Posted on 30 January 2013.
by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This year, Catholic Schools Week was observed from Sunday, Jan. 27, to Saturday, Feb. 2, with the theme “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards,” a theme which focuses on the new initiative of raising the bar on the national standards and benchmarks for effective Catholic elementary and secondary schools, and high standards at Catholic schools across the country. The logo “illustrates a chart of steady growth culminating in the highest achievement of all, a cross representing the faith that underscores all Catholic education.”
The theme is so appropriate, as we are not only reminded of the high academic achievements attained by Catholic schools and academies within Brooklyn and Queens, but also of Christ who is the foundation on which all Catholic schools and academies are built. I am reminded of the quote that Bishop Thomas V. Daily had posted in every school building in the diocese:
“Let it be known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school, the unseen but ever present Teacher in its classes, the model of its Faculty, the inspiration of its Students.”
Strengthening Catholic Education
Indeed, gratitude must be given in reflection upon Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn. “Preserving the Vision,” an initiative which as you may know began three years ago and continues today to be an instrument of strategic planning for the future of our Catholic schools here in Brooklyn and Queens, continues to encourage and enable schools and academies to assess and strengthen both Catholic identity and academic excellence.
Through “Preserving the Vision,” Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn has strengthened tremendously. An ongoing strategic planning process has enabled the Diocese to guide schools and academies in the completion, implementation and review of strategic plans designed to help them prosper. The process enables newly formed academies to successfully transition into a two-tiered governance model allowing for academies to be governed by a board of directors who specialize in school management, as well as a board of members including myself and pastors involved with the school. “Preserving the Vision” will allow for every school to be transitioned to this effective model by 2017.
With the children at the heart of Catholic education, improvements also advance at the diocesan and local levels in areas such as marketing, public relations, development efforts, technology to enhance instruction and communication, and in providing training and resources for administrators and teachers to implement the expectations found in the N.Y.S. Common Core Learning Standards. Today, we boast 91 Catholic schools and academies with 30,048 children of all races and many ethnicities.
It is my pleasure to announce that 25 of those 91 schools and academies have already transitioned into the academy model, which is so vital to the health and sustainability of the school communities within Brooklyn and Queens. Moreover, our board mentors have been hired within the Diocese of Brooklyn for additional assistance to the boards of directors. These mentors work to ensure that the board of directors fully utilizes all resources that are available to them to be successful in their governance responsibility and to enhance the working relationships among the board of directors, the members of the academy, the principal and the parent community.
The Diocese of Brooklyn is truly blessed to have these mentors to ensure that this vital governance model is fully implemented through their on-site assistance and regular participation. They are able to provide valuable feedback to the board of directors and the members regarding items such as the agenda, the notes and outcomes of the meetings and the challenges. Additionally, they understand board assessment processes and will use this knowledge to develop and implement professional development plans for the needs of the boards. These mentors follow-up with the board chairperson on key issues to provide recommendations that will further each academy to viability and full vitality.
It is understood that the academy model is new and confusing to many. When I speak of mentors aiding in the development of roles for board secretaries, treasurers and sub-committees, it almost seems that there is a certain complexity to academies. Yet, the Church sometimes must guide her members in defining their roles and vocations. There are roles to fill, and we must rejoice that the women and men who serve us can guide others to define these new roles and to aid them in their transitions.
St. John’s University also continues to serve the Diocese of Brooklyn through partnerships in the St. Vincent de Paul Program. The program provides directors with ongoing professional development as continued board evaluation is essential for boards of directors.
Furthermore, regarding the success in schools and academies within Brooklyn and Queens, we must remember the monetary generosity of others. Scholarships totaling $951,358 were awarded to 560 students within the Diocese of Brooklyn by 237 “Angel” sponsors through Futures in Education. An additional $2,399,599 was awarded to 2,898 students through Diocesan scholarships and $3,250,000 to 1,850 students through the Bishop’s Program. Finally, 247 students received a total of $525,855 in financial aid through high school scholarship programs.
Following Hurricane Sandy, you may recall the additional emergency scholarship fund that was established through Futures in Education. Applications were immediately distributed to principals and returned to PSAS by Dec. 14, 2012 for analysis. These applications were hand-delivered in the Rockaway and Howard Beach schools. Overall, more than one million dollars in relief was requested from approximately 700 students, with additional families requesting any help at all. Today, I am pleased to announce that Futures in Education expects to award in February over one million dollars to 764 students affected by Hurricane Sandy.
