Search the Directory

Rev. Ralph A. Villani

Deceased: 2008-02-02

Diocese: NEW YORK

Seminary Graduation Year: 1969


Father Ralph A. Villani, who had been pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Mount Kisco and a high school teacher in the Bronx and Staten Island, died Feb. 2, 2008 at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. He was 64 and had served most recently at St. Joseph’s parish in New Rochelle.

Cardinal Egan celebrated the Funeral Mass Feb. 8 at St. Francis of Assisi Church. The homilist was Auxiliary Bishop Dominick J. Lagonegro, co-vicar of Orange County and pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Newburgh.

Bishop Lagonegro celebrated the Mass of the Holy Eucharist Feb. 7 at St. Francis of Assisi. The homilist was Msgr. Thomas P. Sandi, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Shrub Oak.

Bishop Lagonegro told CNY that he had known Father Villani since they began studying together as freshmen at Cathedral Prep.

“He had a very great love for the Church” and for his Italian heritage, Bishop Lagonegro said.

Msgr. Sandi, who grew up in Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in the Bronx, as Father Villani did, described him as a scholarly man who loved books, classical music and the Italian language, which he spoke fluently. He said that as a priest, Father Villani “enthusiastically celebrated the sacraments, was an excellent administrator and believed in the education of the laity.”

In 1994 and 1995, Father Villani led a renovation of St. Francis of Assisi Church that was “truly magnificent,” Msgr. Sandi said. He noted that Father Villani made a point of bringing parishioners into the project. “He insisted that it be done with and for the people,” he said. “He made sure there was a lay committee who discussed the things that were going to be done.”

Father Villani was appointed administrator of St. Francis of Assisi in 1993 and was made pastor later that year. He was reappointed in 1999 and served until 2005, when he became parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s. For the past year he had been ill.

Msgr. Sandi said that Father Villani’s service to the Church in the last year of his life was best characterized by the words of Jesus to his Father, “Not my will, but yours, be done.”

Father Philip J. Caruso, pastor of St. Joseph’s in New Rochelle, also grew up in Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish and knew Father Villani as a boy. He remarked that like many boys at the parish, Father Villani was deeply influenced by the life and example of two beloved priests who served there, both now deceased: Bishop Joseph M. Pernicone and Father Nicholas F. Milazzo.

“He was very dedicated to the priesthood and to the Church,” Father Caruso said.

Father Villani was born in the Bronx and studied at Cathedral College, St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie and Gregorian University in Rome, where he earned a licentiate in sacred theology.

“We looked up to him as a model of scholarship and a hardworking student,” Msgr. Sandi said.

Father Villani was ordained in St. Peter’s Basilica in 1968. He was a parochial vicar at St. Philip Neri, 1969-1973, and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 1973-1976, both in the Bronx. Assigned to teach, he served at Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx, 1985-1993, and Msgr. Farrell High School on Staten Island, 1976-1985. He taught Italian and Latin, and at Spellman he was a guidance counselor and worked in development.

He is survived by a brother, Vincent.

Burial was at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.