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First Holy Communion
Apr 30th, 2013 by Father Chris

We offer heartfelt congratulations to all of the students of our 2nd grade S.T.A.R.S. Program who received Jesus in Holy Communion for the first time on Saturday.  A special word of appreciation to Mrs. Jean Jacksen, the teachers, aides and all who assisted in preparing the boys and girls for this very important and special day in their lives.  Thanks to all of the parents as well who are the first teachers of the faith to their children.

In my homily I explained to all present the significance of the Eucharist and how through Holy Communion we receive the Love of Jesus into our lives concretely.  I also showed them some “artifacts” from my own First Communion 34 years ago which I have kept all these years.  I told them how important that day was for me and that I hoped it would be as important for all of them.  I shared with the children a few photos from my First Communion as well as a book, a couple of cards and a note from my Uncle Louis, who is almost 98 years old and lives now in South Florida.  I also showed them a photo of Uncle Louis at his First Communion over 90 years ago!  All of this to stress the significance of the day.

mycommA photo of me and my family on my First Communion Day, April 25, 1979.  The celebration took place at Saint Cecelia’s Church in Fort Myers, Florida where we were living at the time.  I am in the front/center.

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These “artifacts” from my own First Holy Communion were “unearthed” for the celebration on Saturday.  I shared them with the First Communicants and their families.  There is a book about the  Mass, a card from my Uncle Louis and his sister, Sister Muriel, R.S.M. and a card confirming my reception of the Sacrament. 

mycomm2A photo of my Uncle Louis (who wrote the card to me in the photo above) at his First Holy Communion 90 years ago at Saint Catherine of Genoa Parish on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. 

 

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The First Communicants and I gather for a group photo in church after the Mass on Saturday.

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One of our young parishioners receives Jesus for the first time!

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The young ladies prepare for First Holy Communion.

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We gathered after Mass on the front plaza of the church for photos.

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It was a perfect day for First Holy Communion.

Sweet Tooth Ball
Apr 30th, 2013 by Father Chris

I was delighted to attend the Saint Gregory the Great Parish “Sweet Tooth Ball” on Saturday evening at Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester.  The Ball was postponed from early November because of Superstorm Sandy. 

I was happy to be able to be present to honor two dear friends, Ben DeFonce and Denny Donovan!  Both of these men are beloved figures in the Town of Harrison and City of White Plains.  They have contributed immeasurably to the good of our community and we owe them a great deal. 

Ben DeFonce organizes the annual Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day parades in Harrison and West Harrison.  This is a duty he has proudly undertaken for many years.  Denny Donovan is a retired New York Supreme Court Justice.  He is always present for the swearing-in ceremonies of our West Harrison Fire Department every January.  In that role he always follows me after I give the invocation as the Department Chaplain.  Best wishes to both Ben and Denny on this great honor! 

sweet tooth ballFrom left to right; Me, Ben DeFonce, Monsignor Francis McAree (Pastor of Saint Gregory the Great) and Denny Donovan.

A Remembrance and a Respite!
Apr 26th, 2013 by Father Chris

As many of you know one of my brothers is a pilot in the U.S. Naval Reserve out of Jacksonville Naval Air Station (Florida) and also a Commercial Airline Pilot.  Today he was on an extended layover at Newark Airport and I was able to spend some time with him for a visit.  We had lunch together and it was a pleasure to see him.

During our visit my brother pointed out to me the gate which United Airlines Flight 93 departed from early on the morning of September 11, 2001 and later crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  He showed me the American Flag which flies on the gate bridge over the location where passengers board and leave the aircraft.  There are only four gates in the United States with such flags on them – one at Newark, one at Washington, Dulles and two in Boston each marking the gates where the four aircraft left from on that terrible morning nearly 12 years ago.  The flags which fly over each gate are not publicized and unless pointed out to you you would never know the significance of it or even that they were there.  My brother has departed from all four of these gates at one time or another over the last few years.

I offer the following photos as a tribute to the heroic men and women of Flight 93 and also in loving memory of all who died on September 11, 2001.  They certainly were in our thoughts and prayers today as we looked at Gate A-17 at Newark Airport.

cath4Gate A-17 at Newark International Airport showing the American Flag on the Jet Bridge.  United Flight 93 left from this gate on September 11, 2001 and crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania later that morning.

cath1Gate A-17 today is now used by JetBlue Airways.  The American Flag is still flying proudly!