As much as I cannot express the great gratitude I have for donations of over eight million dollars toward the education of children, neither can I express the great gratitude I have for parents who are their primary educators and who make such sacrifices to send their children to Catholic school, nor can I express the fullness of my gratitude toward our Catholic Schools Office. Under the direction of the Superintendent for Catholic Schools Support Services, Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D., and with the daily supervision and collaboration of Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J., Secretary for Catholic Education and Formation, and our Vicar General, Bishop Frank Caggiano, the Schools Office has worked tirelessly throughout the year, and especially through Hurricane Sandy, to keep our children safe and in school.
Again, the theme of Catholic Schools Week this year is “raising the standards,” a theme comparable to putting out into the deep. As a community, we have raised the bar, not only in academic achievements, but in charity and self-sacrifice. Despite the many hardships families and school communities have endured in the past months, Catholic education within Brooklyn and Queens continues to put out into the deep, raising the bar to persevere and to thrive with Christ as the constant guide. I look forward to my visits to Catholic schools this year, where I will continue to play games of “Stump the Bishop” with children and to answer their questions about religion, although I still cannot tell them about the new math.
Posted on 28 November 2012.
by Marie Elena Giossi
Floodwaters have receded and electricity has been restored, but the post-Sandy rebuilding efforts have just begun for residents in Canarsie.
Having been designated as a Zone B evacuation area with only a moderate flood risk, Canarsie residents weren’t expecting the seven- and eight-foot high floodwaters that Sandy brought ashore late last month. Many residents sustained costly damages and lost irreplaceable items in the basements and first floors of their homes.
As a sign of solidarity, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio visited the parish family and celebrated the 12:45 p.m. Mass on Sunday, Nov. 25. Following Mass, the bishop met with several parishioners in the rectory and listened to how they were affected by the storm.
He was originally slated to visit the parish on the weekend following Hurricane Sandy but rescheduled so that he could celebrate Mass with harder hit residents in Breezy Point.
As parishioners were dispersing following the 11:15 a.m. Mass, the bishop arrived and had the chance to meet Philbert Sicard, president of Midocean Air, LLC, who donated three furnaces and a boiler to the neediest parish families.
A parishioner for 21 years, Sicard called the church after the hurricane to find out how the parish property and individual parishioners fared. Fearing that some businesses may take advantage of the situation, he donated his services to some families and offered more than fair rates to others.
“I’ve already installed at least 20 boilers and furnaces in Canarsie,” he said.
When he visited the Seaview Ave. home of an octogenarian couple whose basement and belongings were ruined, he said he had tears in his eyes. He put his other projects on hold to help them first.
But there were no tears on Sunday morning as families streamed into church, where they joyfully sang, prayed and shared the Eucharist.
Concelebrating the liturgy were Father John Amann, pastor; Fathers Edward R. P. Kane and Jean Augustin Francois, parochial vicars; and Father Caleb Buchanan, representing the Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns, and neighboring parish of St. Laurence, East New York, where he serves as administrator.
In his homily, Bishop DiMarzio shared the story of a bipolar king whose mood swings prompted him to seek a magic charm to achieve a balanced state. A sage man had a solution for the king’s wavering emotions – a ring with the inscription: This too shall pass.
Just as the inscription on the ring reminded the king, the bishop reminded the congregation that the suffering and distress caused by Hurricane Sandy around the diocese, including Canarsie, will eventually pass.
“We have to set our sights to the future, not look to the past,” he said. “There’s so much more to God’s Kingdom than the present moment.”
Before the final blessing, Father Amann shared how proud he was of the parish family, of the many instances of “people helping people.”
At the invitation of Father Amann during a town hall meeting at the parish in early November, FEMA set up a Disaster Recovery Center in the school auditorium. Since Nov. 8, the center has been open daily, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
According to Grasty, FEMA has processed 43,144 individual assistance applications in Brooklyn as of Nov. 24. Brooklynites have been awarded $139,140,554 in individual assistance grants thus far.
At the FEMA Center based at Holy Family School, a total of 1,159 applications were processed from Nov. 8 through Nov. 22. FEMA will stay on-site to address the community’s needs for the foreseeable future.
Also on hand are representatives from the American Red Cross, the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) and the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
“We’re here to help,” Nunn told the congregation. “This isn’t going to be done overnight but as the bishop said, ‘This too shall pass.’”
