For many people, summer is a time of relaxation. But not for the Archdiocese, which uses the summer break to reassign its priests. Especially in this year of Making All Things New, this summer has been a crazy one for your priests as so many of us are moving.
As of August 1st, I have been appointed pastor of St. Monica’s. Some of you might have already read the article that was written about me in the Wall Street Journal. For those who did not, a few bits of information from my life.
I am a native New Yorker, though was born and raised just outside of the city in the town of Nanuet, New York. I attended Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, VA from 1978-82 and graduated with a double major in German and Religious Studies. If that seems like an odd combination, its because at that time I was a Lutheran, and was preparing to become a Lutheran minister.
However my heart was pulling me in another direction, and after four years at the Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg, PA and a year of post graduate studies a the Ludwig-Maximillian University in Munich, Germany, I returned and entered the Roman Catholic Church. I was ordained for the Archdiocese of New York on May 13, 1995.
In my 20 years of priesthood, I have served in three parishes. As an associate I served at St. Frances de Chantal in the Bronx, from ’95 through 2000 and St. Gregory the Great on West 90th St. From ’00 to ’03. I then became the pastor of St. Teresa’s on the Lower East Side.
St. Teresa’s was a place filled with immigrants, where mass was celebrated in four languages every Sunday: English, Spanish, Cantonese and Mandarin (I can speak the first two, and be polite in Mandarin). It was a poor place, but one filled with life and set in the midst of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. I was also the pastor of the Church of the Nativity on Second Avenue, which was merged with St. Teresa’s for seven years, from ’07 to ’14 when it was merged with Most Holy Redeemer. I loved serving the people in both St. Teresa’s and Nativity. They taught me what it meant to be a priest and to pastor a diverse, active Catholic parish.
My arrival will mean changes - of course, the arrival of a new priest always does. People decide to take the opportunity to retire, or even to follow the old pastor. new people arrive. However I promise to go slowly, to listen and to take the time necessary for us to get to know each other. After all, I am not the only new one here. The parish of St. Monica’s has just gotten bigger, embracing the parish communities of St. Stephen’s and St. Elizabeth’s. We have also been given a thriving parish school, St. Stephen of Hungary. We all have to grow together, to get to know each other as members of a new single parish with a growing parish school.
As you can imagine, as a convert to Catholicism, that word Catholic means a lot to me. In the original Greek it meant “universal” and indicated that ours is a Church that embraces everyone. My style of ministry and administration is then to be Catholic; to employ your gifts, to listen to your desires, and to welcome anyone who wishes to build up the life of the Church to roll up their sleeves and work together.
Personally, I am pretty accessible. I enjoy a glass of wine and welcome an invitation to visit people in their homes. The German language and Germany in general are important to me. I spend a part of my vacation every year working in a parish in Münster, Germany, and my friends from Germany visit me here. My parents are both deceased, but my brother and his grown children live in North Carolina. You will undoubtedly meet some them in the years ahead.
So as so many people have remarked to me, I’m “movin’ on up, to the East Side” ( if I have to hear someone hum the theme to The Jeffersons one more time. . . .)- however I counter, not to some “deluxe apartment in the sky”, but to some place far better - the Church of St. Monica. I look forward to getting to know all of you as your priest and your pastor.