Chatting With Chapey
Commentary by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader
On Sunday, June 24, the parish community of St. Francis de Sales commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first mass said in the new church which was built in 1907. The parish has been celebrating many historic moments over the past year and a half and this celebration brought to a close the Centennial Commemorations.
The main celebrant for this 100th anniversary Mass was the Most Reverend Thomas V. Daily, the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens. Bishop Daily served as Bishop from 1990 to 2003. Concelebrants included Monsignor John Brown, Father Lou DeGaetano and Father John Wtulich. Monsignor John Brown invited Monsignor Martin Geraghty to serve as the homilist.
In his remarks, Monsignor Geraghty gave a brief history of the parish - "In 1906 this parish was born as a necessity in Rockaway. St. Mary Star of the Sea was founded in 1857 and had been in existence for 50 years. St. Rose of Lima was founded in 1886. There were no churches beyond Beach 84th Street. But now the population of Catholics was moving westward along the peninsula. Bishop McDonnell appointed Father McMurray to establish a new parish for the West End. After celebrating early Masses at St. Malachy's and Curley's Hotel on Beach 116th Street, Father McMurray quickly made plans for our first church on Beach 129th Street. The ground was broken in 1906 and the First Mass was celebrated here at the beginning of the summer of 1907."
This Centennial closing Mass was celebrated on the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. As Monsignor Geraghty noted that like John the Baptist, the parish of St. Francis received a call from God to hear and proclaim the good news, to minister to the parishioners and their families and to reach out to the community to foster positive interfaith relationships.
The music ministry at St. Francis adds that extra dimension to the services. Music connects people and brings us together. It allows each of us as we sing along to add our unique sound to the current celebration. Music is an inarticulate, unfathomable speech which leads us to the edge of the infinite and compels us for a moment to gaze into it. (Although I do not know the author of this definition, I do remember it from my elementary school days. To me it really articulates the value of music.) The music ministry at St. Francis is a foundational component of all our services. At the 100th anniversary Mass, Michael Schmitt did an outstanding job playing the trumpet. The trumpet gave a resounding call and loudly proclaimed the importance of this celebration. (Schmitt is following in the outstanding musical tradition of his very talented parents - Eileen and Herman Schmitt. This family has played an integral and important part in the music ministry over many years in the St. Francis de Sales parish.)
At this celebratory Mass there were three choirs: the Adult Choir under the leadership of Herman Schmitt sang "Thanks Be To Thee". The repertoire of this choir includes many traditional and modern hymns which lift the spirit of the worshipper to a higher place; the Folk Group under the leadership of Michael Rocks combines a guitar accompaniment to the wonderful trained voices of the singers. They sang "Go Light Your World" as an expression of praise and prayer; the Children's Group under the leadership of Ronnie Quinn sang "Peace" which added a quality of joy and happiness to the services.
Kudos go to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood who came to our parish in 1913 with the task of heading up the educational ministry. Many of the sisters who have taught in the school over the years came back to attend this celebration. These dedicated religious women have guided our school and have a long record of significant accomplishments. They encouraged all the children to have a life long love of learning and a desire to pursue further learning endeavors. They gave and still give our students a solid foundation on which to build. They excelled in the classroom and in the spiritual realm as they prayed with us and for us.
A special thanks to Monsignor John Brown for spearheading these celebratory events. He recognizes the importance of unifying the St. Francis de Sales family. It fosters a sense of togetherness and community with parishioners of all ages. These events allow us to reflect on the success of the past and build on a new future. As Monsignor Geraghty stated "This is the new threshold into the future. We have been blessed with 100 years. May God grant us hundreds more".
Monsignor Brown graciously invited everyone to a reception in the school hall. It was great fun chatting with friends and neighbors while enjoying a delicious snack. Thank you again to Monsignor John Brown for his caring leadership. Thanks to Dorothy Brenna, Father Lou, Father John, Sister Patricia Chelius and Sister Patricia Walsh for bringing everyone together.