1921 & 1926 – Rev Joseph M. Congedo

Father Congedo, pastor of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, 315 East Thirty-third Street, Manhattan, New York would soon be called to another famous Italian’s sick bed and would forever be known not for his good works and deeds but associated with this second visit.

The first visit occurred on 16 Feb 1921, Father Congedo and Father Molinelli were called to administer the last rights at the 18th floor apartment, Hotel Vanderbilt of famous tenor Enrico Caruso a friend of Rudolph Valentino reported to be in serious condition due to a recent heart attack.   Upon their arrival Caruso asked both priests “what are you here for”?  Not wanting to alarm him they said they were in the area inquiring after a friend’s health and heard he was still ill thought they would stop by to hope he would pull through.  During time spent with the famous patient who suggested final rites be performed.

The second visit occurred on 23 Aug 1926, Father Congedo was called to the bedside of fellow Italian Silent Film Star Rudolph Valentino to listen to his final confession and administer last rites of the Catholic Church.  During time spent at his bedside, Father Congedo concerned for the patient’s mortal soul, knew time was of the essence and quickly set up a small altar containing holy oil, a relic of St. Therese, candles in his hospital room.  After Father Congedo spent time with Valentino he left the hospital via the main entrance where he was met by a large crowd of newspaper reporters eager for small details of his visit.  The father talked about giving him comfort and speaking to him in Italian and providing religious comfort to someone a fellow catholic.  During the first funeral service for Valentino at St. Malachi Church Father Congedo attended.

The Reverend was considered a saint within the Italian American community.   He came to New York direct from the Pontifical Vatican Seminary, Rome, Italy. In 1905, he was ordinated and furthered his religious education at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers where he received his Doctorate Degree.  In 1911, he embraced his new country by becoming an American citizen.  In 1915, he was accredited by the Catholic regents and had Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, a two-story brick church built at an enormous cost of $35,000. Father Congedo helped establish Immaculata High School the only Italian High School at the time.  Active in the Italy America Society he never forgot his roots and did what he could to help his fellow countrymen.  Father Congedo pastored the church until his death in 1954.  In Jan 2007, Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church closed its doors for good and was demolished due to money and lack of attendance.  Church papers and items were sent to the Archbishop of New York.

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