by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director
SCI lost one of its most faithful volunteers with the unexpected death of the Rev. Deacon Tom Piccate on Tuesday evening. When Tom succumbed to a heart attack, he left behind his wife of 39 years, Mary Jane; his daughter Sharon and her husband Doug Wright; and two grandchildren, Liam and Molly. He also left behind an incredible ministry to Port Newark seafarers.
Nearly every Saturday morning for the last eight years, Tom opened SCI’s Port Newark center and provided hospitality to visiting seafarers. After a full career as a high school science teacher, Tom lived into his diaconal vocation to represent Christ in the world, and Port Newark became the focus of his ministry. Whether talking individually with international seafarers far from home, providing van transportation or visiting ships in port, Tom’s empathy and gentle humor served to connect our guests with a caring port community.
Tom showed dedication, commitment and a deep compassion for the maritime workforce. As a deacon, Tom reminded the larger Church of its opportunity serve others to the ends of the earth—in this case the docks of Port Newark. Tom seemed totally in his element as he wore his orange safety jacket and jumped into the driver’s seat of an SCI van.
As all of us hope to do, Tom lived vigorously until his final moment of life. Tom died several days short of his fifth anniversary of ordination. This past Sunday, parishioners at St. James’ Church in Ridgefield, NJ, celebrated his ordination and his gift of ministry among them. “Deacon Tom was a friend and a colleague who brought joy to us all,” said the Rev. Mariano Gargiulo, rector of St. James’. Hours before his death, Tom emailed me about securing space in Port Newark to train upcoming deacons, a classic example of his caring servant leadership.
Funeral services will be private for the family. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, December 3 at 11:00 am at Grace Episcopal Church, 128 West Passaic Avenue, Rutherford, NJ 07070; 201-438-8623. Notes of condolence may be sent to Mrs. Mary Jane Piccate, 199 Woodward Avenue, Rutherford, NJ 07070. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations for Deacon Education be sent to the Diocese of Newark, 31 Mulberry Street, Newark, NJ 07102 with “Piccate Fund” in the memo line of checks made payable to the Diocese of Newark.
May Tom’s soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.