Fr. Anthony R. Picariello, SJ, died peacefully in the early morning of October 17, 2019. He was born on May 30, 1930, in Brighton, a mostly Irish section of Boston west of downtown, near the cardinal’s residence and the archdiocesan seminary. Fr. Picariello later said that, growing up, he thought he was Irish, he knew so few kids from Italian families. He was the younger of the two sons of Louis and Catherine Picariello. His father was a fruit and vegetable buyer for a number of markets in eastern Massachusetts and Fr. Picariello sometimes went with him on his early morning visits to the wholesale sellers in Boston. His mother often worked in his grandfather’s fruit and vegetable store in nearby Newton Corner.
When Fr. Picariello was nine the family moved to Newton Corner and subsequently he graduated from Newton High School, then, as now, a very strong school academically. Fr. Picariello had started grade school a year earlier than usual, so he was only sixteen when he graduated from high school. He took business and accounting courses at Bentley and Northeastern and, in 1951, left home to study accounting at the University of Omaha, chosen because he could live with his aunt there, who had been recently discharged from the Navy. In Omaha, on his brother Louie’s advice, he entered a Naval Reserve program. When he returned to Boston to work in the accounting department of a company that made gyroscopes for jet fighters, his Naval Reserve assignment was in intelligence work, monitoring Russian messages in code. His skill with numbers and his photographic memory brought him to the attention of his superiors and marked him for future success.
But Fr. Picariello was restless. He had been attending St Ignatius Church, in Chestnut Hill, where he often talked with a Jesuit brother about the Society. He made a retreat at Gloucester. He was also seeing a young woman he had met at his grandfather’s store. Then, one day, a group of friends in the decoding project invited him to join them on a weekend retreat at Campion Hall, the Jesuit retreat house in North Andover. There he decided he wanted to become a Jesuit brother.
So, on August 2, 1956, an Irish friend and a Jewish friend drove him to St. Andrew’s, the New York Province novitiate at Poughkeepsie, New York, on the Hudson River (the Shadowbrook fire had occurred the previous March). That same day, Frank Cluff, Don Murray, and six other New Englanders entered the novitiate to become brothers. Fr. Picariello worked in the infirmary and joined the other brother novices in cooking and working on the grounds. He took first vows in 1959, and that summer the New England men moved to the new Shadowbrook. There, Fr. Picariello had various jobs running the house, as was common for brothers then, including taking care of the boiler. He also took some courses at a business school in nearby Pittsfield.
In 1961, the treasurer at Weston College died suddenly and Fr. Picariello, with his accounting background, replaced him for three years, with such mentors as Fr. George Nolan and the legendary Fr. Tom “Daddy” McDermott. Then he spent three years working at the Jesuit Seminary Guild (the chief fundraising activity of the province in those days), with Bro. Jim McDavitt and Fr. Michael Pierce. In the spring of 1967, Fr. Picariello was assigned to Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River, Massachusetts, where Jesuits had just taken over responsibility for the school. There he was minister and treasurer of the community and installed an accounting system for the community and, subsequently, the school. He was there for seven years (1967-1974), interrupted by six months in the brothers’ tertianship at Clarkson, Michigan. In 1974, he was asked to go to Boston College High School as treasurer.
For some time, since a 1972 retreat at Gloucester with Brian Duffy, the idea had been recurring in his prayer that he was called to the priesthood. The provincial approved, and in 1976 Fr. Picariello began four years of study at Pope John the 23rd Seminary, for older candidates for priesthood, in Weston. He earned an M.Div. and, along with his theology studies, a business degree from Boston College. In June 1980, he was ordained to the priesthood during a province assembly at the College of the Holy Cross.
Over the following 20 years, Fr. Picariello was involved in parish work in Newton, St. Julia’s Parish in Weston, and Key Largo, Florida—where he was so well-liked that the pastor wanted to move out and let Fr. Picariello do all the parish work. During this time, somewhat reluctantly, because he wanted to do as much pastoral work as possible, he spent periods at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge (1981-1983) and at Campion Center (2001-2007), where his business skills were in demand.
In 2008, he moved to the assisted-living section of Campion Center. His health began a long decline. He was asked if he wanted to take part in the province’s oral history program. Towards the end of the taped interview, he was asked whether, as he looked back on his life, there was any memory that stood out. Fr. Picariello replied:
I remember especially what happened to me at twenty-two, as I was sitting looking out at the waves at Gloucester. I somehow knew that I would never marry. And I wasn’t quite sure what was happening to me. But there it was, the beginning of God’s special grace for me, to say nothing of the wonderful people he sent me during my life. Some were sad, some happy, but all of them were holy.