Diocesan News

Former Youth Minister Has a Way of Her Own

The Dattilo family and present and past clergy of Our Lady of Grace Church were at the unveiling of Barbara Dattilo Way.
The Dattilo family and present and past clergy of Our Lady of Grace Church were at the unveiling of Barbara Dattilo Way.

City Councilman Mark Treyger and Our Lady of Grace parish, Gravesend, hosted a street co-naming ceremony to honor Barbara Dattilo, the founder and former director of the parish’s Youth Ministry program, called the Teen Group.

At the end of the June 14 ceremony, a new street sign was unveiled that co-named the corner of East 2nd Street and Avenue W, “Barbara Dattilo Way.” Dattilo passed away in April of 2014.

Councilman Treyger welcomed those gathered at the event and recalled her impact on the community.

The ceremony included two musical performances from past and current members of the Teen Group. They sang the Star Spangled Banner and then “Let It Be” by the Beatles.

Members of the clergy who have been associated with Our Lady of Grace were also in attendance.

Father Vincent Chirichella, pastor, gave the invocation, blessed the new street sign and announced that the parish is creating a scholarship fund in Dattilo’s memory to help a child attend the parish school.

Father Dominick Cutrone, pastor emeritus; Father James Tighe, co-founder of the Teen Group; and Father Thomas Leach, former pastor of Our Lady of Grace, all spoke of Dattilo’s work with young people.

Several Teen Group leaders who spoke of how she influenced their lives included Patrick Cleary, Steven Eriquez, Joseph Lanzarone and Priscilla Consolo.

Consolo worked with Councilman Treyger and the Dattilo family to pass the co-naming legislation and organize the ceremony. Consolo said Dattilo served as a mentor and second mother to hundreds of young people, including herself.

Members of the Dattilo family in attendance were her husband Tony, sons Michael and John, daughter-in-laws Eva and Desiree, and her three grandchildren: John Jr., Lucy, and Michael Jr. Together they joined Councilman Treyger and the Teen Group leaders to unveil the sign bearing Dattilo’s name. The family also was presented with a replica of the street sign.

Barbara Dattilo was born in Brooklyn and attended P.S. 209, located just a few blocks from the house she grew up in. She graduated from Abraham Lincoln H.S., and briefly attended Brooklyn College before joining the workforce to assist her family.

She was married to her husband in 1971 at Our Lady of Grace Church. She was involved in Our Lady of Grace parish and school through a variety of programs and activities.

Mentored Troubled Teens

In the early 1990s, she volunteered with the Rite of Christian Initiation as Adults (RCIA) program, helping young adults and teens who wanted to learn about the Catholic faith and become full members of the church. While doing that, she learned that many of the program’s members had been impacted during their childhoods and adolescent years by divorce, substance abuse, domestic violence, illnesses and financial problems.

In 1997, with the help of Father Cutrone and Father Tighe, she founded the parish’s Youth Ministry program called Teen Group to help and mentor broken and troubled teens.

She became a certified youth minister and received a certificate in lay ministry from the Diocese of Brooklyn and served as the program director from Teen Group’s creation until her death.

Teen Group provides young people a chance to give back to their community and parish through service projects, as well offering guidance, counseling, and direction to hundreds of teenagers across southern Brooklyn. Through Teen Group, young people learn how to make healthy decisions and grow into successful young adults.

Dattilo was known for her patience, understanding, compassion and unconditional love, which she offered to all who joined Teen Group.

A lifelong resident of Gravesend, she died on April 8, 2014 following a courageous 15-year battle with breast cancer.