Two months before ordination Sal was called to the Dean of Men’s office and informed that his mother was seriously ill. His Father had called to say that she had suffered a serious heart attack and the prognosis was not positive. Allowed to go home to be with her Sal smiled when his father told him on the phone that she insisted walking to the ambulance so none of the neighbors would be upset. So typical of her unending concern , even in this dire moment others came first Sal’s mother was the kindest person on the planet. He learned many things at his mother’s kne,but probably the most important was that everyone deserves to be loved and respected. In his entire life he had never met anyone who was totally absent of racial or ethnic bias. As a young child he uttered an ethnic slur at the dinner table and she immediately sent him to his my room without supper. When an Italian mother sends you to your room without food you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that you are in serious trouble.
After a few moments she came to his room and lovingly explained why what he had said was offensive.. Mind you this was a person who had a racist brother that regularly employed the N word. Sal once overheard her say to him” Rudy every night before I go to bed I pray that you will wake up tomorrow and be black.”
The ride to Jersey City seemed forever, and once home Sal borrowed a car to race up to the Jersey City Medical Center. Entering the parking lot a cop was shouting at a woman that she could not park in that spot. She was annoyed and questioning his decision. Spotting the Roman collar he waved Sal into the spot she had vacated She began to give the officer heat for letting the priest park in the vacated spot.. Hoping to alleviate the tension Sal rolled down the window and said “Thank you officer I have an emergency.” That may have been the biggest mistake of his life. The cop bolted in front of him, and was shouting “Get out of the way Father has an emergency. “When they reached the elevator which was filled with Doctors and Nurses he ordered everyone off so Father could quickly reach his emergency.
Sal was terrified because though he had on a Roman Collar he was not yet a priest. When they reached the Intensive care floor Sal used his street smarts and said” Thank you officer but I can take it from here.If she sees you she will be frightened.” The cop saluted him, and left. Sal breathe a sigh of relief, but now the real concern would begin. Seeing all those tubes in his mother was quite a jolt ,and watching his father gently speaking to her was tough. She was semi-conscious and did not recognize Sal. To say he was devastated would be the understatement of the century. The attending physician came in to examine her, and he and his father waited outside. Sal asked his father to go back and hold his mother’s hand but in reality he wanted to speak with the Doctor alone. Sal asked him not to pull any punches, and he told him that today and tonight are critical. If she makes it through this period she has a chance. What the doctor didn’t know was that her heart had been wounded, but her spirit was truly larger than life. She made it through that day, and by the time he returned to the seminary in three weeks she was cooking up a storm for the family.
One other humorous note was that during that period when Sal was home he went on a series of errands for his father. Losing track of the time he came back to his car and there was a cop writing a ticket. He saw him and said” is this your car Father?” When he replied in the affirmative he said,” Thanks a lot now I have to look for another 67 Chevy.” It could only happen in Jersey City.