Fr. Michael Ristore was born in Poppi, Italy on November 7, 1911. He was the son of Giuseppe and Maria Fiumicelli. His baptismal name was Giovanni and he was baptized in his parish church of St. Bartholomew. He entered the Minor Seminary in 1922, at Poppi, and was invested in 1926. He made his simple profession in 1927 at Cortona. He studied philosophy in Siena and theology in Florence. He was ordained on February 17, 1935, at the Capuchin Church in Montughi by the Auxiliary Bishop of Florence, Giovacchino Bonardi.
Small in stature (a little more than five feet tall), he nevertheless had a big impact upon the people of two countries, an ocean apart. His ties to the motherland of Italy were always strong and vibrant, and his love and devotion to the people of the United States was equally warm and affectionate. The energy and enthusiasm with which he lived his vocation was a source of admiration and inspiration. Reading his biography, you’d soon be out of breath while trying to keep pace with his quick little steps.
He began his teaching career in 1935 as the Assistant to the Director at the Minor Seminary in Poppi. In the summer of 1938, Fr. Michael was sent to America to assist in the formation of the young men interested in becoming Capuchins. He was assigned as Lector of the students in philosophy at St. Lawrence in Beacon. His next transfer took him to the Bronx, where he became the Director and Lector at the new residence of the Immaculate Conception Seminary. In 1944 he became Vicar and Lector at this same location, and in 1944 he also became a citizen of the United States.
From 1945 to 1950, he served as the Guardian and Lector at newly opened Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Staunton, Virginia. There he taught philosophy, Sacred Scripture, Greek, Latin and Italian. Besides teaching, he also found time for preaching. He preached numerous missions in many cities of the eastern states particularly: New York, Boston, Rochester, Buffalo, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Washington, and other cities as well.
In 1951, he became Superior and teacher in the Minor Seminary of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Geneva, New York. His next transfer came in 1957, when he became Pastor of St. Francis Church in Hackensack, New Jersey. His quiet, kind and understanding manner soon endeared him to everyone who came to know and love him. On February 28, 1960 he celebrated his Silver Jubilee of ordination. The above photo shows Fr. Michael receiving a call from his family members in Italy congratulating him on this anniversary.
He became a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus in 1963. From 1965 to 1976, he became the Provincial Delegate of the Third Order. From 1976 to 1982, he served as Pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish in Passaic, New Jersey. He attended the General Chapter in Rome in 1976, and served as interpreter and translator. From 1982 to 1983, he was a member of the formation team while living at St. Lawrence Friary in Beacon, New York.
People enjoyed his company and the humorous sayings that he would often repeat with a sing song cadence. He had great commitment to the Third Order and was always keen on promoting this vocation among the people at large.
June 2, 1985, he celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Ordination at the Immaculate Conception Church in the Bronx. From 1989 to 1993, he once again became the Provincial Delegate to the SFO while staying in the Bronx.
He is fondly remembered for his example of being young at heart, cheerful and continually enthusiastic about life and all its wonders. He was adventurous in spirit and never seemed to let a particular task or assignment overwhelm his positive outlook. He sought to embody the Capuchin ideals of prayer, fraternity, and ministry. He always expressed a great concern for the men in formation.
In 1995, he celebrated his 60th year as a priest. This happy event was held at St. Francis Parish in Hackensack, where he had once served as a much younger friar. Even in his senior years, he continued to be involved in various forms of ministry to the fraternity and to the people. On September 25, 2000, the Lord called Fr. Michael home while he was visiting his beloved country of Italy. May God grant him eternal peace and happiness.