Father Ildebrando E. Schifalacqua, 93 and a priest for almost 69 years, died in West Cape May, N.J., April 27.
Born in South Philadelphia, the son of the late Ildebrando Schifalacqua and the late Ida De Sanctis Schifalacqua, he was educated in Philadelphia public schools and briefly at Roman Catholic High School before entering a program at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary at age 15.
He was ordained May 29, 1943 at the unusually young age of 24 by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, and his first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Anthony Parish in Easton.
He subsequently served as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Angels in Philadelphia and SS. Cosmas and Damian in Conshohocken. In 1948 he was named pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in Coatesville followed by St. Michael of the Saints in Philadelphia.
In 1966 he became pastor of the former Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Philadelphia, where he remained until 1993, when he was named pastor emeritus. He later assisted in retirement at St. Bartholomew Parish in Philadelphia, before returning to what was his childhood family summer home in West Cape May.
“He was a man who truly enjoyed being a priest, and always wanted to be a role model,” said his niece, Jackie Schifalacqua Atkins. “He would go out of his way not to be angry.”
In his family each child was required to write a letter every Christmas about what they did and their future aspirations, she explained, and “he wanted to become a priest from the time he was 5 years old,” she said.
Father Louis P. Bellopede, who was raised in Our Lady of Loreto Parish, remembers Father Schifalacqua from the day his father enrolled him at the parish school.
“He was there for my first grade, he was there for my first penance, he was there for my first communion, for my eighth grade graduation and my high school graduation,” he said. “He wrote the letter for me to be admitted to St. Charles, and he attended my ordination and my first Mass.”
When he was a seminarian, Father Schifalacqua sold him a car formerly used by the parish convent for $1, Father Bellopede recalls.
“He was a friendly neighborhood guy and everyone knew him; we called him ‘Father Boss,’” he said. “He was a gentleman in all respects and a brilliant preacher; I still use some of his points in my homilies.”
With that said, he wasn’t above doing small repairs around the parish just to save money, he noted. “He looked tough on the outside but inside he was a teddy bear and we all loved him,” Father Bellopede said.
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas celebrated Father Schifalacqua’s funeral Mass May 4 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Cape May.
“I was impressed by the number of priests who traveled all that way from Philadelphia for the funeral,” Bishop Thomas remarked, “and also the number of lay faithful from his parish assignments.”
Concelebrants included Msgr. James P. McCoy, who was the homilist; Father Gasper A. Genuardi, Father Bellopede and Father James J. Anziano, who gave a reflection.
Father Schifalacqua is also survived by his brother, Italo Schifalacqua, and many nieces and nephews.
Interment was at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Springfield.