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All Hallows Eve
Oct 31st, 2014 by Father Chris

When you think of Halloween, what comes to mind? For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with candy, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday?

The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead�including ghosts, goblins and witches�returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.

When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider�traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play? In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow�s Even or �holy evening.� Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the �communion of saints,� which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints �a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things� (#1475).

An Important and Special Message from Cardinal Dolan
Oct 31st, 2014 by Father Chris

Below is a column written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, regarding the announcements related to the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Initiative “Making All Things New” which will be publicized within the next few days. 

Please take time to read this important and special announcement from His Eminence.  It is vitally important that we all work together, priests, religious and lay people, so that here in New York we will always have a strong, vibrant and faith filled Church.  These initiatives will help to achieve that goal. 

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Let me be candid: there will soon be a real sense of grief at some of our parishes as we get set to announce publicly what we’ve been preparing for the last five years, namely, the merging of some of our beloved parishes. In a few places, there might even be a feeling that something has died.

Perhaps the feast days this Saturday and Sunday can set a spiritual tone for what will be, undeniably, a tough time for us all, especially for the parishioners of the affected parishes.

Saturday, November 1, is the feast of All Saints (or, the old term, “All Hallows,” thus “Halloween,” the eve before), as we gratefully recall the citizens of our eternal home, heaven.

Sunday, November 2, is the feast of All Souls, when we reverently remember those, especially among our family and friends, who have died, the “faithful departed,” asking Jesus to have mercy upon them, especially those in purgatory awaiting heaven.

“By dying, He destroyed our death, by rising, He restored our life.”

Dying and rising … Jesus did it; we all do it in and through Him.

As we now come to the decision point of our Making All Things New strategic pastoral planning, which began years ago and intensified the last year-and-a-half, about 14% of our parishes will undergo a “purgatory,” with decisions to merge them with their welcoming neighbors.

Some of our people will be sad, upset, critical, and even angry. Very understandable…loyal Catholic people love their parishes, and consider them their spiritual home. To see them changed or merged, even with next door parishes, will be very difficult.

I wish it could be different. I’d rather be adding parishes, or expanding the ones we have—and, by the way, we will be!—instead of consolidating some.

Why do we have to go through this? For one, at 368, we simply have too many parishes, in areas that used to have huge Catholic numbers, where most of the people have since moved away. On Manhattan alone, for instance, we have 88 parishes, some only blocks apart. Do the math: we have about 25% of our parishes in an area where less than 12% of the 2.8 million Catholics of the archdiocese reside.

Two, we must be good stewards of our financial resources. God’s people have told us that they want their offerings spent on our schools, charities, outreach, elders, religious education, the poor, the immigrant, our pastoral services, or expanding parishes that are jammed. By merging parishes, we will make better use of human and financial resources.

Three, we can no longer staff them. While still, thank God, blessed with a good number of priests, aided by deacons, a dwindling number of sisters and brothers, and devoted lay pastoral leaders, their census is shrinking. Rectories built a century ago—now in disrepair—for six priests usually now house one or two. We no longer have the priests to serve 368 parishes.

What we’re talking about is realism. Families do it, our schools have done it, corporations do it—now our parishes must do it: we merge in the areas where the population has shrunk, and build and expand—both plants and ministries—in areas where the Catholic numbers are bustling.

Over these years of preparation for the tough decisions coming this week, everyone has commented: “We need to do something! We can’t go on like we’re still in the 30s, 40s, and 50s, as if we have the numbers, the resources, the priests that we used to. We’ll have to reduce the number of parishes.”

But that’s usually followed by, “But, don’t close mine!”

We have to … a woman reassured me, “As long as I have a place for Mass, I’ll be fine.”

This “process” has been exhaustive. Each parish had two representatives, and the vast archdiocese was divided into “clusters” where the delegates, with their pastors, guided by professionals, studied their parishes and made recommendations. These were refined, discussed, debated, and finally went to the larger umbrella committee, which accepted almost all of them. The deans, priests’ council, pastoral council, and college of consultors were all involved. It all then came to me, and, along with my brother bishops, we’ve made the decisions. I’m happy to say almost all are consonant with what came from the grassroots.