After I left Newark Airport and my brother was on his way and up in the air I decided to deviate from my planned route home and spend some time at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.  The Basilica in Newark is a real jewel perched on a hilltop just north of downtown Newark.  It is a great place to pray if you are ever in that area because there are usually very few, if any, people there.  It is always quiet and it is simply one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.  If you ever want to stop by you will notice that the main doors are locked as the surrounding neighbornood is not always very safe.  You must enter through the Rectory but the staff there are always happy to let visitors enter the Basilica for as long as you wish.  I was so happy to be able to spend some “quality time” at the Basilica today praying and resting in the Lord!

I hope you enjoy the photos I took and I also hope you might be able to visit the Basilica at some point.  You would definately find it worthwhile!

cath2The beautiful and imposing facade of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.

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The interior of the Basilica looking toward the Altar.

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The cornerstone of the Basilica was laid in 1899.

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The “Umbraculum” and the “Tintinnabulum” are seen here which are used to show that the Cathedral has been designated a Minor Basilica by the Pope.

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Here you can see the “Cathedra” or Bishop’s Chair from which we get the word “Cathedral”.  The Cathedral is the church from which the bishop presides over the administration of the diocese.  He preaches and teaches “from the chair” which is where the significance and importance of the “Cathedral” comes from.

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The pulpit is very ornate.

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This is the chair which was used by Pope John Paul II on October 5, 1995 when he celebrated Mass at Giants Stadium.  The chair is now displayed at the Basilica.

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The Basilica has a beautiful Ambry where the Holy Oils are kept.

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I was fortunate I was able to sneak up into the gallery.  Sacred Heart has one of the finest pipe organs around and it is a very impressive instrument.  Here is one of several pipe displays.

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View of the east transept Rose Window.

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I spent about an hour in prayer here in the Lady Chapel.  It is a very quiet and beautiful place to pray.

Parish Pilgrimage
Apr 26th, 2013 by Father Chris

Two years ago many of our parishioners and I traveled on our parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  We visited Israel, Jordan and Egypt and it truly was a trip of a lifetime!  That pilgrimage was an “in-depth” endeavor which required a lot of planning, time and money.  Some parishioners were disapponted they were not able to travel with us on that pilgrimage. 

Now we have another experience planned which we hope more parishioners will be able to attend and enjoy.  On Saturday June 15, 2013 we will travel to Fonda, New York and Auriesville, New York to visit the National Shrine of Saint Kateri and also the Shrine of the North American Martyrs.  We will depart Saint Anthony’s at 7:00am and arrive at the National Shrine of Saint Kateri at 10:30am.  We will travel after lunch to the Shrine of the North American Martyrs and then leave to return to Saint Anthony’s at 3:15pm with arrival  home at 7:00pm. 

The cost for the pilgrimage is $37.00 per person.  Included in the price is: Bus transportation, entrance to the Shrines, Mass, Lunch and Activities for the children.  Any extra purchases for food, gifts, religious articles, etc. will have to be covered by you.

If you would like to be included please call the Parish Office as soon as possible at 914-948-1480.  All reservations must be made by May 15, 2013. 

The sign welcoming visitors to the National Kateri Shrine and Indian Museum.

The “Colisseum Church” at the Shrine of the North  American Martyrs.

The Empty Chair
Apr 21st, 2013 by Father Chris

The Empty Celebrants Chair at the beginning of today’s Family Mass.

Today I gave a very thought-provoking homily about vocations to the priesthood at the 10:30 Family Mass.  This Sunday is designated as “Good Shepherd Sunday” each year because the readings present to us Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”.  So, each year it gives a good opportunity to focus our attention on the priesthood and the urgent need for good and selfless priests who will be willing to give of themselves for the wellbeing of the people of God!

