2011 was an exciting year here at Saint Anthony’s! In this post I will look back at some of the “highlights” of the year and include, where possible, appropriate photographs which might help us relive some of the memories.
2011 began with a life-changing pilgrimage to the Holy Land for 30 of our parishioners and me. We visited Israel, Jordan and Egypt stopping at all of the holy places made sacred by Christ. The pilgrimage began on Saturday January 8th as we gathered for the 5 PM Mass in church and then proceeded to JFK Airport for our departure on El Al to Tel Aviv. During the next 13 days we would travel throughout Israel and then on to Jordan to the place of Christ’s Baptism and then finally to Egypt. We departed from Egypt only three days before the uprisings in that region which became world news. As we watched the coverage on the news, those of us who were there only days before, felt as if we were eyewitnesses to it. We thank God for the graces and blessings given to us during that wonderful journey.
Above, our group from Saint Anthony’s gathers for a photograph in front of the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem.
January also brought the sad news from the Archdiocese that after 54 years in operation our school would finally close. It was not a surprise but it was a disappointment. With only 48 students enrolled kindergarten through eighth grade and an almost $500,000 a year subsidy from the Archdiocese it was easy to understand why the Archdiocese came to this decision. However, those facts did not make the reality of the end of the school here at Saint Anthony’s any easier. Our Principal, Mrs. Ann Marie Zagaglia and the faculty did a wonderful job making the school shine in its last year. And, each faculty and staff member as well as each student rose to the occasion and closed the school with dignity and grace. Each family was given a set of glasses with the school picture and the years of operation 1957-2011 etched on them. These will serve as a wonderful memory for years to come for those who were schooled at Saint Anthony’s during its final chapter.
Saint Anthony of Padua School building as seen from Columbus Avenue.
But, as they say, each time a door closes two windows open. And, sure enough, shortly after the closing of our school we were able to negotiate a contract with the REACH Academy of the Greenburgh/North Castle School District insuring that our school building would continue to be used for the education of young people and for good work for the wider community. This contract has also insured the much needed funds to pay off the trailing costs of our school without Archdiocesan assistance. And, it is hoped that this contract will finally make our parish financially stable for many years into the future.
March 2011 saw the arrival of Father Joy Devassy as a Parochial Vicar here at Saint Anthony’s. Father Joy served here with us until his return to India in October. Father Joy came to us from Saint Margaret’s Parish in Pearl River and he brought to us a very warm and gentle sprituality. His simplicity and kindness made an impression on our entire parish and we will always be grateful for his time here with us at Saint Anthony’s.
March also saw the beginning of a new tradition in our parish. On Friday March 4, 2011 we celebrated our First Annual Founder’s Ball Gala. Not only did this Gala Dinner, held at the Fountainhead in New Rochelle, provide much needed monetary support for the parish, but it also allowed us to recognize and honor several parishioners for their dedication and fidelity to our parish for many years.
Above, parishioners gather for the First Annual Founder’s Ball Gala.
The spring months flew by rather quickly and suddenly Holy Week and Easter were upon us. Holy Week is always a very special time in any parish but this especially the case here at Saint Anthony’s. Our church is always so beautifully decorated and the liturgies for these Sacred days are always well planned and well prayed! Holy week 2011 was no different. One of the highlights of every Holy Week is the “Living Stations of the Cross” which the teens of our parish put on. It is always very moving and these young people walk the way with Christ with such devotion and love. We welcomed new members into the Church at the Easter Vigil and the events from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday brought us all closer to our Lord and allowed us to enter more deeply into the mystery of our Life in Christ.
Palm Sunday Procession.
Nelson Contreras is welcomed into the Church at the Easter Vigil.
The Final Blessing of the Mass on Easter Sunday morning.
