The Whitestone community came together to pay tribute to the late Monsignor John C. Tosi of St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church, honoring his contribution to the parish with a street co-naming of Clintonville Street and Locke Avenue on Friday, May 21.
Susan Zaretti, the sister of Monsignor Tosi, elected officials, members of St. Luke Parish, and the Monsignor Dillon Council Knights joined Councilman Paul Vallone for the street co-naming ceremony in front of St. Luke and remembered the cleric as a man who “brought people to Christ.”
The lifelong Queens resident, who was ordained in May 1973 and named monsignor in 1997, served St. Luke Parish for 15 years until his death on May 23, 2020.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards thanked Tosi for serving his community with distinction, supporting young people and families.
“It’s an honor to now be able to memorialize him forever and for our borough to see a sign that never moves,” Richards said. “One hundred years, 200 years from now, there will be people walking past this sign, and they’ll say, ‘Who was he?’ And the people of this community will remind our children and others that he was someone who did it for the love of our community and for the love of our borough.”
Tosi was a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Monsignor Dillon Council Knights in Whitestone advocated for the co-naming of the intersection of Clintonville Street and Locke Avenue.
Enrico Urgo, grand knight of the Monsignor Dillon Council, shared that upon learning of Monsignor Tosi’s death, they thought it would be fitting to memorialize the pastor with a street naming.
Enrico Urgo and Joe Governale spearheaded the effort and proposed the street naming to Community Board 7 and to Vallone, who brought the co-naming proposal to the City Council, after the board approved it in October 2020.
“Not only will Msgr. Tosi be in our thoughts and prayers, but he will be there, overlooking all the parishioners and all the community members that loved him so much,” Urgo said.
Joe Governale, a retired captain with the FDNY, shared that he met Tosi in 1979 after a house fire killed three young children in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Governale recalled that Tosi, a priest at the time, came to the house fire and asked if he could bless the children and the firefighters battling the flames.
“We met him, and he was so emotional, and he was so outreaching to my men and me,” Governale said. “He blessed us, and it touched us all. That’s the type of man he was.”
Vallone recalled that Monsignor Tosi only wanted to best for his community and parish.
“He rebuilt St. Luke’s church and made many renovations to the parish. He will be remembered in this community, in and out of the parish,” Vallone said. “He didn’t stop his work. He was known for his tireless efforts to better the community around him, and he had such an amazing impact.”
State Senator John Liu said that he enjoyed working with Tosi and his parish, adding that his legacy was not only embedded in the street sign, but also by continuing his work.
“It reminds us of the work that he continues to leave behind and the work that we have to pick up and finish,” Liu said.
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein reminisced about the time he and his wife Stephanie met Tosi at a local restaurant while having dinner.
“The atmosphere in the restaurant changed. Everybody turned. Everybody was smiling. People started to get up from their table and go over and shake his hand and say ‘hello,'” Braunstein recalled. “I’ve never seen somebody walk into a restaurant and had that kind of presence, and it’s just a testament to how beloved Monsignor Tosi was in this community.”
Father John Costello, the current pastor of St. Luke, pointed out how appropriate it was that the street sign would read “Monsignor John C. Tosi Way” instead of street or avenue since “his way could be a little intimidating and daunting.”
“But as a pastor,” Costello said, “I know that at the very bottom of his heart, Msgr. John Tosi’s way was the way of Jesus. And so that’s what I hope to model when I see that sign standing there. And in my service to this community succeeding him as a pastor that we can all together continue the work of Jesus.”
Before the unveiling of the street sign, Tosi’s sister, Susan Zaretti, who was presented with an extra sign courtesy of the Department of Transportation, addressed the parish.
Visibly moved, she thanked the parishioners for all the love they had shown her brother during his time as pastor at the church, calling them a wonderful group of people.
“You treated him like family, and he loved this place so much,” Zaretti said. “I thank the council member, the members of the community council and the state senator for being here. It’s just wonderful to see this,” Mrs. Zaretti said. “I ask you for prayers, and I will be praying for St. Luke’s for the rest of my life.”