Today I asked those in the procession to proceed as normal, without me, to the Sanctuary, go to their places and wait.  I  had arranged in advance for the choir to sing, as usual, and then end and allow for a time of silence.  All the while, I was in the sacristy watching the reaction of the congregation to all of this.  I allowed about a minute before I appeared from the sacristy door walked to the Sanctuary in silence, genuflected, reverenced the Altar and went to the chair for the Introductory Rites.  I proceeded with Mass as usual until the time of the homily.

At the homily I invited the 4th graders (since it was the 4th grade Family Mass) and the others youngsters in church to join me in front of the Altar.  I asked the kids if they noticed anything strange or different at the beginning of the Mass today.  They all raised their hands enthusiastically and said they noticed that “there was no priest.”  I explained to them that I had done that deliberately to draw the attention of all of them to the reality that if more young men do not present themselves and respond to an invitation by God to serve as priests in the years to come the chair where the priest sits will be empty.  I pointed to the empty celebrants chair.  Without the priest there is no Eucharist and without the Eucharist there is no church.

During the brief homily I cited a few statistics about our Vicariate and the state the Archdiocese of New York will be in trying to have Pastors for all of our parishes within the next few years without more priests.  And, I mentioned the case of Monsignor Gerald Ryan, the longest serving priest in the Archdiocese of New York, who died last week at the age of 93.  I told those gathered that Monsignor Ryan was ordained a priest in 1945, nearly 68 years ago and that he had been the Pastor of Saint Luke’s Parish in the South Bronx for 47 years up until the time of his death.  I asked, “who is going to take Monsignor Ryan’s place?”  Where will new priests come from if they do not come from our families, from our parish?

So, I encouraged the youngsters and all gathererd to do three things: THINK, PRAY and ACT!  THINK about the priesthood.  Think about whether or not God might be calling you to be a priest.  PRAY for vocations to the priesthood and pray for vocations from Saint Anthony’s Parish specifically for the Archdiocese of New York.  And finally, ACT.  Put into action those thoughts and prayers by supporting those who have responded to the Call of God to the priesthood and encourage others in this way or act yourself on the inspiration of God in your own life to serve as a priest and move forward with that decision without fear or hesitation!

As a postscipt to the homily, I told the congregation that 8 or 9 years ago I had given the same homily and in the same way at Saint Theresa’s Parish in the Bronx where I was assigned before coming to Saint Anthony’s.  I was happy to inform them that today there are 3 young men from Saint Theresa’s studying for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of New York.  Sandro Leyton will be ordained to the Priesthood this May 25th.  Richard Morano will be ordained next year.  And Louis Masi will be ordained the year after that.  Both Richard and Louis were Altar Servers when I was Parochial Vicar at Saint Theresa’s.  While I cannot not take credit for their vocations, I certainly hope that somewhere along the line I helped to plant seeds of encouragement in their minds and in their lives about how great a life the priesthood is and I pray that had a positive influence on their decision.

After the Mass I recieved many positive comments about this homily and I hope that perhaps today a few seeds were planted in the minds and hearts of some of the young men of Saint Anthony’s who might become priests in future years.   If God has truly called you to the priesthood, there could be no more rewarding, joy-filled or exciting life than the priesthood!

Happy 50th Anniversary!
Apr 21st, 2013 by Father Chris

Father Peter and I were delighted to join Larry and Rose DiPierro and their family members and many friends to celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary this afternoon.  Larry and Rose have been members of Saint Anthony’s for almost 50 years and they have contributed so much of their time, talents and love to our parish over the years.  We are so grateful to them for being such a special part of our parish and we ask God to bless them with many more happy, healthy years together!

This was the cake that was part of the celebration today.  It was delicious!

Father Peter and I join Larry and Rose for the special day!  We were honored to be with them today.

Videos Coming Soon!
Apr 18th, 2013 by Father Chris

You may know that many of the events held here at Saint Anthony’s are on video in our “photo gallery” page here on our parish website. 

Our webmaster, Bob Serra and I are working on getting videos embedded into my blog here but we have had a few kinks in the works as we have been doing this and we are trying to work all of this out.  As soon as we do we will inaugurate the newest feature to the blog – embedded videos!