Spring time brings First Holy Communion and Confirmation dates. On April 30th we celebrated First Holy Communion. Almost 60 2nd graders received Jesus for the first time in the Eucharist on that day. And, on May 11th Bishop Dominick Lagonegro, a native son of this parish and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of New York, returned to confer on our 8th graders the Sacrament of Confirmation. It is always exciting to have Bishop Lagonegro here because he always brings such joy with his presence!
Above, Bishop Lagonegro celebrates Confirmation at Saint Anthony’s.
On May 13th, our parish welcomed Cardinal Edward Egan, who presided over our 4th Annual Blue Mass. At this Mass held each spring, we honor our Fire, Police and Emergency Personnel as well as our local civic leaders. The Mass seems to become more appreciated and better attended each year.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, lower left, joins hundreds of Police, Fire, Emergency Personnel and local residents and parishioners in the singing of the National Anthem at our 4th Annual Blue Mass.
Cardinal Egan smiles as he enjoys the festivities during the Blue Mass.
One of the highlights of the Blue Mass is being able to go up in the Tower Ladder outside of church after Mass to bless the vehicles that are assembled there. This year Cardinal Egan and County Executive Rob Astorino, above, join me for the blessing. I always wear my fire helmet at this point in the Mass because I proudly serve as Fire Chaplain.
On May 21 we hosted a “Youth Mass”. The Mass was well attended and it was an opportunity for the young people of all ages to come to Mass in a very informal way and at a different time than they would be use to. The teens read the readings, brought forward the gifts at the offertory and they helped plan the entire liturgy. It was a great experience and this tradition has been carried on throughout the year with our “Family Masses” which we celebrate on two Sundays each month.
Young people of our Parish attend the Youth Mass.
June 3, 4 and 5 saw one of our most successful Festas ever! Thousands of people packed our parish campus during these three wonderful days honoring our patron, Saint Anthony of Padua. As always, the home cooked food was one of the highlights. And, for the first time in memory we had no rain! Thanks to the hundreds of volunteers and helpers our Festa was enjoyed by people from all over the tri-state area. On Sunday we processed with the Statue of Saint Anthony through the streets of West Harrison blessing our community and all who live here. We look forward to an ever bigger and better Festa in 2012.
People fill the parking lot and enjoy the 2011 Festa!
Festa Procession 2011.
On Saturday June 11th we hosted another spectacular concert in our church. One of the artists was Drew Santini, a very talented baritone and member of our music department here at Saint Anthony’s. Drew and the other instumentalists treated our parishioners to a variety of music ranging from popular to chant to gospel. It was truly well done and an enjoyable experience for all who attended. This was just another in a long series of musical concerts of different varieties we have had here in our parish over the last several years.
As we progressed into the summer we wanted to be sure to have something for the young people of the parish before everyone left on summer vacation. So, on Saturday, July 2nd, we had our first annual 4th of July Bike Parade. The parade was held in the school parking lot and it was alot of fun. The kids brought their bikes (and themselves) decorated in as much patriotic and religious “stuff” they could possibly find. There was a prize for the one with the most impressively decorated bike. Well, at the end, everyone wound up being a winner because each bike and rider was amazing!
July also brought the addition of Mrs. Jean Jacksen to our staff as the new Coordinator of Religious Education. Jean has brought a very energetic and enthusiastic spirit to our Religious Education Program this year. And, taking into consideration the closing of our school, it is even more important than ever, to invest as many of our resources as possible of time, money and effort into our Religious Education Program so that we can give the youth of our parish the very best we have to offer. Jean is doing a great job in this department as are our Catechists, volunteers, families and all who help make our Religious Education Program so successful!
September saw the beginning of a new academic year and a new start for our Religious Education Department. Under the leadership of Jean Jacksen many new ideas and concepts have been implemented. The Family Masses have returned and the young people of our parish are becoming more involved than ever in the various liturgies and events that happen in our parish throughout the year.
