by Msgr. Kevin Noone
To know Bishop Raymond Chappetto is to know a priest whose priestly identity is in the sinews of his muscles and in the marrow of his bones.
His vocation was nurtured within a loving immediate family and a caring extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. His maternal aunt, Sister Mary Louise Sarra, M.S.B.T., and the charism of her Trinitarian congregation, has always had a great influence on his approach to ministry. That charism could be summarized by a dependence upon the Holy Spirit, the embracing of the entire person and a family spirit of working together.
The parish family of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria, where he was rasied, was a another great influence upon our new bishop. Msgr. Peter Kelahar and his assistant priests, especially the late Father John Dobbyn, and the Sisters of St. Joseph nurtured the faith already exhibited at home and inspired him and his brothers to join their father, Louis, and mother, Vera, in parish and community activities.
The Chappetto family is well known in Astoria and a local park is named for his paternal uncle.
Having sensed the call to the priesthood at an early age, our new bishop as an eighth grader in Mount Carmel school applied to and was accepted by the minor seminary in the diocese, Cathedral Prep Seminary, on Washington Ave. in Brooklyn.
After six years there, he was assigned to the major seminary of Our Lady of Angels in Glenmont, just south of Albany, N.Y. There, the Vincentian Fathers, during the years of the Second Vatican Council, guided him to ordination for service in the Diocese of Brooklyn on May 29, 1971.
The growth and maturing of his vocation came not only from his class work but also from his apostolic assignments and his summer jobs at St. Jude parish in Mastic Beach where his family spent their summers.
There, he and his brother Tom organized a summer day camp for the parish children, and he acquired his skills for organization and getting three nickels out of every dime.
As a parish priest at St. Camillus in Rockaway, St. Pius V in Jamaica, Incarnation in Queens Village and St. Helen in Howard Beach, he thoroughly enjoyed serving his parishioners. He has a remarkable ability to stay in contact with people from his past assignments and keeps a Hallmark card store in business with all the birthday cards he sends.
When he and Father George Cowan went to Our Lady of Miracles (OLM) in Canarsie and were officially designated a team ministry, he endeared himself to the people there. While he served at OLM, he led a campaign to remodel the church and that experience prepared him for his future parish of Our Lady of the Snows, North Floral Park.
In 1995, after 24 years of parish ministry, he was asked by Bishop Thomas V. Daily to be his representative to a portion of the diocese known as Brooklyn West. During those four years, he was known for his kindness, common sense, availability and, at all times, his approachability.
He enjoyed visiting the parishes and getting to know parish staffs but anticipated returning to a pastorate. That day came in the summer of 1999 when he was assigned to Our Lady of the Snows.
His past 13 years at “Snows” have been a testament to the inner strength and perseverance he has always displayed. The parish had a temporary church in the school, and he inspired the people to dream of a permanent church and the conversion of the temporary church to a gymnasium for school and parish needs.
Delays and unexpected expenses came, but he withstood them all and is leaving the parish debt-free while we are in a recession economy.
What would our new bishop say about these accomplishments? He would immediately downplay his own role and say, “Everything we do as a parish is for the glory of God. We, people, religious and priests, were instruments for God’s glory; we did it together.”
His gospel-like simplicity that has characterized his priestly ministry will be the hallmark of his episcopacy. May he have many happy more years serving the People of God in Brooklyn and Queens.