For many residents of New Paltz that are members of St. Joseph Church, having a new addition to the clergy has proven to be positive and has been welcomed with open arms.
The Reverend Salvatore Cordaro, 50, is the newest addition to St. Joseph Church, New Paltz’s only Catholic Church. He served as assistant pastor until the churches previous pastor, Father Bernard, retired this past July. Father Salvatore was officially instated as Pastor on Oct. 26, 2014.
‘Father Sal,’ as he is known to those who attend St. Joseph, grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. He is the son of Sicilian parents who immigrated to the United States in the early ‘60s.
He describes his childhood involvement with the church as being more of a connection to his family’s Italian culture and values than about his personal faith. As a teen, Cordaro attended a Catholic high school but in his 20s he fell away from the church and claimed no faith in a higher power until his early 30s.
Cordaro went to college in New York City and earned a degree in accounting, a career he never pursued. He worked for Barnes and Noble for 25 years, first as a manager and later an executive.
It was around this time that he realized he “needed something more from life” and began to re-examine his religious faith. He studied different religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism before he returned to his Catholic roots.
He said he felt he “was being called to a different life” and initially wanted to become a monk but had reservations about living in such isolation, cut off from everyday society. Instead, he went to church every day and visited different churches throughout the city. Eventually he was drawn to a Franciscan church for its strong message of helping others and its emphasis on the idea that everyone is connected.
Cordaro then began his religious training in Brooklyn where he spent a year living in poverty with other friars. He continued his training in Kansas and finished at Boston College’s School of Theology and where he earned two graduate degrees in theology. He was officially ordained in June of 2012.
His first assignment was in White Plains, New York. He worked worked nine months as a chaplain in a hospital, an associate vocations director and in various parishes in Westchester. The lack of relationships he built through these jobs is what led him to seek a more permanent position at the St. Joseph Church.
The St. Joseph community has welcomed Cordaro with open arms. Kimber Thomas, high school senior and attendee of St. Joseph since birth, described Father Sal as “very nice and sociable.”
Local resident Terri O’Day, who has attended the church with her family for the past five years, spoke kindly of Cordaro, describing his already strong relationships with parishioners, his attentiveness to their needs and his openness to new ideas.
In the future, Father Sal said he looks forward to strengthening relationships among the parishioners at St. Joseph, developing a more family-like atmosphere within the church, as well as with other New Paltz churches.
He also said he hopes to address the issues of poverty, hunger, drug abuse and homelessness that exist in the New Paltz community and looks forward to a long, fulfilling future with the St. Joseph Church.