Following Mass, the bishop took time to speak with the Chin family, one of countless parish families affected by the storm.
Flooding destroyed the appliances, furniture, walls and carpeting in the family’s basement apartment, where Mervyn and Betty Chin, resided. Until a complete renovation can be completed, the couple has temporarily moved upstairs to live with their son, Cedric, studio director for NET, the diocesan cable television station, and daughter-in-law Johanna.
“The bishop’s presence here today is important to the parish,” Cedric shared after Mass. “It shows his concern for the people.
“Like the bishop said, ‘This too shall pass,’ but it’s also bringing us together,” he added, looking around at his fellow parishioners. “FEMA is here. People were together for Thanksgiving. People are coming together.”
Posted on 26 September 2012.
The 2012 Bishop’s Dinner for Scouting, Sept. 20, paid tribute to an auxiliary bishop, a police detective, a police inspector, a politician and local Scout leaders. Held at El Caribe, the dinner is an annual event sponsored by the Catholic Committee on Scouting in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The Bishop’s Good Scout Award recipients were:
Retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansarciq
Detective Steven McDonald
Inspector Peter DiBlasio, commanding officer, 60 Pct.
Congressman Bob Turner Ninth CD, Brooklyn and Queens
Knights of Columbus, Brooklyn and Queens
Other award winners were:
John DeLosa, Chairman’s Award for a lifetime of service to Catholic Scouting
Peggy Casey and Mike Khiabani, Service to Youth Award
Patricia Long, The inaugural Ann Mannix Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award
The Bronze Pelican Award for promotion of Scout participation in religious activties was presented to:
Mary Ann Fagan
Deacon James Noble
The St. George Award, which recognizes outstanding contribution to the spiritual development of Boy Scouts, went to:
Mary Beth Dono
The Elizabeth Ann Seton Award for helping develop the spiritual lives of Girls Scouts was presented to:
Anna Maria Caccamo
Posted on 26 September 2012.
by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into His Church. So writes Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, announcing the Year of Faith, which will open on the 11th of October.
An open door is an invitation that demands a response from you and me. We can choose to enter, or stay in the place we find ourselves and may be very comfortable, or choose to pass through another door. Sometimes our faith challenges even our deeply held political beliefs. The Universal Call to Holiness that we all share imposes upon us to recognize that we are called to be set apart even in the exercise of our political responsibilities.
My suspicion is many of us desire to walk through the door of faith but are afraid. Some may fear the changes that might be required in their lives, other are terrified by the prospect of not being in “control” of one’s own destiny. This was precisely the choice the Apostles confronted; their lives and our world were forever changed.
Were the Apostles reckless? To the unbeliever, they were foolish and delusional. As for the believer, we view them as courageous. But the Apostles knew Christ, and He spoke to their hearts. On one hand, what Jesus was calling them to seemed impossible and difficult. The only reason they would say “yes” is that they knew Christ; they heard Him open the Scriptures and saw with their own eyes the marvels He worked.
How is it that you and I come to know Christ? We know Him by our study of the Scriptures. We read and spend time thinking about His life and what He said to the Apostles. The Apostles in the Epistles begin to explain to the early Christian community the implications of faith in their lives.
Through Sacred Tradition and the Magesterium of the Church, we continue to learn what is demanded of us today. We believe this because we trust in the words of Christ to the Apostles, that He was sending the Spirit to us. He sends the Spirit to us as individuals and also to the Church.
Implications of Faith
Over the centuries, the Church struggled to understand the implications of our faith in Christ; in the Apostolic Age, the Church contemplated if it was necessary to follow the Mosaic law in order to be a Christian. In the fourth century, the Church struggled with the humanity and divinity of Christ. In the fifth century, the Council of Ephesus examined the role of Mary.
As we enter into this Year of Faith, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At the heart of the matter is the Universal Call to Holiness. Many think that only priests and nuns are called to be holy. Yet, the Council and the Catechism help us to see more clearly that it is by virtue of our baptism that we are all set apart and consecrated.
Is your life and mine distinguishable from that of unbelievers? Are we set apart? The Holy Father, writing in Porta Fidei, reminds us, “The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: By their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us.”
