Remarkable Catholic men

The very public deaths of three remarkable men in recent weeks have deeply touched our Catholic community of Long Island.

Police officers potentially put their lives on the line every day. For Nassau County Highway Officer Michael Califano, what seemed like a routine traffic stop on Feb. 5 became the moment when he gave his life while serving the public. In the ensuing days, we learned that the graduate of St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School had been a most exemplary and dedicated public servant, much loved and respected by his colleagues. Yet the “tidal wave of grief” among fellow officers described by Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey — and surely among members of his Maria Regina, Seaford parish, as well — was as nothing compared to the grief and loss suffered by the family of this loving husband and “best dad ever” to his three sons, in the words of 11 year-old Christopher.

Just five days after Officer Califano’s funeral, Kellenberg Memorial High School history teacher and athletic director Edward Solosky was killed in an auto accident in Delaware, as he drove home from his aunt’s funeral. The endless line of mourners at his wake at Kellenberg — and the grief etched on faces, especially those of so many students and alumni — spoke to the love that Ed Solosky had generated during his 20 years at the school. Looking at all the displays of photos, reading the written messages posted around the building, and listening to the conversations among students and parents, alumni, faculty and administrators, one easily got a sense of a joy-filled, faith-filled man who transmitted that joy and faith to all who knew him, and made learning — whether in the classroom or on the athletic field — a joyful experience.

And yet, again, a man who meant so much to the countless thousands of lives he touched, meant even more to his family; and the loss felt not only at Kellenberg and Chaminade, where he graduated in 1980, but throughout the Catholic high school community of Long Island, cannot begin to approach the unimaginable pain and loss felt by his wife, his two little girls, his parents and siblings.

For 89 year-old Vito Badalamente, each day of his life in recent years included a walk from the senior housing complex in Hicksville where he lived, to nearby Holy Family Church, where he would light a candle in prayerful memory of his late wife Rosalie. Tragically, as he did so last Thursday, he was badly burned when his clothing accidently ignited; and despite the heroic efforts of several parish priests, Mr. Badalamente — a World War II veteran who received the Purple Heart after being wounded at the Battle of the Bulge — died later in the hospital.

We cannot help but be moved by the evident depth of this man’s devotion to his wife that motivated him to repeat this simple act of spiritual love for her, every day since her death eight years ago; and again, we can only imagine the grief of his family at the loss of such a loving father and grandfather.

Those who knew these men grieve for them, and reach out, in whatever way they can, to honor them by giving love and support to their families. The rest of us offer our prayers, for these men and their families; and we pray also that we may take inspiration from their extraordinary example: of loving sacrifice and service to others; of love and devotion to family; and of humble, prayerful faith in God.

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