The Mass celebrating the 75th anniversary of the priesthood of Msgr. Nicola Marinacci concluded in a most fitting manner, as he gave the final blessing by making the sign of the cross from the sanctuary in a chapel filled with family and friends and fellow residents at Mary Manning Walsh Nursing Home in Manhattan.
Msgr. Marinacci, who turned 102 on Dec. 4, was fully vested and in his place as a concelebrant long before the 9:30 a.m. liturgy began April 3. Around him in the sanctuary were other clergy who reside at the home, including Auxiliary Bishop William McCormack.
Cardinal Dolan, the principal celebrant and homilist, said when he learned of the date of Msgr. Marinacci’s 75th anniversary of ordination, he made sure to mark it on his calendar.
“I said, ‘We can’t let this one go.’ We have to celebrate,” the cardinal told the congregation.
Speaking directly to Msgr. Marinacci, the cardinal said, “We have a lot of good memories…Monsignor, you have been loved wherever you’ve been.”
According to the Office of Priest Personnel, Msgr. Marinacci is currently the longest-serving archdiocesan priest.
Msgr. Marinacci was ordained in his native Italy, where he served until responding to an invitation by Cardinal Spellman to minister to Italian-speaking Catholics in the archdiocese. He immigrated to the United States in 1949 and was incardinated into the archdiocese three years later.
He served at parishes on Staten Island and in Manhattan before becoming pastor of Our Lady of Peace, Manhattan, 1965-1970. He was named a monsignor in 1966.
In 1970, he was named pastor of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, an assignment he held until his retirement 15 years later. Even in retirement, he remained at St. Patrick’s for the next 22 years as pastor emeritus. “That parish is always with me,” Msgr. Marinacci said in a 2010 profile in Catholic New York.
The morning liturgy in Mary Manning Walsh’s first-floor chapel was a joyful one, with the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, who administer the home, sitting together in the first few pews on one side.
Among the other priests who joined the cardinal and Msgr. Marinacci at the altar were Msgr. Donald Sakano, the pastor of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, and two others who serve there, Father Andrew Thi and Father Jonathan Morris, who is the program director of The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.
Deacon Hector Rodriguez, who also serves at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, has known Msgr. Marinacci for many years. He recalled the pastor as a “strong guide” who reached out to the members of the various ethnic groups in the parish. Even when times were tough in the Lower Manhattan neighborhood, Msgr. Marinacci never shied away from his people.
“He said the truth in the street,” said Deacon Rodriguez, who also said that Msgr. Marinacci took to calling him “boss” when he learned he was studying to become a deacon.
Msgr. Marinacci was the guest of honor at a post-Mass breakfast in the 15th-floor dining room at the nursing home. He clearly enjoyed speaking about his days as a college professor in Italy early in his priesthood.
He told CNY he considered it “an honor” that Cardinal Dolan had celebrated the anniversary Mass.
“I feel so happy that God has given me the health to have this celebration today,” he said.