A staple of Pelham Bay, and a major figure who helped shape that community as a whole, has moved on after two decades.
Father Robert Grippo, pastor of St. Theresa Parish for 23 years, was recently re-assigned to a new parish by Timothy Cardinal Dolan as part of the Archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative “Making All Things New”. Fr. Grippo is a member of an advisory council for “Making All Things New.”
Serving the parish for two decades, many remember that in the early years Fr. Grippo increased enrollment in the parish school, and went on to oversee the founding of the successful annual St. Theresa Feast.
Fr. Grippo has been reassigned to the Church of the Annunciation in Crestwood, Yonkers. The new pastor at St. Theresa is Monsignor Thomas Derivan from St. Helena’s Church in Parkchester.
According to Father Richard Morano, who was an alter-boy when Fr. Grippo was appointed pastor in 1991, the elder priest brought a public persona to the position.
“When he first came to the parish, he was very public,” said Morano, in a statement released by the parish. “He brought the parish to life.”
Beginning in 2008, Grippo worked with St. Theresa principal Josephine Fanelli to house a new universal pre-K program at the school for four-year-olds.
“He had the vision to see that universal pre-K could make a difference in the school community and the whole Pelham Bay community,” said Fanelli.
She added: “It provides free pre-school to the people of our community. At that time it began it was two-and-half-hours of free pre-K for four-year-olds. Now we are providing six hours and 20 minutes a day for four-year-olds. He knew that the community needed it, we did it, and we filled up.”
That pre-K program had 36 students during its first year, and last year had 92, she said.
Fanneli also recalled that when Fr. Grippo first arrived at the parish, people began “flocking back.”
“When he spoke with you,” she said, “you felt like you were the most important person in the room.”
Fr. Grippo was reassigned in mid-July. He was also a deacon at the church in 1971 and 1972, according sources.