Fr. Robert Sirico remembers brother, actor Tony Sirico

`Junior, You Are the Last Bad Catholic in America’

Father Robert Sirico, brother of actor Tony Sirico who died Friday, July 9 at 79, shared his thoughts and memories of the Sopranos star during a funeral that celebrated his life at the Basilica of Regina Pacis in Bensonhurst.

The service, held on Wed., July 13, was attended by friends and family. The service was open to the public and live streamed for fans.

Father Robert Sirico became a priest in 1989. Like his brother, he was born in Brooklyn and grew up in East Flatbush and Bensonhurst. He founded the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty of Grand Rapids, Michigan. He’s also written several books, including “Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy.”

While speaking, he stated it wasn’t his role to canonize Tony.

“What I can do, however, is point out to you some dimensions of this man’s complicated life that may not be seen or be as obvious or perhaps to make some connections for you that may be overlooked,” he said. “I do this with an aim not merely to celebrate his life as they say, but to uncover its meaning and thereby the meaning of all of our lives.”

Tony is best known for his role as Paulie Walnuts in the hit series “The Sopranos.” He also played the character Tony Stacks in “Goodfellas.” Father Robert brought up these roles. 

He was born July 29, 1942.  He was arrested 28 times, including for assault and robbery. According to the Washington Post, he spent two stints in prison, totaling almost three years.

“As many of the professional actors who are here know, people often confuse the actor with the act,” he said. “When you look beneath that rough defensive armor, as Michael Imperioli called it last night at the wake, you begin to see a softer, gentler interior.”

Father Robert Sirico speaks about his late brother.

Father Robert shared a story about the time he did his first Mass, also at Basilica of Regina Pacis. Afterwards, he and his family went off to a hall for a big dinner. One of their relatives who had been at the Mass asked Tony why he didn’t do Communion. He said it was because he didn’t go to confession.

“I said to him, ‘Junior, you are the last bad Catholic in America,’” he said. “All the rest think they’re entitled to come to communion without that preparation. That revealed to me a seriousness which he had about repairing himself and an awareness of his own completeness and a necessity for confession before encountering a Holy God. I think that was his redemption.”

A few weeks ago, he saw Tony for the last time when he visited him in Florida where he had lived close to his daughter who tended to him in his last days. 

“I sensed that the end was coming,” he said. “So as we sat in a private location, I pulled out a Confessional Stole from my pocket. I looked into his eyes and I said, ‘How about that confession?’ My brother agreed and I did one of the most significant things a priest can do for another human being. I absolved him of all of his sins.”

Father Robert Sirico Photos courtesy of

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