2007-08-10 / Community

St.Gertrude's In Flux After Priest's Death

No Regular Priest, But Services Will Continue
By Miriam Rosenberg

Priests from St. Mary Star of the Sea in Far Rockaway will share the duties of providing services to St. Gertrude The Great in Edgemere. Priests from St. Mary Star of the Sea in Far Rockaway will share the duties of providing services to St. Gertrude The Great in Edgemere. Following the death of the only priest at St. Gertrude The Great, the Diocese of Brooklyn has appointed Father James Cunningham of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church as the new administrator for the churches.

The change took place two days after Father Brendan Downing, of St. Gertrude, died of cancer on July 9.

"There is one administrator for two parishes," said Frank DeRosa, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

With Father Cunningham on vacation, Father David Espinal spoke to The Wave about the changes facing St. Gertrude.

Although there will be no regular priest at St. Gertrude, parishioners will not be left in the lurch.

"The church will continue to be present for the people of St. Gertrude's," assured Espinal. "They will continue to receive services."

The two churches will share the services of Fathers Cunningham and Espinal. In addition, there are three deacons (one from St. Gertrude) assigned to the houses of worship.

"Basically priests will also be assisting in baptisms, confirmations [things like that]," said Espinal.

Priests from St. Mary's are no strangers to St. Gertrude's. Espinal explained that they have been sister churches for some time.

"Priests from St. Mary's have been working closely with St. Gertrude's for years," said Espinal. "We have a great relationship with the staff."

As for the physical distance between St. Mary's, which is located at 19-20 New Haven Avenue in Far Rockaway, and St. Gertrude's which is located at 336 Beach 38 Street in Edgemere, Espinal said, "It's 18 blocks away. Five minutes by car."

Despite a recent report in the Daily News that indicated that the Spanish mass officiated by Father Downing every Sunday had been cancelled, DeRosa and Espinal said priests from St. Mary now hold a bilingual mass at St. Gertrude every Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

There is also a Thursday morning mass at 9 a.m., which Father Espinal said is usually bilingual.

In response to requests from those who attend St. Gertrude, there will be a monthly mass to remember the much-loved Father Downing.

"There will be a monthly 'mind' or memorial mass on the ninth of every month for a year," continued Espinal.

The mass will be celebrated on the ninth of each month at 7:30 p.m. and will be bilingual.

"He was a wonderful man," Espinal said of Downing.

Espinal said close to 60 priests from the Diocese came to pay their final respects to Downing on the day of his funeral.

"He got a police escort to his burial," said the St. Mary's priest. "He was a champion for the poor."

Although there are discussions taking place to merge the two churches, DeRosa said, "No decision has been made yet to merge."

If there are any questions, parishioners can call St. Mary Star of the Sea at 718-327-1133.

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