A Year After Death, Msgr. Guastella Remembered as ‘Sacramental Priest’

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Msgr. Richard J. Guastella, a longtime pastor on Staten Island who died April 9, 2020 at age 73, was respectfully and affectionately remembered at a Memorial Mass at St. Clare’s Church, Staten Island.

Msgr. Guastella had served as a pastor on Staten Island for more than 30 years, first at Holy Rosary, 1987-2008, and then at St. Clare’s, where he became pastor in 2008.

Cardinal Dolan, who offered the April 9 Memorial Mass, in concluding remarks thanked the faithful of St. Clare’s “for remembering him with such gratitude and reverence.”

He recalled a year ago, “we were in the midst of a Good Friday. And that Good Friday, that eclipse of the sun, and that earth tremoring with sorrow that happened that first Good Friday, it really happened here as we got word of Father Guastella’s passing…

“But it’s always Easter Sunday that has the last word, and that’s what Father Guastella would tell us today.

“So we gather to honor him, to express our love and gratitude, to keep asking the Lord’s mercy, as Father Richard would ask us to do upon his noble soul. And to thank God for the gift that he was to us.”

Concelebrants included Retired Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara, Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen and Father Arthur Mastrolia, pastor of St. Clare’s. Father Walter Modrys, S.J., was the homilist.

According to a letter posted on the St. Clare’s parish website last year, Msgr. Guastella died after battling Covid-19, which resulted in his hospitalization. Cardinal Dolan presided at the burial last year on April 14  at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne.

Msgr. Guastella was also parochial vicar of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Manhattan, 1983-1987, and Holy Rosary, the Bronx, 1972-1980. From 1980 to 1983, he served as vocation director for the archdiocese.

Born in New York City, he attended Cathedral College and St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. He was ordained by Cardinal Terence Cooke at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1972. He was named a monsignor in 1995.

Father Modrys, in his homily at the Memorial Mass, recalled meeting Msgr. Guastella when the two were stationed together at Holy Rosary, the Bronx.

“Richard was the finest priest I have ever known,” he said.

“He was a sacramental priest in a sacramental Church, but in a very special way. That was Richard’s gift—to bring the sacraments to life. It was centered on the Eucharist, of course, but it wasn’t just what happens in church….

“Richard used the ritual to communicate the Word, just as he used his preaching to articulate in words the same message.” 

There was a tenderness and humor, reverence and welcome, challenge and patience, appreciation and gratitude, forgiveness and acceptance, “all the attributes of Christ, whose person he was celebrating and introducing sometimes to people who had distanced themselves for too long from the source of grace,” Father Modrys said, “but Richard was bringing them back by reminding them gently of what they had been missing.”

Father Modrys said that in his memory, “I see Richard most running off to do a baptism, or to preside at a wedding or to celebrate a Mass. And you just knew the people he served were going to leave that sacramental moment filled with a renewed joy and confidence…”

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