2004-01-16 / Community

Rockaway Woman Praised By WINS Radio Nun

by Kathleen Louis
Special Correspondent
Rockaway Woman Praised By WINS Radio Nun

Rockaway Woman Praised By WINS Radio Nun

by Kathleen Louis
Special Correspondent

What does the Christmas season, which has just passed, really mean to Christians?

Many believe that it's not just about bright lights and decorations. It's not about obligatory gift-giving or a mythical bearded man with eight prancing reindeer.

Listen to Sister Camille D'Arienzo each Sunday on 1010 WINS AM radio and you'll be sure to find out the real reason for the Christmas season. For 30 years, Sr. Camille, a member of the Sisters of Mercy Roman Catholic religious community, has been broadcasting a message of love for the holiday season.

Those messages include some that emanate from Rockaway, from a group called "Voice of The Faithful."

With little fanfare and even less regard for personal recognition or public accolades, Sr. Camille, an Ozone Park native who now resides in St. Pancras Parish in Glendale, began her religious broadcasts in November 1973 and has not missed a week since then. She recently compiled a selection of her commentaries on life and faith. Her "New York Minutes" are now available in a five-CD set, and may be published in book form in the near future.

Mary Kiernan of Rockaway Beach, who is featured in one of Sr. Camille's CD commentaries, praises her for al ways being in the forefront of religious issues. Kiernan is one of the founders of Queens' only chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a group of lay people formed two years ago to address the scandal of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic clergymen. "The Church only talks about abortion. Sr. Camille isn't afraid to talk about human rights issues like sexual abuse, the death penalty and the taking of innocent life during war," Kiernan said.

Featuring her in a radio message on June 1, 2003, Sr. Camille praised Kier nan as a "persistent petitioner." She insisted on a greater role for lay people in Church governance and refused to take no for an answer when Bishop Thomas Daily would not allow VOTF members to hold meetings in Church facilities. Daily eventually relented.

"I think of my work as a contribution to an ongoing dialogue about faith," said Sr. Camille, who has always written her own radio messages. She is quick to point out that her views on contemporary issues, although always reflecting her Christian faith, do not represent the official voice of either the Catholic Church or her religious community. For the past three decades, Sr. Camille has not shied away from commenting on public figures, politics and controversies of all kinds.

"Sr. Camille explores intelligently the why of human events," former Gov ern or Mario Cuomo says in an introduction to her CD collection. "She never ducked an issue because it was controversial. She comments on current events with cogency, compassion

and common sense."

"Her CD collection is like a walk through time," said Scott Herman, who was vice president and general manager of 1010 WINS for the last 10 years. He recently became vice president of Infinity Broadcasting. "Sr. Camille is an incredible writer and an important voice. I've personally never met a person with more genuine decency and compassion."In fact, Herman credits her with pointing him in the right direction to pursue his successful career in broadcasting. He first met her in 1977 when he was a student at Brooklyn College and Sr. Camille was a professor in the communications department. After 20 years of teaching there, she retired in 1993 as a professor emeritus. She is currently an adjunct professor at St. John's University in Jamaica Estates.

"My heart has never really left teaching," said the sister, who took her religious vows 51 years ago. Prior to her venture into the world of broadcasting, Sr. Camille taught in Brooklyn diocesan elementary schools for 11 years. "I would have been happy to stay in the classroom," but God, through the diocese and the Sisters of Mercy, had other plans for her. Having already earned a degree in elementary education at Fordham University, Sr. Camille went on to receive advanced degrees in communications at the University of Michigan.

Her views are often controversial. However, in 30 years of weekly broadcasts, Sr. Camille only remembers three instances when her commentary drew negative feedback. The first was in the 1970s when she spoke sensitively about the suicide of young comedian Freddie Prinze, whom she called a clown with tears in his heart. Sr. Camille said she hoped he would find peace in heaven. A few irate listeners were quick to point out that traditional Catholic doctrine denies the comfort of heaven to those who take their own lives.

Members of Roman Catholic religious communities take a vow of pov erty, therefore proceeds from the sale of Sr. Camille's "New York Minutes" CDs will benefit missions of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, a religious congregation begun in Ireland and established in Brooklyn nearly 150 years ago. With a tradition of service that includes teaching and nursing, the Sisters of Mercy continue to add ress the needs of poor communities.

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