In the modern world, a certain compartmentalizing of our faith has taken place. Nowhere is this more evident than in our interactions in the public square. My suspicion is that this has occurred because of the systematic and coordinated effort to silence the voice of the Church, as well as a pervasive ignorance of the foundational documents of our nation and the historic relationship between Church and State. That question, however, is best left for others more qualified to discuss.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council write, “Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it. By so doing, they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God; and at the same time, they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world.” (Lumen Gentium 36)
As we put out into the deep in this Year of Faith, let us always be conscious of the universal call to holiness and recognize that one way we are called to be set apart is in the exercise of our political responsibilities.
The Church is obligated to teach every generation what the faith means for them. Pray with me that in the Year of Faith that the members of our diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens will translate their faith into political action.
Posted on 15 August 2012.
by Ed Wilkinson
Each year during Catholic Schools Week, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio visits a number of schools in the diocese. At each stop, he likes to play a game with the student body when the students come together in an assembly.
He calls it “Stump the Bishop.” Any boy or girl can stand up, speak into the microphone and ask the bishop a question. Typically, the topics reflect the students’ world. So, they want to know if the bishop is married (no, he can’t be), or what he would have become if not a priest (he usually says a sanitation worker because when he was boy he liked the trucks).
Presumably, you have some questions you would like to address to Bishop DiMarzio. Currents, the weekly cable TV show on The NET, is now giving you the opportunity to “Ask the Bishop.”
Every Friday, Currents brings you an interview that I’ve taped previously with the bishop. We call that spot “Into the Deep,” named for Bishop DiMarzio’s challenge to the people of the diocese to constantly “put out into the deep” in the work of evangelization.
We will be introducing a new twist on that Friday feature when the bishop will answer questions from Tablet readers and NET viewers. The show is taped, so we need your questions in advance. To ask Bishop DiMarzio a question, simply send your inquiry to me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can mail it to me c/o The Tablet, 1712 Tenth Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215.
Then on Friday evening (we will begin this in September), you can sit back and watch whether or not your question will be selected. Currents is shown at 7:30 p.m. and then rebroadcast at 11:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. the following day.
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A great big thank you to everyone who helped to make the annual Bishops’ Golf Classic such a success. You can see some of the photos from the day in this week’s centerfold. You can also see a related story on our sports page (P. 26) this week. While that piece is not exclusively about the golf outing, it is the result of an interview that sports writer Jim Mancari did at the event. You can view it at www.netny.net. Click on Currents.
Also during this year’s classic, held at North Hills Country Club in Manhasset, L.I., Tablet photographers were on hand to take pictures of each foursome of golfers. We couldn’t fit them all in our centerfold, but you can view them, as well as some action shots from the day, on our website, www.thetablet.org.
Much of the success of the day was due to the support from our honorees, Msgr. Martin Geraghty of St. Robert Bellarmine parish, Bayside, who was our Pastor of the Year, and the members of the DeSales Media Group’s board of directors.
We chose Msgr. Geraghty not only because he is such a terrific priest and pastor but also because he always has been an avid supporter of the diocesan media efforts.
The same goes for the members of the board, who give their time selflessly by attending meetings and fulfilling committee commitments, all out of sight of public view. We’re grateful to each and every one of them.
And lastly, thank you to John Golden of Gleason Funeral Home, Bayside, for serving as Queens chairman of the planning committee for the past three years.
Posted on 10 February 2012.
by Marie Elena Giossi
Blessed Sacrament School, Cypress Hills, was abuzz with excitement last week as they welcomed a special guest – Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
As he does annually, Bishop DiMarzio celebrated Catholic Schools Week with visits to local elementary schools. This year, he made stops at Blessed Sacrament and Salve Regina Academy, East New York, on Thursday morning, Feb. 2.
In Cypress Hills, Father Frank Shannon, pastor, and Marylou Celmer, principal, greeted the bishop when he arrived and ushered him into the auditorium, where students, faculty and parents were waiting with big smiles.
Joining the bishop were Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, diocesan superintendent of schools, and former principal of Blessed Sacrament; Anthony Biscione, associate superintendent; and Deacon Jaime Varela, the bishop’s assistant.
“We feel lucky that of all the schools, the bishop decided to come here,” said Justin Batista, an eighth grader.
“The whole school has been preparing for weeks,” added Melvin Gonzalez, also an eighth grader. His hope was that the bishop would see that Blessed Sacrament is “a great school for academics and the kids are very friendly.”
Once guests were settled in front-row seats, Father Shannon officially welcomed the bishop to the school, which marks its 98th anniversary this year. Opening the program with prayer, he led the school’s 285 students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight in a verse of “This Little Light of Mine.”
