On The Beach
With Beverly Baxter
Saying Goodbye To Msgr. Geraghty
The talk on the street was one of dazed disbelief. “Devastating. “Are you sure?” “Is it official?” “It’s like losing a member of our family.” These are just some of the heartfelt sentiments expressed upon hearing the sudden news that the much beloved spiritual leader of Saint Frances de Sales will be leaving the Belle Harbor Parish.
Monsignor Martin Geraghty has received notice that he will be transferred to Saint Robert Bellarmine in Bayside, Queens. The transfer is expected to take place sometime in March. As of press time, the official appointment of a successor has not been made. “The Bishop has asked me to fill the vacancy that was created when the Pastor there died suddenly on Christmas Day,” stated Msgr. Geraghty.
After 18 years of service to the parish and the community, as well as this year marking the Centennial Anniversary of the parish, the Monsignor’s transfer seems so cruel. “There’s a lot of love in Rockaway and in the parish. I’ve been lucky to have been a part of it. We went through a lot together. We’ve had tragedies like what happened on 9/11 and the plane crash of Flight 587. We’ve also shared happy moments together. I will always have sand in my shoes.” While the tenure of a Pastor to a particular parish is normally six years, it is renewable for another six. “It is generally beyond the norm to get eighteen years. I’ve been very lucky for having been given six more years. I had hoped to retire from this parish; but part of the life of service is to be moved to help out in another place,” explained Msgr. Geraghty.
While the Monsignor’s tone is one of acceptance, parishioners and residents throughout the peninsula are heartbroken. Some are even angry. According to one, who wishes to remain anonymous, “This is just another stupid maneuver and example of the tin-ear the Diocese has demonstrated toward the community. I don’t go to church regularly; and although I’ve had a good relationship with the Monsignor, through his support of the Graybeards, he never questioned me as to why I don’t attend Mass on a regular basis. He didn’t judge. I appreciated that.” As for a successor? “We don’t want to deal with a successor. We’re hoping they’ll reconsider.”
It is always hard for a community to lose its spiritual leader; but the horrific events of 9/11 and then the plane crash that literally befell and pierced through the heart of our community, when we lost so many lives, make the loss of Monsignor Geraghty, whom we relied upon and who guided us so nobly, seem so severe. Part of what makes our community such a special place to live is its stability. These tragic catastrophes rocked the fabric and underpinning of our foundation; and in the wake of these events, Monsignor Geraghty has been a force of needed calm and consolation. When asked to define the many gifts Monsignor has given to the community or the qualities that make him so special, Joanne Blum describes his reach. “It isn’t just that he is active in the inter-faith. He fosters inclusion and wants the laity to be part of the liturgies, the Eucharist, and ministries. Boys and girls as Alter Servers and Sacrosancts, fosters a feeling of being part of the mantle of evangelicalism. Through his interpretations in his Homilies, he inspires and makes relevant the Old and New Testament and Gospel readings in our everyday lives.”
Another quality that has endeared Msgr. Geraghty is his sense of accommodation. He doesn’t get caught up in stringent bureaucracies. He infuses the rules with humanistic tolerances. Whether it be the private tutoring, on his own time, of a parishioner for Confirmation so that she could be ready to be married in the church, or his allowing of the unconventional selection of an Eric Clapton song as a Recessional piece or an Irish Rebel song in a funeral mass, describes his willingness to help and make things work.
Maureen McGee, President of the Sea Breeze Golden Age Club, which encompasses the parishes of St. Rose of Lima, St. Camillus, St. Virgilius, St. Thomas More, and St. Genevieve, describes Monsignor’s selfless generosity. “Even when he was clearly in enormous pain after enduring two hip surgeries, his generous compassion never faltered. He’d go to the dances and circle the tables and everybody wanted to grab him and be near him wherever he went. He’d ask, ‘How is everything?’ and of course, you’d tell him! But he was never burdened. He’d make the St. Patrick’s Day Dances and even sing an Irish song...always offering something witty or insightful that was appropriate to the occasion. We have been comforted by his special masses for departed members. He is just a true man of God in every sense.”
Keith (Bugsy) Goldberg spoke of the Monsignor’s support of the CYO. “He never played favorites. He is a person for everyone. Although we have been very fortunate to have had him for as long as we have, there is still a sense that the timing of his transfer is unfortunate, given the fact that he has been such an integral part of the planning for our Centennial year.” For many, it seems unfair, given all that we have been through, that he should be taken from us during this happy time in our parish. The Lenihan family echoes the sentiments of many others, “The Monsignor will never be replaced.”
Monsignor Geraghty’s profound impact will be felt for years to come; but his leaving, like the loss of a family member, will leave us with a void that can never be filled. Joanne Blum analogizes Monsignor Geraghty’s effect to a story in the Bible. “We are like little sheep; when one of us wonders off and gets lost, he brings us back; and in saving us individually, he saves the flock.”
If you, or your children, would like to join the letter writing drive requesting the Bishop to reconsider the transfer, the address is: Bishop DiMarzio, 75 Green Ave. P.O. Box C, Brooklyn, New York 11202. Parishioners may also email Bishop DiMarzio at diobrook.org