The Fall also brought about the beginning of our 5 Year Strategic Planning Process for Saint Anthony’s. This plan was begun in response to the Parish Survey which was conducted in the Spring and early Summer 2011. The 5 Year Strategic Plan has as its goal to secure the health and wellbeing of every aspect of our parish for decades into the future.
In October we said goodbye to Father Joy who returned to India. And, Father Pete was able to extend his stay until after Christmas to continue to assist us.
On November 27th our parish finance council published our annual parish financial statement. Along with this publication I also delivered my annual ”State of the Parish” Address. The fulltext can be seen on a previous entry on my blog. However, I was happy to be able to report many positive and encouraging things that are happening at Saint Anthony’s. And, I hope all would agree that this community is “moving in the right direction”.
Also, in November I announced that our parish had now joined the social networking site Twitter. This is now being used to engage all of our parishioners, but especially our young parishioners, to get important and interesting parish and catholic information out in “real time”. I encourage all parishioners who have Twitter or who can sign up to do so. Our parish is also on Facebook and both can be easily accessed on the homepage of this site.
November 27, the First Sunday of Advent, this year brought the inauguration of the “New Translation” of the Mass. In preparation for this major change in our liturgical practice, our parish hosted three “orientation sessions”. One of these sessions held in mid-October was termed a “Teaching Mass”. This was the first time we had ever hosted such an event. It was very well received and we are looking forward to doing it again soon. During the Mass we paused at various points and explained with some detail exactly why we do the things we do and say the things we do. Explaining these actions and prayers has helped to give our parishioners a better understanding of why we do the things we do when we do them. In this way we can all enter more deeply into the mystery of the liturgy that we celebrate.
In late November our parish received word that Archbishop Timothy Dolan would be making his first visit to Saint Anthony of Padua Parish on April 28, 2012. This news brought great excitement to our parish and we are very much looking forward to His Excellency being with us this spring.
Christmas 2011 was a grace-filled time for our entire parish. The Masses were beautifully celebrated and the music was the finest I have ever heard. Many parishioners commented on how nicely everything came together this year. And, it was very rewarding to hear how so many people were uplifted by what our parish was able to do to facilitate a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ the King of Kings and Lord or Lords!
On Tuesday December 27, 2011 we saw Father Pete off for his journey back to India. Father Pete is very much missed here at Saint Anthony’s. He is a very special man and he brought so many talents to us. Father Pete’s sense of humor and his beautiful artistic style endeared him to every one in our parish. I truly hope Father Pete will be able to return to assist us here at Saint Anthony’s sometime soon again.
Before we close 2011, we pause to remember those in our parish community who, during this past year, were baptized here, married here, those among our parish who are sick or suffering in any way, especially those in the hospital. And we also, remember in a very special way, those parishioners we said goodbye to this year (the list below are only those whose funeral Masses were celebrated here at Saint Anthony’s in 2011), who, we pray, are now with God – Michael Furilla, Christopher Mayo, Mary Triano, Salvatore Casarella, Concetta Barbato, Angelo Palmieri, Dora Arturi Chiodo, Ida Lomuscio, Paulette Desjandins, Rocco DiSavino, Daniel James Cummings, Eva DeMarsico, Jack Lorentoni, Teresa Casarella, Catherine Harris, Christina Marie Gilmore, Lillian Russo, Peter Cutignola, Anna Fertile, Marie Salcuni, Rocco Macchia, Vito Foglia, Gennaro Salcuni, Ignatius Mercurio, Jack DelSoldato, Maria Cicoria, Viola Gaudenzi, Carmen Libonati, Nicholas Libertella, Elvira Delfino, Angelo Mastrogiacomo and Doris Zaccagnino. May they rest in peace. We shall not forget them.
As we finish out 2011 tonight and begin the New Year of 2012 tomorrow Father Peter joins me in wishing all of our parishioners a very Happy and Blessed New Year in 2012. May God’s grace and love be with you and your loved one’s in this upcoming year and always!