In the meantime, if you would like to view videos of many of the important events we have had at Saint Anthony’s over the last few years you may do so here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/StAnthonyWH1

 

Boston Marathon Bombing – A Catholic Response
Apr 17th, 2013 by Father Chris

The following communications have been issued from Sean Cardinal O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston and also from Timothy Cardinal Dolan on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops concerning the bombing which occurred Monday afternoon at the conclusion of the Boston Marathon.

             First from Cardinal O’Malley:

The Archdiocese of Boston joins all people of good will in expressing deep sorrow following the senseless acts of violence perpetrated at the Boston Marathon today.  Our prayers and concern are with so many who experienced the trauma of these acts, most especially the loved ones of those who lives were lost and those who were injured, and the injured themselves.

The citizens of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts are blessed by the bravery and heroism of many, particularly the men and women of the police and fire departments and emergency services who responded within moments of these tragic events.  Governor Patrick, Mayor Menino and Police Commissioner Davis are providing the leadership that will see us through this most difficult time and ensure that proper procedures are followed to protect the public safety.

In the midst of the darkness of this tragedy we turn to the light of Jesus Christ, the light that was evident in the lives of people who immediately turned to help those in need today.  We stand in solidarity with our ecumenical and interfaith colleagues in the commitment to witness the greater power of good in our society and to work together for healing.

And from Timothy Cardinal Dolan, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on behalf of the Conference:

The tragic end to the Boston Marathon April 15 reminds us all that evil exists and that life is fragile.

The deaths and injuries of people gathered for the celebration on Patriots Day in Boston calls on all of us to pray for the souls of those killed the healing of those injured and the restoration of peace for all of us unsettled by the bombings at a world renowned sporting event.

Our special prayers are with the Archdiocese of Boston and the people there who are working in the aftermath of this crisis to address those wounded in so many ways by these events.

The growing culture of violence in our world and even in our country calls for both wise security measures by government officials and an examination by all of us to see what we can personally do to enhance peace and respect for one another in our world.

Monsignor Paul Reynolds at 75!
Apr 16th, 2013 by Father Chris

Saturday was a special day!  That day would have been the 75th birthday of Monsignor Paul Reynolds had he lived.  Over the weekend I was not able to access my computer and so this post had to wait until now.  Monsignor Reynolds was a very important and beloved man in the lives of countless numbers of people whom he served as a priest, pastor and friend during his 47 years of priesthood.  For me he held a particular place of importance since he was my childhood pastor when I was growing up at Saint John Neumann Parish in Lilburn, Georgia, a beautiful suburban community just northeast of Atlanta.  Later, he became a dear friend, confidant and mentor to me in the initial years of my own priestly ministry.

Monsignor Reynolds was a revered figure in the Archdiocese of Atlanta where he served as a parochial vicar, pastor of several parishes including the founding pastor of Saint John Neumann, my home parish, Chancellor, Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General.  He was greatly respected for his spirituality, inimitable sense of humor, charm, wit and love for everyone he ever encountered.  That love was returned to him many times over by the parishioners he served so well. 

I am sure I have not been the only one thinking of Father Reynolds over these last few days and I certainly did not want this occasion to go by without a special mention here. 

Below I include excerpts from my remarks at the time of Monsignor Reynolds’ death on December 18, 2010 along with a few photos which were taken on the day of my ordination to the priesthood, May 17, 2003 at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  You can read the full account of his life, death and funeral on this blog in the archived entries from December, 2010.

