Msgr. Charles A. Guarino, whose extensive priestly service found him repeatedly in important settings during historic moments for the Church, died on May 2. He was 74.
Born in Brooklyn on June 14, 1941, Charles Guarino was ordained to the priesthood on May 27, 1967. He was educated at Cathedral Prep and College, and completed his studies for the priesthood at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
After his ordination, Father Guarino served as associate pastor at St. Sylvester in Medford and then at St. Ignatius Loyola, Hicksville, before joining the faculty of St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in 1970. In August of 1975 he embarked on further studies in Rome, returning in 1978 to become vice officialis of the Diocesan Tribunal. Continuing in that role until 1988, he also served as administrator of Our Lady of Magnificat Mission in Ocean Beach from 1984-1988, when he became pastor of SS. Philip and James in St. James. He remained in that position until 1999, when he became pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Greenport. In 2001 he became adjutant judicial vicar at the Diocesan Tribunal, and again served as vice officialis from 2006 until his retirement in 2011.
In 1996 Father Guarino was one of 30 diocesan priests appointed Honorary Prelate to His Holiness with the title of Monsignor. Then in 2006, after two years working in Rome as a collaborator with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Msgr. Guarino was informed that he was receiving the title of Protonary Apostolic Supra Numerum, the highest level of Monsignor. “I was deeply touched,” he told The Long Island Catholic at the time, because the honor had been conferred by Pope Benedict, for whom he had worked from September 2004 – April 2005, when then-Cardinal Ratzinger headed the Congregation.
Monsignor Guarino had been one of two canon lawyers sent by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist the Congregation in handling cases of clergy sex abuse from English-speaking countries.
“I am happy for the experience,” he told TLIC at the time, both for the opportunity to be able to help the Church deal with “this painful chapter in our history” and also for the “privileged moment” to be in Rome for two pontificates – those of John Paul II and Benedict XVI — “two pivotal moments in the history of the Church.” In fact, just before St. John Paul II’s death, Msgr. Guarino had made a pilgrimage to Poland “to walk in the footsteps” of the man he said would be remembered as “John Paul the Great.”
Eight years later, in February and March of 2013, Msgr. Guarino would again find himself in Rome during another pivotal moment for the Church: the historic decision of Benedict XVI to step down from the papacy, and the election and inaugural Mass of Pope Francis.
“Though I was scheduled to return home on March 14” after a three-week study program at the Institute for Continuing Theological Education, he told TLIC at the time, he extended his stay “so that I could be here to witness this great moment in our Church’s history.”
A funeral Mass was celebrated for Msgr. Guarino on Friday, May 8 at SS. Philip and James Church. Burial followed at St. Charles Cemetery.