I was with many of my brother bishops from around the country last week, a good number of whom have already gone through a similar process, and I asked them about their experience. One observed, “While there is no painless way to merge parishes, it can be less painful if the people have a big part in the process.” You have. (It’s already clear that some of the early complaints are coming from parishes that did not care to participate in the process.)

Pope St. John Paul II called us to the new evangelization: we cannot, he told us, be so exhausted by the maintenance of our parishes and institutions that we have no energy left for the mission!

Pope Benedict reminded us that “the vine must be pruned if it is to grow and produce fruit.”

Pope Francis exhorts us not to be only about buildings and structures, but about outreach, love, service.

That’s what this week is about: dying, to be sure, and I apologize that these decisions will cause hurt; but rising to a stronger, more vibrant Church! Thanks for your patience, understanding, and support.

 
Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., a friend to the poor and to all…Rest in Peace
Oct 9th, 2014 by Father Chris

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Father Benedict Groeschel

1933-2014

The co-founder of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and former host to EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime died Oct. 3, the vigil of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, at age 81.

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Father Benedict in recent years.

Franciscan Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel, well-known preacher and a founder of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, died on Friday at age 81, after an extended illness.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Father Benedict. He was an example to us all,” said Father John Paul Ouellette, community servant of the Friars of the Renewal, in a statement.

“His fidelity and service to the Church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come.”

Father Groeschel was a founder, author, teacher, preacher and retreat master. He hosted and appeared on EWTN television shows for more than 25 years. He was ordained a priest in 1959 for the Detroit Capuchin province, and held a master’s degree in counseling and a doctoral degree in psychology.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other Capuchin friars founded the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) in New York City. He was director of Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, N.Y., and also taught pastoral psychology for many years at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y.

He founded St. Francis House and Good Counsel Homes and served as chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., for 14 years.

Father Groeschel is survived by his sister, Marjule Drury, several nieces and nephews, as well as 115 brothers and priests and 31 sisters of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

“All of us at EWTN were saddened to learn of the passing of Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR.  Father Benedict played an enormous role in the work of EWTN, hosting numerous programs and being a frequent guest on the Network for nearly three decades,” Michael Warsaw, EWTN’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.  “Like Mother Angelica herself, Father Benedict was an iconic presence on EWTN.  His gray beard and Franciscan habit were known to Network viewers around the world and he had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals.”

In a statement from Priests for Life, Father Frank Pavone, national director, said, “I have known and been profoundly influenced by three priests in my life. … One of them is my longtime friend, professor and mentor Father Benedict Groeschel.”

Franciscan Father Sean Sheridan, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, called Father Groeschel “a good friend” of the university.

“A well-loved speaker at our Defending the Faith Conferences, spiritual director of our  pilgrimages, and former member of our Board of Trustees, Father Benedict contributed in numerous ways to the mission of Franciscan University,” he said. “He also strengthened the Church with new vocations as a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, served as a brother to those living in material and spiritual poverty, and led countless souls to Christ.”

“This inspiring follower of the first poverello, the little poor man of Assisi, this tireless and bold witness to Christ, will be greatly missed,” Father Sheridan added.

In 2004, Father Groeschel was hit by a car, suffering intracranial bleeding and a heart attack, as well as having both legs, both arms and several ribs broken. His secretary said at the time that it would “take a miracle” for the priest — who was 70 years old when the accident occured — to survive. Father Groeschel, who praised God for his recovery from the accident, reinjured his arm earlier this year.

Father Groeschel’s death came as his community celebrated the vigil of the feast of St. Francis, founder of the Franciscans, whose feast day is Oct. 4.

“He poured himself out for others no matter what the cost — and sometimes the cost to him was very great. To have known him was to have been helped by him and even loved by him,” said the Community of the Friars of the Renewal in a statement. “Our CFR family and everyone who knew him received an enormous amount from Father Benedict — probably more than we were ever able to give back. It was not simply his wealth of wisdom and knowledge from which many benefited. It was his profound faith and equally profound love, two gifts that he never failed to share generously.

“Join with us in praying for the repose of the soul of Father Benedict, for his family and community, and also in thanksgiving for the legacy of renewal within the Church and Franciscan family that Father Benedict championed.”

Father Benedict made several visits to Saint Anthony of Padua Parish over the years.  His most recent visit was in June 2009 at which he offered a Holy Hour with an inspiring reflection on the Eucharist. 

