Fr. Pucci an inspiration for 70 years

  • April 15, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO, Ont. - Over seven decades in the priesthood, Fr. Angelo Pucci has been a fine example of the priesthood to many.

In fact, his friends at Oakville’s St. James Barnabite parish say the 93-year-old former science and chemistry teacher has inspired at least seven former altar boys from the parish to enter the priesthood.

As Pucci approaches his 70th anniversary as a Barnabite priest, associate pastor Fr. Louis Lenssen, CRSP, said he admires Pucci’s example.

“He’s a gentle, caring individual. He has a great deal of faith and devotion,” said Lenssen, one of the former altar servers who entered the priesthood. He was part of the parish’s youth group when Pucci was the pastor of St. James parish.

It was Pucci’s encouragement, along with the youth director, and witnessing his active involvement in the community that led to Lenssen wanting to become a priest, he said.

On May 9, the parish is planning an anniversary dinner to celebrate Pucci’s milestone anniversary.

Pucci was born in Torino, Italy, and came to Canada in 1964. His father was a general in the Italian army and his mother cared for Pucci, his sister and two brothers

At 15, Pucci entered the novitiate and was inspired by his own teachers at the school run by the order of the Clerics Regular of St. Paul, also known as Barnabite priests. Since the age of six he had been taught by the Barnabites and he said he wanted to be a teacher like them.

Pucci was a high school teacher in Genoa, Italy, for 10 years. In 1955, his superiors sent him to Lewiston, N.Y., where he helped build a Barnabite seminary. Eleven years later, Pucci was sent to St. James in Oakville.

As superior of the Barnabite fathers at St. James, Pucci said he enjoyed working with the community.

Known as “nonno,” or grandfather to the mainly Italian-speaking community, Pucci helped parishioners who were new to Canada to adapt to the foreign land.

Current pastor Fr. Frank Ruzza said the parish community continues to be amazed at Pucci’s energy and commitment. Although he’s officially retired, Pucci still brings communion to the sick at the hospital and celebrates Mass at the parish, Ruzza said.

For Pucci, working with others, including young people, is a ministry he said he finds rewarding.

As for his advice to young Catholics, Pucci says there is more to this life than the here and now.

“The tendency is kind of frightening that young people see life (as being) only completed right here,” he said.

“Therefore, when they don’t have what they desire, they lose hope,” Pucci said, adding that he was concerned after hearing that four teenagers in the area had committed suicide.

“The need (for) religion is enormous,” he added. “Thank God, I think a greater number of young people recognize that.”

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