By Francesca Norsen Tate
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Most Reverend Ignatius A. Catanello, Titular Bishop of Deultum and Retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, died after a lengthy illness on Monday, March 11.
Bishop Catanello lived and served in the Diocese of Brooklyn his entire life. The son of the late Nicholas and the late Mary (DeFalco) Catanello and the brother of Deacon Joseph Catanello, he was born on July 23, 1938. He was a parishioner at Most Holy Trinity parish, in Williamsburg, where he attended the parish elementary and high school. He studied for one year at the seminary of the Order of Recollects of St. Augustine in Kansas City, Kansas, and then spent three years at Cathedral College, Brooklyn.
A graduate of St. Francis College, in Brooklyn Heights, Catanello attended Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, Long Island. Then-Archbishop Bryan J. McEntegart ordained Father Catanello to the priesthood on May 28, 1966, at St. James Pro-Cathedral, Downtown Brooklyn.
Fr. Catanello earned two master’s degrees from St. John’s University and a doctorate in religious studies from New York University. He was an adjunct professor of theology at St. John’s. He also served as an assistant pastor at several parishes, including three in Queens, which is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, and in, Bay Ridge, at Our Lady of Angels, from 1987-88. In June 1988, he was named an Episcopal Vicar for Queens South with residence at Holy Family rectory, in Flushing. Pope John Paul II named Fr. Catanello a Prelate of Honor to His Holiness by From 1991 to 1994, Catanello was principal-rector of Cathedral Prep Seminary. St. John’s honored him twice, with its President’s Medal in 1975 and an honorary doctorate of law in 1989.
Bishop Catanello was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Brooklyn on Aug. 22, 1994, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, Sunset Park, with Bishop Thomas V. Daily presiding. The principal co-consecrators were Auxiliary Bishops Joseph M. Sullivan and Rene A. Valero. His appointment as bishop came along with that of former Auxiliary Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito, who now serves as bishop of Palm Beach, Fla. As an auxiliary bishop, he served as Vicar for Clergy and Vicar for Consecrated Life and Apostolic Organizations.
Parish and ecumenical ministry, drug rehabilitation counseling and leadership in clergy associations are highlights of Bishop Catanello’s pastoral legacy to this diocese. He spent nearly a decade as chairman of the diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Commission and was president of the Priests Senate.
“Bishop Catanello was one of the founders of the Ecumenical Commission in the Diocese. After Vatican II, probably 1965 or so, this Commission began to come into existence,” said Monsignor Guy Massie, who has served since 1997 as chairperson for the Ecumenical and Inter-Faith Commission for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn. “He was able to engage many people in conversations, going back through the ‘60s,’70s and the early ‘80s; many people in conversations—both in the ecumenical sphere, which is the Catholic Church and its relationship with other Christian Churches. He was friendly. His personality enhanced conversation. Even if you are discussing very important theological issues, you relate to the person more than you do to the issue. And he was very personable. He also had very good relationships with the local Jewish communities of Brooklyn and Queens. In the Catholic Jewish relations, which came out of the document Nostra Aetate, he was very respected in the Jewish communities—and still is. But you engaged him; and through him you learned about where the Church stood. This is a person who certainly was doctrinally and theologically very Catholic; but was able to discuss with great respect—and fostering a mutual respect—other religious traditions. I would say that, in many ways, this Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission for the Diocese is certainly indebted to Bishop Catanello and men like him.”
Pope Benedict XVI accepted the retirement of Bishop Catanello in September 2010. Bishop Catanello, who was 72 at the time, requested retirement for reasons of health. Normally, bishops offer their resignations at the age of 75. The resignation also applied to his role as pastor of Holy Family parish, Flushing, where he had served as pastor since Jan., 2007.
Serving as pastor was an immense joy to Bishop Catanello throughout his ministry.
“Bishop Catanello was very bright, and had many academic degrees; but he was very, very much the parish priest,” added Msgr. Massie. This is the highest compliment I can pay to him, which is, he was very much the parish priest, and very much in touch with the people. He was open and very welcoming. We are going to miss him. We have missed him out of the scene for many years now. He had been ill for quite some time. It is a big loss to this diocese.”
The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, praised Bishop Catanello’s long service to the Church. “For 47 years, ‘Bishop Iggy’ as so many fondly knew him as, faithfully served the people of the Diocese of Brooklyn. In the last few years, as he struggled with illness, Bishop Catanello identified with Christ. I ask the people of the Diocese of Brooklyn to join me as we pray for the repose of his soul. Bishop Catanello’s favorite phrase was, ‘OK pal.’ I know that he is OK now.”
A wake was held on Wednesday and today, Thursday, March 14, through 7 p.m. at Martin A. Gleason Funeral Homes, 149-20 Northern Boulevard, Flushing. The funeral takes place at the Immaculate Conception Center, 7200 Douglaston Parkway on Friday, March 15, at 11 a.m. Bishop DiMarzio will serve as main celebrant of Bishop Catanello’s Funeral Mass; Bishop Barbarito will serve as homilist. Burial will be at the Bishops Crypt at Immaculate Conception Center, Bishop Mugavero Chapel.