Father Peter Colapietro, the New York priest credited by actor Mickey Rourke with saving his life, has died at 69.
In 1994, furious upon hearing that his then-drug-addicted wife had been raped, Rourke grabbed a gun and went in search of revenge. Instead, he felt an urge to enter the Church of Holy Cross in New York City’s Times Square. There, the pastor saw him.
From a 2009 story in Our Sunday Visitor:
“I reached a place in my life where living was living hard. I was at a crossroads. Because I was raised Catholic, I had issues with the dark side of life I was drifting in,” Rourke said. “I didn’t know this man, Father Peter. I just walked in his church one day, walked in the right door and met the right priest.”
Father Colapietro managed to talk Rourke out of his plan. “He took away my gun and had me leave the note with St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes. And he said that part of my life could be over now and I still had the opportunity to do things over again.”
Ever since, Rourke and Father Colapietro stayed friends, with the priest hearing Rourke’s confessions, and the two sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.
Said Father Colapietro to OSV:
He definitely is a man of faith and believes in God’s presence in the world.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Father Colapietro had passed away from emphysema. He’d been living at a rehab facility in the Bronx and died at Montefiore Medical Center.
Father Colapietro worked in two other Manhattan churches aside from Holy Cross. He spent two years at the Church of St. Monica on East 79th Street; in 2015, he was assigned to St. Malachy, known as the Actors Chapel, on West 49th Street. From the St. Malachy website:
It is with heavy hearts that we must announce the passing or our beloved pastor, Rev. Peter M. Colapietro. Funeral arrangements have been made at
St. Monica’s at 413 East 79th Street
Wake hours will be from 3:00-8:00 pm on Friday, February 9th. The Funeral Service is scheduled 11:00 am on Saturday, February 10th.
As Fr. Pete served at several parishes in Manhattan, the funeral is being held at St. Monica’s according to his request in order to best accommodate the mourners.
Standing 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, Father Colapietro cut a distinctive figure. According to the Times, he described himself as “just a regular, run-of-of-the-mill priest.” But, having served as chaplain for the New York’s Sanitation Department, the Manhattan Restaurant and Liquor Dealers’ Association, the Metro-North Railroad and the Uniformed Firefighters Association, he was friend and spiritual support to the city’s working class.
Born and raised in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, Colapietro started — but didn’t finish — his priestly career at St. Joseph’s Seminar and College in Yonkers, N.Y. After stints as a construction worker, longshoreman, fisherman and bouncer, he found his way back to the priesthood.
He was also a man who understood his neighborhood. From the Times:
Father Colapietro was forgiving of the gritty world that surrounded him, as when a 200-pound statue of Christ was stolen from Holy Cross. It was returned a week later, and the police dusted the statue for fingerprints.
Father Colapietro said the church would not seek to press charges, even if the police tracked down a suspect. He said the statue had merely been “borrowed,” not stolen.
Image: Courtesy Facebook page for St. Malachy/Actors’ Chapel