WHITESTONE — “God has big plans for you!” was recalled as the iconic quote of Msgr. John Tosi, the former pastor of 15 years at St. Luke’s Church in Whitestone. On a sunny Friday afternoon, crowds gathered outside the Queens church on May 21 to witness one plan that God had in store to remember the late priest’s life: the unveiling of the street sign co-named after him.
“As pastor, I know that at the very bottom of his heart, Msgr. John Tosi’s way was the way of Jesus,” said the church’s current pastor, Father John Costello, “and so that’s what I hope to model when I see that sign standing there and in my service to this community seceding him as pastor, that we can all together continue the work of Jesus and make it His way.”
Cheers and claps erupted as the crowd counted down the unveiling of Msgr. John C. Tosi Way on the corner of Locke Avenue and Clintonville St. Guests, which included his family and friends, erupted in joy from the unveiling, which led to more cheers and clapping. People at the ceremony lined up outside the church and rectory and took out their smartphones to capture the moment.
The street co-naming event was the culmination of months of planning by the Whitestone Knights of Columbus Monsignor Dillon Council #5872 with the assistance of the local community board and Councilman Paul Vallone.
After Msgr. Tosi passed in May 2020, the Knights wanted a special way to memorialize their former council chaplain and member. Knights’ member Joe Governale, a retired firefighter, presented the idea to the council’s Grand Knight, Enrico Urgo.
“It was met with great reception and we would like to thank both Community Board 7 and Councilman Vallone’s office for all the help to get our motion approved,” said Urgo. “Msgr. Tosi will now not only be in all of our thoughts and prayers, but also can look over all the parishioners of St. Luke and community members when they attend services.”
Vallone proposed the idea of the street co-naming to the city council in October 2020. In December, nearly seven months after the late priest passed, the city council officially approved the plan.
Larger than life
The councilman referred to Msgr. Tosi as “larger than life.”
“He micromanaged with love and a passion that you don’t often see anymore,” Vallone said. “It’s a beautiful way to celebrate spring and his legacy.”
Msgr. Tosi, 73, lived, was educated, and served — more than 45 years in the diocese — in Queens for most of his life. He was born in Flushing and attended St. Ann’s School. He attended Msgr. McClancy H.S. in East Elmhurst and then went on to study at Cathedral College in Douglaston. For his seminary formation, he attended Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington. He was ordained in May 1973 by Bishop Francis J. Mugavero at St. James Co-Cathedral in Downtown Brooklyn.
He served as pastor at St. Luke’s from January 2005 until his death in May 2020.
Father Thomas V. Doyle, a long-time friend and pastor of Good Shepherd Church in Sheepshead Bay, told The Tablet last year how Msgr. Tosi rebuilt St. Luke’s Church and made many renovations to the Queens parish based on his experiences with the Diocesan Liturgical Commission.
“We remember at his 40th-anniversary celebration — when he was asked about how he wanted to be remembered — he said, ‘I tried to be a good priest. I tried to bring people to Christ’ ” Father Doyle recalled. “I think that’s how people will remember him.”