“I became closer to Father Reynolds following my ordination to the priesthood in 2003.  In fact, immediately after Cardinal Egan had given my classmates and I the “Call” to the priesthood on March 19, 2003, the Feast of Saint Joseph, I called Father Reynolds to ask him to come to my ordination.  Father Reynolds, who was then the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, was still recovering from his orignial treatments for leukemia and was not yet in full health.  However, I told him that he was a large part of the reason why I was being ordained and that if he did not come I was not going to attend my own ordination!  Well, needless to say,  Father Reynolds attended that occasion at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and I recall his words to me in the sacristy shortly before the start of the Mass.  He said, with his face beaming with pride and a broad smile, “well, Chris, we’ve come a long way since those days in the sacristy at Saint John Neumann!”  Shortly after I was ordained Father Reynolds gave me some wise advice that I have always remembered and that has been an invaluable help to me.  He instructed me that as I moved along in the priesthood and to various parishes that I would interact with many different people.  He said that they fall in many different locations on the spectrum of life – some are burdened with enormous problems, full of sins and difficulties.  There will be others you will meet who are walking saints who will daily inspire you to be better than you are.  And, he said, “somewhere in the middle of it all is Father Chris Monturo!”  And so, he said, “always try to meet people where they are and not where you want or expect them to be!”  In 2007, following my appointment as Pastor of Saint Anthony of Padua, I called Father Reynolds to share the good news.  He immediately congratulated me and conveyed his sentiments of personal pride.  Before the end of the conversation I asked him if he had any “pastoral advice” he might wish to impart.  ”Yes”, he said, “I will tell you what I was told when I assumed my first pastorate – two things – first, be yourself and second, give them all you got! – if you do that you’ll be very successful!”  His words were, as always, wise and true.  And, I must admit, that I learned more about the priesthood from Father Reynolds in these last few years than from all other priests I know and all of the years I spent in the seminary combined… 

…And, what he did in the years that followed at Saint John Neumann and at every parish he led was to create a “family”, a “community” of believers where all were welcomed and where God was loved.  Father Reynolds “formed a people”.  There was in every parish Father Reynolds was part of a great spirit of joy, charity and faithfulness.  And, there was something about Father Reynolds that is more than the homilies he gave or the words he spoke or the deeds he did.  Everything that he said and did was memorable and important because it was He who said it, it was He who was doing it.  Father Reynolds bore the presence of something greater than himself, a palpable love which drew people to him and which gave hope and life that will, no doubt, last long beyond his death.  That love which Father Reynolds carried has a name: Jesus Christ!

Father Paul H. Reynolds is a living witness of the Presence of Jesus Christ among us.  Certainly, in the days ahead there will be many memories shared and testaments to his life given but I am sure that Father Reynolds would want nothing more than that all of these remembrances lead each one of us closer to Jesus Christ, whom he loved and served so faithfully during his life on this earth.”

Monsignor Reynolds and me immediately following my ordination to the priesthood at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, May 17, 2003.  In my hands I am holding the official documents attesting my valid ordination as a priest and also the document officially assigning me to my first parish – Saint Theresa of the Infant Jesus in the Bronx.

Monsignor Reynolds places his hands on my head during the Rite of Ordination.  We can both be seen in the center of the photograph.

Here I embrace Father Reynolds and give  him my first priestly blessing.  When I was asked  by the faculty of the seminary where I would like to give my first blessings after the Mass of Ordination at the Cathedral my response was easy - ”the Altar of Saint John Neumann!”  While most of the ordinandi fight over the Lady Chapel which is the “prized” place to give first blessings, I was more interested in Saint John Neumann since that was my home parish, it was a place very special to Father Reynolds and to me and because as a child my grandparents often took me to that Altar in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral to pray and light candles.  So giving my first blessings there was a little bit like a homecoming for me! 

This prayer card was distributed at a Mass last year to remember the first anniversary of Father Reynolds’ death on December 18, 2010.  The Mass was held at Saint Brigid’s Catholic Church in Johns Creek, Georgia, Father Reynolds’ last pastorate.

Something (and Someone) to look forward to!
Apr 13th, 2013 by Father Chris

Father Pete arrived last year on June 27, 2012 at JFK Airport.  Above is a photo taken on that occasion.  We look forward to a similar reunion very soon!

I wanted to share the good news with all of you!  I spoke with Father Pete this week and he has informed me that he WILL be able to return to join us this summer once again!

The exact date of his arrival is not yet confirmed but we will let all parishioners know of these details as soon as we learn them.  It is hoped that Father Pete will again be able to remain with us for the summer months and perhaps even until sometime in early or mid-October as a part of our pastoral staff here at Saint Anthony’s.

Over the last 4 years Father Pete has very much become a valued and beloved member of our parish family and we treasure his friendship and every opportunity we have to spend with him.  His presence adds so much to the wonderful fraternal spirit we enjoy always in the Rectory.  And, the entire parish is enriched by Father Pete’s very being. 

We are overjoyed  by this good news and we look forward to Father Pete’s arrival in a few weeks!

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