Most Revered Vincent M. Rizzotto, D.D., J.C.L. (1931 – 2021)

Vincent Michael Rizzotto, 89, died on January 17, 2021. He was born on September 9, 1931, in Houston to Catarina Calamusa Rizzotto and Salvatore Rizzotto.

 

Published in Houston Chronicle from Jan. 18 to Jan. 19, 2021

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Born the youngest of nine children, Vincent grew up in a tight-knit traditional Sicilian family that was close to each other and the Church. He was the last child born to Catarina and Salvatore at 902 Maggie Street in Houston with the help of a mid-wife, Mrs. Schiro. In the presence of his father and siblings, Vincent was baptized at Holy Name Catholic Church.  He attended Holy Name Catholic School and then went onto St. Thomas High School. He had such Eagle pride as a student and alumni, ‘49. He and his brother Manuel were the only two children to attend St. Thomas High School and he often shared stories about how they would ride the city bus to and from school and work on campus to help pay for their tuition. The Basilian priests never turned them away and he made sure to create a scholarship to help young men afford a Catholic education. Vincent had an inclination to the priesthood in his early years. He often played “”priest”” and served “”communion”” to his siblings and the neighborhood kids, serving Necco wafers.

At St. Thomas, Fr. James Wilson, who also coached the baseball team, pulled Vincent out of class one day and said, ”What are you going to do with your life?” At age 15, he hadn’t given much thought to his future. Fr. Wilson then said, “”I want you to write these words down and ask yourself this everyday – Dear God, what do you want me to do for you today?”

Vincent complied, and it began to shape him. He attached the card to his bathroom mirror, consulted the text every day when brushing his teeth and washing his face. He was aware that a vocation to the priesthood was growing in him, but with this exercise, it became clearer. Sensing the direction that Vincent’s life would take, his parents never tried to dissuade him. Following his graduation from St. Thomas High School in 1949, he enrolled at St. Mary’s Seminary in La Porte, where he became good friends with the future Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza. He would often tell stories about how he and his 11 classmates were the first class to move to the new seminary campus located in its current location on Memorial Drive and how they experienced the old and new of St. Mary’s.

Vincent was ordained a diocesan priest on May 26, 1956 with his family by his side at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Galveston.  Following his ordination, his first assignment was at St. Mary’s in Port Arthur from 1956- 1961. While there he often visited his brothers and their families who lived in Beaumont. He was then selected by Bishop Nold to pursue a graduate degree in Canon Law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He was excited to go, but had never traveled outside of the state before. He obtained a Licentiate of Canon Law graduating in 1963. In 1964, Vincent became involved in the social issues of the time at the invitation of Fr. John McCarthy (later Bishop McCarthy) who asked him to establish an Interracial Council. Civil Rights were an important issue of the time and certainly within the Catholic Church. About that time, Vincent, Fr. Fiorenza (later Archbishop Fiorenza), and Fr. McCarthy, decided to join Martin Luther King in a civil rights march in Selma, Alabama to give witness to their beliefs. Knowing that his mother would be concerned for his safety, Vincent made sure that she never knew. The three priests flew to New Orleans, rented a car and drove to Selma.

Concerned for their personal safety, they donned their collars in an effort to keep themselves from perceived harm. They met other priests and sisters standing on one side of a barricaded area at a compound near the Catholic Hospital singing, “”We Shall Overcome,”” while the state police were on the other side. While in Selma, the three priests attended the funeral at Brown’s Chapel of Minister Reeb who had been killed.

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La Voce Italiana Magazine | People
Vincent Michael Rizzotto, 89, died on January 17, 2021. He was born on September 9, 1931, in Houston to Catarina Calamusa Rizzotto and Salvatore Rizzotto. Born the youngest of nine children, Vincent grew up in a tight-knit traditional Sicilian family that was close to each other and the Church. He was the last child born to Catarina and Salvatore at 902 Maggie Street in Houston with the help of a mid-wife, Mrs. Schiro. In the presence of his father and siblings, Vincent was baptized at Holy Name Catholic Church.

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