Award-winning NTC contributor Jerry Circelli dies at 68
On the day Jerry Circelli passed away, he spent the morning duck hunting with his son and grandson. A deeply religious man who found God in nature, the veteran journalist used those last hours with family to talk about an assignment recently completed for the North Texas Catholic.
Circelli had just spent the past few weeks researching and writing about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In an auspicious twist of fate, his grandson Vincent Jr. would make his first reconciliation at Holy Redeemer Church that afternoon.
“He talked all morning about his story, the people he interviewed, Padre Pio (patron saint for Penance and Reconciliation), and how important the sacrament is,” remembered Circelli’s son, Vincent Sr. “He was very supportive and encouraging to Vince and told him not to be nervous.”
The doting grandfather’s last words to his grandson were “say a couple (of prayers) for me,” as the Holy Family second grader left for the reconciliation service.
Circelli died peacefully January 21 at the age of 68. A Mass of Christian Burial was held at Holy Redeemer on January 28.
A graduate of Utica College with a degree in public relations, Circelli was a communications expert and wrote numerous articles for both local and national publications. In 2012, he began working as a correspondent for the North Texas Catholic using his skill with the written word, insights, and easy interviewing style to cast a spotlight on unsung heroes in the diocese. His efforts earned him numerous awards from the Catholic Media Association including first place for best feature articles in 2021 and 2015, first place for the best personality profile of a religious leader in 2020, and best coverage of religious liberty issues in 2014.
“Jerry had a gift for storytelling,” said NTC editor Juan Guajardo, describing the correspondent’s articles as entertaining and uplifting. “His work was deep but easy to read which takes skill and hard work and a great understanding of the subject.”
Circelli was also a man of great virtue, Guajardo continued, adding, “He was kind, humble, and understood the importance of spreading the Good News of the Gospel.”
Former editor of the NTC, Jeff Hensley, recalled a series of feature articles Circelli wrote highlighting the ministry of local religious orders. His stories were always interesting and needed little editing before publication.
“The North Texas Catholic received high praise for the articles,” Hensley said. “I was proud of the way he recognized the work of our fine religious men and women.”
To help the Diocese of Fort Worth mark its 50th anniversary, Circelli chronicled the history of North Texas Catholics in “Beyond the Frontiers of Faith,” a commemorative book published in 2018. The project required months of tracking down historical records and interviewing people across the diocese.
Bishop Michael Olson expressed his appreciation for the author’s dedication in writing the book and other achievements in Catholic journalism.
“Jerry Circelli contributed significantly to spreading the Gospel in North Texas through his respectful care for people and diligent attention to detail in reporting stories for the North Texas Catholic,” he said. “Most especially, his contribution will have a long-term effect on the life of the diocese though his comprehensive history: ‘Beyond the Frontiers of Faith.’”
Born and raised in Utica, New York, Circelli moved to Texas in 1980 with his wife, Joan, and immediately embraced the cowboy culture.
“He loved horses and shared that experience with my mother. That’s where they found their peace,” observed eldest daughter Christa Yanez. “My mom is a convert and was introduced to the Catholic faith because of him. Together, they instilled that faith in us.”
The Circelli children always felt their father’s love and presence.
“He was our number one fan and a fountain of unceasing warmth,” Yanez said. “He was an ever-present father who sacrificed much for our greater good — a gift we do not take for granted.”
Circelli is survived by his wife of 45 years, Joan; children Christa Yanez, Vincent Circelli, and Gina Mulcahy, their spouses, and eight grandchildren.