Fr. John Nazzaro, who has been the face of the Salesian Boys & Girls Club in East Boston throughout his tenure, announced last month he would be leaving East Boston for a new assignment in New Jersey.
On Thursday, Aug. 16, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Winthrop Lodge of Elks the community will honor Fr. Nazzaro’s tenure in Eastie and the impact he has had on countless children and families.
“It has been a privilege to have Father John here over the past few months,” said Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Mike Triant, who took over as head of the club after Fr. Nazzaro transitioned to the position of director of mission. “His willingness to do so much to assist with the transition is a true testament to the high level of care that he has for the club. He has done amazing work here for so long and I am truly blessed to be the successor to someone who has worked diligently on behalf of the club and formed so many meaningful long lasting relationships with the community. That is truly what makes our Boys & Girls club the vibrant organization that we are today.”
Provincial of the Salesians of St. John Bosco Fr. Tim Zak recently informed Fr. Nazzaro that he will be transferred officially to Don Bosco Prep High in Ramsey, N.J., in August.
Before assuming his new responsibilities, he will be attending classes at the Chicago Theological Union in Chicago, Ill.
Fr. Nazzaro has been associated in a variety of responsibilities at the Salesian Boys & Girls Club in the past 35 years–as executive director for the past 11 years and more recently as director of mission for the club.
“Father John is the fabric of what it means to be from East Boston,” said East Boston District Court Chief of Probation Thomas Tassinari, a longtime friend of Fr. Nazzaro’s. “He truly cares about the community, the population, the kids, everything that we all work together to preserve. Everything that we fought for and continue to fight for to keep this community the safe place that it has always been. I, like many others, will miss him but we will try to carry on his work in the face all the forces that try to stop us. Godspeed father, our loss is truly the gain of those you will continue to serve.”
Fr. Nazzaro, who grew up in Eastie and graduated from St. Dominic Savio, lived on Falcon Street. As a young person going to the Salesian Boys & Girls Club and Dom Savio High School Fr. Nazzaro fell in love with the Salesian spirit and the traditions of its founder, St. John Bosco. As a boy a Salesian Brother gave him the book “Wolves to Lambs,” it was about how St. John Bosco changed young people from wolves to lambs by being kind to them and giving them a safe place to play.
“Father John has built the Salesians Boys & Girls club into a safe home for hundreds and hundreds of children were they can go and play, learn and more importantly feel safe,” said longtime community leader Joseph Ruggiero, who owns the Ruggiero Memorial Home in Eastie and is a close friend of Fr. Nazzaro’s. “He hired many alumni of the program to teach children in the club and made it a learning experience as they made a few dollars. He raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by meeting business people in our community. Once you met Father John you loved him. He covered parishes from Boston to Melrose for daily masses funerals, last rites or just to sit with a family and listen. We can list many priests over the years that helped our community, but very few were Fr. John Nazzaro. He is my dear friend and I think it is fair to say all that knew him will have a void in their life. The children in New Jersey will be very lucky to have Father John in their lives. May god bless Father John and the Salesian Boys & Girls club.”
Both Rep. Adrian Madaro and City Councilor Lydia Edwards said Fr. Nazzaro was instrumental and helped them grow and realize the plight of many low-income children in the community.
“Father John is the shining example of service of humility and love,” said Edwards. “Countless generations of children’s lives were made better because of his dedication. His shoes will be tough to fill. Our hearts will be with him forever.”
While Madaro said he was always just a phone call away.
“First as former Rep. Carlo Basile’s Chief of Staff and now as State Representative I never saw Father John hesitate to help a child or a family in need,” said Madaro. “Anytime I called him and asked for his assistance and guidance and what the best course of action was to help a family or a child he was there. He never wanted fanfare, stories, or tributes. All he ever asked in return was that the community supported the Boys & Girls Club and his mission in the community. When I think of all the kids and families he has helped over the years in East Boston I’m truly awestruck by his dedication, passion, energy and love for the community he called home for so many years.”