Chatting With Chapey
by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey
Fr. James Devine is a true Queens success story. Fr. James Devine has
served with distinction and devotion for many years as the Chaplain of
Division 21 and 22 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He provides spiritual inspiration and guidance to the men and women of the AOH and their families and friends. His effervescent spirit, his deep spirituality and his humanitarian outlook provide leadership and direction.
Fr. Devine now serves as the pastor of Our Lady of the Skies Chapel at
Kennedy Airport. Previously he had served for 10 years with distinction as the Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish.
Fr. Devine gave the homily at the mass this year for the Queens St.
Patrick's Day Parade. It was so interesting and informative that I asked him if I could reprint it in my column and share it with you. He agreed. The homily went as follows:
"Today we come together to honor St. Patrick. He was a missionary who converted the people of Ireland to the love of God. His life and teaching touched the lives of so many people, including our own. Ireland accepted the faith and sent so many missionaries around the world.
Fr. John Stack from County Kerry was pastor of St. Rose of Lima for more than thirty years. He was pastor when Fr. Devine was an altar boy at St. Rose. His prayerful caring for people started Fr. Devine thinking about the priesthood. During those years, two Irish Colombian Fathers, James Galvin and Tom Flynn, who had been expelled from China, came to assist Fr. Stack in the parish. Fr. Tony Casey, who cheerfully serves the people of St. Rose today,
is from County Limerick.
In those days, St. Rose of Lima did not have a parish school so Fr.
Devine went to St. Francis de Sales School.
Msgr. Jerome J. Reddy and the Sisters of St. Joseph were a great
influence on all of us. Msgr. Reddy was present for every mass offered at
the altar in St. Francis de Sales. I remember hearing how Msgr. Reddy took his elderly father into the rectory to care for him. When he passed away a parishioner said to Msgr. Reddy ‘too bad he did not live three more months to celebrate his 100th birthday.’ Msgr. replied ‘Would you deprive him of three months in Heaven?’ He was indeed a man of great faith.
Buddy Clark and I graduated from St. Francis de Sales School. It was his sister, Maura, who was killed as a missionary in El Salvador. I remember their father, John Clark, coming down the boulevard on Thursday morning dressed in a jacket
and tie. He was coming home from 9 a.m. mass at St. Francis de Sales. I
remember the parents of Fr. Paul Murphy CM, going to daily mass at St. Rose of Lima.
When Fr. Devine's father retired he attended mass at St. Rose of Lima on
a daily basis. The pastor honored him by asking him to serve as the
sacristan and open the church on a daily basis. The missionaries who spread the faith were not only priests and religious, but ordinary men and women who came from Ireland and passed on their faith to their children, by example, as well as word.
I recall Fr. William Burke, who had a great influence on the young people
in the famous St. Camillus Band, and proudly marched up 5th Avenue a few times each St. Patrick's Day in the annual parade. I marveled when he took the band to Florida each year to march in the Orange Bowl Parade. As I think back, it was the faith of the families and the good example of the Irish parents that had the greatest impact for good. In those days Rockaway was called ‘Irish Town’ and so it was, with the famous dance halls on 103rd Street. We used to kid about the bar called ‘Flynn and Brennan’ because that was the name of the two priests stationed at
St. Rose at the time.
I remember the strong faith of the White family. Their parents and
their aunt and uncle were frequently at daily mass in St. Francis de Sales. This religious family now has one son a priest and the pastor of St.
Virgilius in Broad Channel. Fr. Charles White and their daughter Sr. Agnes White, a Josephite sister is the principal of St. Camillus.
The Pastors of each of the parishes all along the Peninsula have Irish
roots. Msgr. Connelly of St. Thomas More from County Galway has served the people of our diocese for more than 40 years. Fr. Jack Cullinane from St. Genevieve is proud of his Irish heritage. Msgr. Martin Gerraghty, our gracious host today and spiritual leader of St. Francis de Sales has Irish roots. Fr. James Dunne, the humble pastor of St. Camillus, was honored by his parish this March as the "Irishman of the Year". (There have been many
Irish pastors in St. Camillus who worked for the people of the parish
including Fr. Joseph Curran (1927 to 1945), Fr. Thomas Casey (1946 to 1954), Fr. John Murphy (1955 to 1966), Fr. McGovern (1966 to 1978), Msgr. Brady (1978 thru 1985). Fr. Peter Gillen of St. Rose of Lima has Irish roots and hosts the Ancient Order of Hibernians monthly meetings and has gifted the Rockaways with the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. Fr. Brendan Downey of St. Gertrude's like, St. Brendan the Navigator, reaches out to serve the people
of the community. Fr. Sean Ogle of St. Mary Star of the Sea serves the
people of Far Rockaway and is a great Irish Step Dancer. If he were not a priest, he would probably be at the Gershwin Theater in Riverdance.
The influence of St. Patrick whom we now honor through the entire month of March continues to touch the lives of so many. The Christ, he fought and died for, speaks to us today in the scriptures: ‘cloth yourself with heart felt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness and patience". Bear with one another, forgive whatever grievances you have against one another! Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. Dedicate yourself to thankfulness.’
God has been so good to each one of us. May we continue to work together, religious and lay family members so that the mission of St. Patrick
may continue for many years to come
‘May God continue to bless everyone. Happy St. Patrick's Day to all.’"
I would like to thank Fr. Devine for his, commitment and long time
dedication to the people of our community and particularly for his taking his time, talent and expertise to prepare this thoughtful homily. This
historical account provides us with a thoughtful framework of our past and
present and highlights important aspects of our Irish heritage.