Father Pericone: Priest with big smile and kind heart

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald

It was easy to remember the pronunciation of Father Nicholas Pericone’s last name. Whenever he was new to a parish, he would demonstrate a “pair of ice cream conies” with his hands.

Almost 22 years a priest, Father Pericone died in his sleep March 10 at age 54. His funeral Mass was held at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Metairie.

“He would be the best example of not only showing the Beatitudes but the love every one of us is supposed to have toward others,” his friend, spiritual companion and caretaker Mary Krey said.

Several mentioned Father Pericone’s unique way of interacting with Massgoers. He kept sermons short and didn’t hesitate to use theatrics when needed.

“The way he processed into church,” his brother John Pericone said. “It was like he was he was on a float (in a parade). He always waved in and always waved out. I loved that about him. He was definitely put on this earth to take care of people, and he did. He spiritually took care of a lot of people.”

Father Pericone’s knack for impacting otherswas evident in his actions. Just to name a few: he made personalized scrapbooks for Archbishop Hannan students, crafted exquisite rosaries of the finest materials and often paid for meals and other necessities for needy families.

Moved from Colorado

The baby of four boys, Father Pericone was born in Colorado, but moved with his family to Louisiana as a youngster when his father, Joseph, an engineer, was transferred to Slidell to work at Martin Marietta, which became Lockheed Martin.

His brothers called Father Pericone a jokester, like the rest of them.

“He was a happy child with a big smile,” his brother John Pericone said. “That’s how he lived his life, and that’s how he did his priesthood.”

But behind his childhood smile, Father Pericone hid illness. He had a brain tumor that affected his height, hair growth and sense of smell and also gave him migraines. When the doctors tried to remove a second, smaller brain tumor, most of his pituitary gland was removed, and Father Pericone had to take growth hormones until the 10th grade.

He also had an optic nerve cyst that doctors thought might blind him. Yet, he never complained, his brothers said.

Father Pericone graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes in Slidell and St. Paul’s School in Covington. He earned a degree in management and general business from the University of New Orleans.

But the business world did not suit him, said brother Joe Pericone, who now lives in Albany, New York, and he began discerning a career where he would serve others.

“God has brought me through all this illness, trials and tribulation, and I want to repay him by becoming a priest,” John Pericone recalls his brother often saying. “That was the best decision he ever made.”

“It was kind of obvious (that he would become a priest),” Joseph Pericone concurred. “He loved to help people. I think that was part of his decision. He was in his 30s, so he knew for certain then what he wanted to do, and he loved it.”

He enrolled at St. Joseph Seminary in St. Benedict and began a new life path. He graduated from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans and was ordained to the priesthood in New Orleans on May 25, 1996.

In 2005, Father Pericone received a licentiate in canon law from The Catholic University of America and became defender of the bond and promoter of justice for penal cases in the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

While never a pastor, he was an associate at Immaculate Conception Church and a parochial vicar at St. Mark and St. Louis King of France parishes. He also was a priest-in-residence at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Mary Magdalen, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Matthew the Apostle and Mater Dolorosa parishes.

Father Nick also served as chaplain at Archbishop Hannan from 1999-2001 and later became chaplain at Our Lady of Wisdom Healthcare Center and Wynhoven on the West Bank.

Example for many

Several spoke at the funeral Mass of Father Pericone being a humble servant, one with a generous and kind spirit and an example of carrying Christ’s cross for the mercy of others.

“Not only did he proclaim the sufferings of the Lord, he endured them himself,” Archbishop Gregory Aymond said.

Father Mark Lomax, Father Pericone’s confidante as his childhood pastor at St. Genevieve in Slidell, gave the homily, describing Father Pericone as a suffering servant in the first reading, Isaiah 53.

“He knew what the cross was like; he bore it all his life,” Father Lomax said. He also showed others how to live through his example, and he accepted his fate with patience and endurance.

“We make Christ known by the way we live and treat one another with charity,” Father Lomax said. “Is that not the cross of Christ made present? … Throughout his life, our brother Nick knew how to care for others, and they cared for him in turn.”

Chris Pericone said what stuck with him most about his brother was his first celebration of Mass after ordination. It was then that he realized how the Holy Spirit used his brother as a vessel.

“Who is this person who is giving this sermon?” he thought. “That’s not my brother. It was so moving, so powerful and so spiritual. I knew it was his calling. When he was on the altar, the Holy Spirit was definitely working through him. … He gave himself to God. He said, ‘This is me, do your will.’”

Krey summed up Father Pericone’s spiritual nature by referring the poem “Through Me” on his funeral card.

“It was a prayer he said every morning, asking God to use him by giving kind words, a warm smile and caring heart, adding the line, ‘Lord, if I get in your way, I won’t like it, but I will get over it.’ He chose every morning to smile, put on his happy self and joke. …He was so in love with God and the Blessed Mother.”

Father Pericone was buried next to his parents, Joseph and Margarita, at St. Joseph Abbey.

That’s what she wanted,” Joe Pericone said about his mother. “It’s going to be he, my mom and my dad.”

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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