Father Benedict’s death is a particular loss for many priests including me who often consulted him on different issues and frequently sought his advice.  I first came to know Father Benedict in 1990 when I was a student at Iona College.  Years later I would become a student of his at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers while I was studying for the priesthood.  After I was ordained in 2003 Father Benedict served as my spiritual director for the first eight years of my priesthood.  I would meet with him each month in his little room at Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont.  I will always be grateful to him and to God for the many gifts, graces and blessings I received from Father Benedict – a unique and precious instrument in the hand of God.

The wake for Father Benedict was held yesterday at Saint Adalbert’s Church on 156th Street in the Bronx.  Today a wake will be held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 89 Ridge Street in Newark, New Jersey from 4 – 9PM with at Vigil Service from 7-9PM.  The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday October 10th at 11AM at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark. 

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Father Benedict leads the congregation in a reflection here at Saint Anthony’s in 2009 in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

 
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Father Benedict ponders a  thought during his reflection.
 
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Father Benedict spent time visiting with parishioners during his visit.  Here he greets Deacon Vincent LeBlanc and his wife Mignone.
 
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Here, Father Benedict and I walk with Mayor Joe Delfino of White Plains to the Rectory following the Holy Hour in 2009.
 
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Father Benedict prepares to leave Saint Anthony’s.
 
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I embrace Father Benedict as he departs.
 
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Goodbye Father Benedict…until we meet again!
Grace Ferranti Funeral Arrangements
Oct 9th, 2014 by Father Chris

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Grace Ferranti

1928-2014

All of us at Saint Anthony’s extend our heartfelt prayers and condolences to Francine Ricciardi, a valued member of our staff, and all of her family on the death of her beloved mother, Grace Ferranti.  Below are the funeral arragnements.  Please keep Grace in your prayers and if you are able to attend the wake and/or Funeral Mass your presence would be greatly appreciated. 

Wake Wednesday and Thursday 2:00pm to 5:00pm and 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Schuyler Hill Funeral Home 3535 East Tremont Avenue Bronx, NY 10465 (718) 792-0270 schuylerhillfh@aol.com

The Funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at 10:00AM at Saint Frances de Chantel Church 190 Hollywood Ave, Bronx, NY 10465 (718) 792-5500

May she rest in peace.

Sister Mary Shea, O.S.U., Former Religious Education Director, dies
Oct 1st, 2014 by Father Chris

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Sr. Mary Shea, O.S.U.

I was saddened yesterday to learn of the death of Sister Mary Shea who had served as our Religious Education Coordinator here at Saint Anthony’s from 2010 to 2o11.  Below is information contained in the obituary for Sister.  We offer our heartfelt prayers and condolences to Sister Mary Shea’s family members as well as her broader family in the Ursuline Community.  May she rest in peace.

Sister Mary Shea died unexpectedly on Monday, September 29, 2014. She was 71 years old. Mary was currently working at The Ursuline School Testing Center from 2012. Prior to that, in 2011 to 2012, she was a substitute teacher for the New Rochelle Board of Education. Her prior ministry had been in parish work. From 1986 to 2007 she was Parish Associate at St. Mary Parish in the Bronx, where she was dearly loved. She next served as Director of Education at St. Barnabas Parish in the Bronx from 2007 to 2010, and then at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in the Bronx for 1 year. In her early years as an Ursuline, she was a successful and much appreciated teacher at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula from 1971 to 1986.

She has served on the Board of Trustees at the Academy of Mount St. Ursula, first in 1987 to 1990, and currently served from 2007, going into her second term in 2010. Mary earned a BA in Classics from the College of New Rochelle in 1964, and an MA in Comparative Literature from the Catholic University of America in 1971.  Mary was born in the Bronx on August 2, 1943 to Delia Reilly and Peter Shea. Both her parents are deceased, as is her only brother John.

The wake will be held at the Ursuline Province Center, 1338 North Ave., New Rochelle, on Thursday, October 2 from 3 to 7 p.m. The Mass of Christian Burial will be on Friday, Oct 3, at 10 a.m. at the Province Center Chapel. In place of flowers, gifts may be made to the Ursuline Retirement Fund at Ursuline Provincialate, 1338 North Avenue, New Rochelle, NY 10804.  Interment will be at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

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