Before he was a celebrity crooner, Harry Connick Jr. received friendship, encouragement – and a sorely needed job – from the late Monsignor Richard Guastella, the star recalled recently on an episode of his YouTube video series.
“I was all alone, didn’t have any money, so I start walking up and down the streets, trying to find some place to play the piano so I could make some money,’’ the Grammy and Emmy Award-winning musician and actor remembers on “Hunker Down With Harry Episode 11,″ his digital video show. “I needed to eat. I needed to buy some more Ramen noodles.’’
Guastella, 73, the beloved pastor at St. Clare R.C. Church in Great Kills since 2008, died April 9 after battling COVID-19 for a little over a week.
When Connick was 18 and living in a YMCA, he approached “this young, handsome priest,’’ in Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, who offered him a job playing the organ at Masses.
During the following two years, “we became really close,’’ Connick said, recalling many post-Mass meals shared together in Manhattan.
“I felt like I was with a rock star,’’ said the singer and composer, who is a practicing Catholic. “Here was this man who had just given this beautiful sermon, and presided over this incredible service, and then I was hanging with him.’’
Guastella officiated at Connick’s 1994 wedding to actress Jill Goodacre in New Orleans, the performer shares in the show. ”He baptized one of our daughters.’’
When he heard that Guastella was seriously ill with COVID-19, Connick said he called the Intensive Care Unit at Staten Island University Hospital, but wasn’t permitted to speak with him.
His message for Guastella was a simple one, one that he says will keep him going throughout the coronavirus chaos and sadness.
“Please tell him ‘I love you,’’’ he told the SIUH nurse.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him…
Watch Connick’s YouTube show below:
Photo by Athena LaTrelle/Flickr/Creative Commons