I’ve been going to daily Mass pretty much since ’76, a miss here and there,” he said.
As his FDNY retirement was approaching, he contacted the vocations office of the archdiocese to inquire about the priesthood, but during his last year on the job, he was injured in an explosion. He developed a blood clot on the brain and underwent two surgeries. “The idea of studying made my head hurt more, so I entered a Benedictine monastery in upstate New York, near Elmira.”
He joined the Benedictines in 2004, made final vows in 2009 and took the name Brother Thomas Bernadette, after Bernadette of Lourdes. He studied at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pa., for three years, and then left the Benedictines in 2012 to pursue the diocesan priesthood.
Born in Bronxville and raised in Bardonia, he is the second of five children of Donald and Marilyn Colucci, both of whom are 86. He has two brothers and two sisters. The family belonged to St. Anthony’s parish in Nanuet until Thomas was about 10, and then moved to St. Francis of Assisi in West Nyack.
He earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees in physical education, having attended American University in Washington, D.C., Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., and SUNY Cortland.
His summer assignment for three years was at St. Margaret of Cortona, the Bronx. As a deacon, he served at Annunciation-Our Lady of Fatima parish, Crestwood.
“I just love the people in New York,” Father Colucci said. “There’s nothing like our city. I’m looking forward to serving them as a priest.”
Father Colucci will celebrate his First Mass and deliver the homily Sunday, May 29, at 3:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in West Nyack.