Italian-American Father Nicholas Colalella, 24, who began discerning his priestly call in high school, is ready to cast his life for God.
“Ultimately you hear the Lord in your ear calling you to work on the vineyard, to imitate Christ” he said. “What is the best way to do that for me? Dropping everything and following Him.”
Born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to Marco and Lisa, he moved to Queens as a toddler. Like his younger sisters, Maria and Giuliana, he grew up in St. Margaret parish, Middle Village.
He attended Xavier H.S., a Jesuit military school in Manhattan, where he graduated as a cadet-captain with honors in 2008.
He enrolled at Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston, and St. John’s University, Jamaica. He graduated from St. John’s with a degree in philosophy and ancient studies in 2011.
He was sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome and completed his degree of bachelor of sacred theology summa cum laude at the Pontifical Gregorian University.
He is pursuing a licentiate in biblical sciences at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, with a focus on biblical languages, including Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.
His studies of Scripture have strengthened his understanding of the sacraments.
Casting His Lot
“When we read that the soldiers at the foot of the cross cast lots to see who would get the garment of Christ, the word ‘lot’ in Greek is ‘kleros’ which is where the word cleric comes from,” Father Colalella said.
“To be a priest, as St. Jerome would say, we cast our lot, we cast our lives for Christ.”
His thirst to follow Christ came at an early age, when his grandmother took him to St. James Church near Chinatown and a priest asked, “Why don’t you become a priest?”
“I was four years old,” he said. “I always remembered that.”
But he truly considered being a priest in high school.
“There were images of St. Ignatius and there was one of him laying down his military armor before the statue of Our Lady,” he recalled.
“I was in the military program and that spoke to me. I felt called to do something in the service of Christ.”
Another influential moment was Pope Benedict XVI’s election in 2005. Through Benedict’s writings, Father Colalella started reading the letters of St. Paul, which guided his spiritual journey.
He also credits his family, priests and the Italian community at St. Margaret with nurturing his vocation.
Some of the priests that guided him were Father Joseph Wilson, parochial vicar, and Msgr. Steven Aguggia, pastor, from St. Margaret, and Msgr. Michael Farmer, from the Archdiocese of Mobile, Ala., who was his adviser in Rome.
While in Rome, he served at a parish in his father’s hometown in Abruzzo, Italy, and studied German in Dusseldorf for a summer.
In the summer of 2013, he worked at St. Dominic parish, Bensonhurst. The experience defined his desire to serve others, he said.
Last year, he served at St. Margaret, his home parish. He also came back from Rome during Lent and Holy Week, and led the weekly Stations of the Cross and a day of prayer.
“It is incredible to be back because people you have seen your whole life are overwhelmingly encouraging,” he said.
Other sources of inspiration include St. Anthony of Padua and Our Lady of Humility, the patroness of the North American College.
“I want to be a humble priest, to put other’s needs before me and forget myself,” he said. “It’s taking yourself off and putting Christ on.”
Father Colalella will celebrate his first Mass of thanksgiving at St. Margaret Church, on Sunday, June 28, at 10:15 a.m.