Seventh and eighth graders raised petitions of thanksgiving for the gift of Catholic education and for their parents’ hard work and sacrifices. They also offered prayers for “children who cannot attend Catholic schools.” Sixth graders led the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem.
Younger students took the stage to offer words of welcome, sing and dance. Sixth-grader Fahmy Hajj greeted the bishop in Spanish, and fifth grader Geeta Badal sang, “Climb Every Mountain.” But it was the first graders who stole the show as pairs of boys and girls executed a well-choreographed dance number.
Student representatives then presented the bishop with booklets containing handwritten letters of welcome, poems and pictures based on the Catholic Schools Week theme – “Faith, Academics, Service.”
After accepting his gifts, the bishop said how proud he was to see the “good things” students have learned.
“Catholic schools give us the opportunity to learn about life, faith and academics – things you need to be successful,” he said.
Reminding boys and girls that Catholic education is a gift, he asked students to thank their parents for sending them to a Catholic school, and to thank their principal and teachers with a round of applause.
Father Shannon joined children in putting his hands together for Principal Celmer, the faculty and staff – the people he credits with the school’s success. He’s eager to extol the students’ academic performance, the low faculty turnover rate and especially the overall Catholic Christian identity. The student body is 87% Catholic and, he noted, all students attend Mass in church at least once weekly.
Values, Discipline, Respect
“We have a real parish school. It’s a real Christian environment. We have values, discipline and a sense of family here. There’s an atmosphere of respect that’s appreciated in this community,” he said.
Neighborhood families, he explained, are no strangers to violence, having seen their own children killed on the streets in recent years.
“The community sees our school as a haven of respect, safety and goodness,” he said. “There’s no racism, no bullying. We don’t allow the dirt spoken on the streets to be spoken here.”
A Catholic Schools Week visit with the bishop wouldn’t have been complete without “Stump the Bishop,” a game in which students take turns asking questions of their chief shepherd – though he stipulated that math and geography were off limits.
Most questions were focused on his vocation – how he came to believe in Jesus and if it is hard to be bishop. He shared that he became friends with Jesus when he was a little boy and that being bishop is hard work. “There are problems to solve and when you’re doing God’s work, it all works out.”
Children asked if he’s won a Nobel Peace Prize and whether or not he’ll become a cardinal or pope, to which he replied, “Those are honors, not things you aspire to.”
One boy surprised everyone when he said, “I want to be a bishop too.” The bishop responded with a simple smile and nod.
“We were honored to have the bishop visit,” Principal Celmer said. “I was extremely proud of my students today. They did an excellent job welcoming the bishop.”
The bishop presented the principal with a plaque to commemorate his visit and he shook hands with every teacher.
“We work so hard to raise money for the schools. It’s so nice to see it in practice, to see happy students,” he said.
Before heading to East New York, Bishop DiMarzio told students, “Keep your wonderful enthusiasm. When the classroom is happy and everyone supports each other it is so much easier to learn.”
Posted on 16 September 2011.
Hundreds of teachers from Catholic schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn joined Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio on Sept. 6 as he celebrated the Opening of Schools Mass at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston.
In his homily, Bishop DiMarzio said the apostles were chosen by Jesus for specific tasks, which remain the responsibility of the successors of the original 12 – to teach, to sanctify, and to govern.
Teaching the Truth
“Today you come as Catholic school teachers because you share in the ministry of teaching,” the bishop said. “You share in the bishop’s responsibility to teach the faithful. You share in that apostolic work, which leads you to teach as Jesus did. How important that role is in the Church today; that we teach the truth.”
The wisdom of the Gospel is incorporated by teachers when teaching all subjects, not just religion, he said.
He added that after choosing the 12, Jesus immediately began teaching the crowds and also healing the sick. “I think these two ministries are intimately connected – teaching and healing.”
Bishop DiMarzio noted that many children today come from families that are in need of healing, and as a result, Catholic school teachers play an even greater role in their lives.
“You are able to be ministers of healing to children who need a good image of humanity,” he said. “How important it is that you recognize that.”
The bishop prayed for gift of wisdom so that the diocese will continue to give the gift of Catholic education into the future.
“You are apostles, truly,” Bishop DiMarzio told the teachers. “You are sent with a mission to accomplish what Jesus did – to call others to the faith, to heal them, to give them.