DEACON JOSEPH PERALTA OFS
Deacon Joseph Peralta has been a fixture at St. Patrick’s for more than 60
years. Current students and alumni recognize his “God is good — all the
time! All the time — God is good!” calling at the end of school Masses — a
saying that resonates with his joyful commitment of service to the parish
and school community.
Deacon Joe was born in Brooklyn on September 18, 1950, to the late Nina
Randazzo and Frank Peralta. He is the oldest of three children (he has one
brother, Anthony, and one sister, Rosa). Deacon Joe attended St.
Malachy’s School in East New York and was taught by the sisters of St.
Joseph. (Nowadays he still recalls and shares the lessons he learned from
the sisters in his homilies!) His first-grade teacher in 1956 was Sister
Stephen Marita, CSJ, who now lives at the mother house in Brentwood and
is now known as Sister Doris Batt. Providentially, the two met again after
40 years and have stayed in touch ever since.
Deacon Joe’s family left Brooklyn in 1961 and moved to Bay Shore, where
he has lived ever since. Deacon Joe’s parents tried to enroll him at St.
Patrick School; however, he said, “as the saying goes, there was no room
at the inn.” As a result, he attended Bay Shore Junior High School (as it
was called at the time) and graduated from Bay Shore High School in 1968.
After high school, Deacon Joe had to register for the draft, as it was during
the Vietnam War. He was in President Nixon’s first draft lotto, which drafted
men between 19 and 26 years old. “My lotto number was high and as a
result I was never called to serve,” he remembered. He later met his “Italian
sweetheart,” Rosa Scalabrino, whom he married at St. Patrick Church on
August 2, 1970. The couple had three children: Frankie, Nina, and Joey,
and as a family they all attended Mass every Sunday at St. Patrick’s. “I
remember a parishioner telling us how she watched our children grow up,”
All three of their children attended St. Patrick School and received their
Sacraments of Initiation at St. Patrick Church. They went on to attend St.
John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip.
Deacon Joe began his involvement at St. Patrick Parish as a young adult in
1976, becoming an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. “This was
the first year the Church allowed laymen to distribute Communion in the
church and bring Communion to shut-ins,” he recalled. For a number of
years, Deacon Joe taught as a catechist for eighth-graders, mainly to
prepare them for Confirmation.
Deacon Joe was also involved with Rainbows for All God’s Children, which
meant meeting children who are grieving the loss of a loved one because
of death or divorce. For more than 25 years, Deacon Joe has prepared new
parents for their babies’ baptism and for raising children in the faith. He has
also helped run the parish’s RCIA program for teaching adults who wish to
become Catholic or adult Catholics who need to complete their Sacraments
of Initiation. “RCIA was the most rewarding experience,” he commented.
Deacon Joe also served as a missionary to an orphanage in El Salvador,
went on three missions trips to the Dominican Republic, and went on a
missionary trip to Jamaica. “Missionary work was both joyful and sad,” he
said. “Such poverty is not seen here in the United States.” He also traveled
with a group to Florida, working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring
children with a critical illness as much happiness as possible. Currently, on
Thursdays, Deacon Joe volunteers at the parish’s hospitality soup kitchen
as one of the cooks, preparing food for the hungry. He also meets every
week with the third- and fourth-grade students of St. Patrick School in the
school chapel, spreading and increasing the faith of the students, of whom
he said: “They are a joy!”
In 1989, Deacon Joe was sent for diaconate studies at Immaculate
Conception Seminary in Huntington by the pastor of St. Patrick at the time,
Monsignor Emmett Fagan. After five years of study, Deacon Joe was
ordained by Bishop John McGann on May 21, 1994, at St. Agnes Cathedral
in Rockville Centre. He was the first permanent deacon ordained to serve
at St. Patrick Church. It is rare in the Catholic Church to receive all seven
sacraments; however, married permanent deacons do after receiving the
Sacrament of Matrimony and then the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
Among his duties as a deacon are daily Mass, prayer services, officiating at
weddings — a total of 301 to date — wake services, committals at the
cemetery, daily recitation of the Rosary, visiting the sick, and performing
baptisms — 1,937 babies since his ordination.
Franciscan Brother Edward Bacon, OSF, Deacon Joe’s spiritual director at
the time, was a great influence on him entering the secular Franciscan
order (OFS — Latin for ordo Franciscanus saecularis) on October 22,
2011. It is the third branch of the Franciscan family, formed by men and
women who seek to observe the Gospel of Jesus by following the example
of St. Francis of Assisi. Brother Vincent Adams, OSF, also a familiar face at
St. Patrick Church, is the fraternity’s spiritual assistant.
“As a clergyman I give thanks to my wife for allowing me to spend time
away from home and to serve others. I thank her for all her generosity and
for playing a role in my diaconate discernment,” Deacon Joe said. “To
serve others as a deacon is a call from God; my saying yes to his call
allows me to respond to the needs of others. This has been my joy.”