The Diocese of Brooklyn commissioned 65 new lay leaders from 34 parishes at a bilingual Mass at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, Jamaica. The night was also a celebration of the years of service that catechists and ministers devoted to the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Special recognition was given to Sister Alice Michael, S.U.S.C., for her 40 years of service to the diocese. She last worked at the Office of Faith Formation as coordinator of Children’s Catechesis and the Catechumenate.
The new lay leaders completed a three-year program in preparation to coordinate new or existing parish ministries. They join 886 others who have successfully completed the Lay Ministry Program since 2001. The ministers took theology courses, attended workshops and engaged in ministry projects as part of the program, which is offered in both English and Spanish.
Spouses Paul Casiano and Maria de los Angeles de Casiano said the three years of classes were tough, but God helped them to persevere. Now they will be serving in St. Raphael Church, Long Island City.
“It is very beautiful that through God’s help we were able to get to this point and we are ready to serve our church and the community of the Lord,” Paul said.
Auxiliary Bishop James Massa was the main celebrant at the Mass. Also in attendance were dozens of priests, including Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez and retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq.
Bishop Massa called the lay leaders “co-workers in the vineyard” and prayed that they will be heralds of God’s welcoming mercy.
He also acknowledged the late Maria Burgos, a member of the Lay Ministry Program class of 2016, and a parishioner of Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Red Hook. Her family received her certificate of completion, which was awarded posthumously.
Honoring Sister Alice
During his homily, Bishop Massa also gave thanks to Sister Alice for her ministry in catechesis and evangelization.
Sister Alice has been described as someone who can “identify mostly everyone by name and parish or school or academy.” Last year, she received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal in recognition of her service to the Church. Bishop Massa read a quote calling Sister Alice “a model for all invested in the work of catechesis and evangelization.”
“No truer words could have been spoken,” he added.
Afterward, she received an award from Ted Musco, the School of Evangelization’s executive director, as attendees gave her a standing ovation.
After the ceremony Sister Alice said the most rewarding thing she experienced during her 40-year tenure was working with people and training them to spread the faith. As a self-described lifelong learner, she also grew during all parts of her work, she added.
She thanked everyone for their love and support, asking for prayers. She is now serving as coordinator of catechesis for adults and for families at Blessed Sacrament Church, Cypress Hills, and is ready for “whatever else comes down the pipe.”
Ready to Minister
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Massa commissioned the new lay leaders and shook their hands as they came to the altar one-by-one. Gerald Tortorella, director of the Pastoral Institute, the bishop and Musco presented certificates to the new graduates.
“There is a sense of accomplishment and gratitude to God and the diocese for having this program and offering these opportunities,” said Tortorella. “Each class makes me proud.”
The goal of the program was to broaden the participants’ theological knowledge, deepen their spirituality and enhance their skills so that they will be effective in their service to others.
The diocese also honored more than 270 ministers for their service and dedication in churches and schools around Brooklyn and Queens. Altogether, the group represented more than 2,475 years of service to the Church. The awards included major anniversaries, retirements, and the achievement of milestones in their formation including the Catholic Youth Ministry Initiative, Living and Leading by Faith, and a master’s scholarship program.
Denise Das, from St. Gerard Majella parish, Hollis, was one of two women who completed the master’s in theology scholarship program at St. John’s University. She was grateful for the opportunity to deepen her understanding of the faith.
“What you learn, what you improve is unbelievable,” she said.
(To see the complete list of those who were honored, go to Office of Faith Formation 2016 Honorees.)
New lay minister Catherine Abdullah, who will be teaching Adult Faith Formation and will aid in the Confirmation of children from St. Matthew’s parish, Crown Heights, said she was grateful to know that the diocese had commissioned them to serve God.
“I think that the commissioning has given me a boldness that I would not have had, had I not done all the studies and understood the depth of my faith,” she said. “It has given me not only a spirit of achievement but I am now going out and speaking for Jesus. … We are fired up, spirit-filled and ready to go.”
The newly installed lay ministers and their parishes are:
Blessed Sacrament, Brooklyn – José Colón
Blessed Sacrament, Jackson Heights – Juan Cegueda, Campo Orlando López, Martha E. Rubio Gonzalez
Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians – Christina M. Calamari
Corpus Christi – Valois Vallinas
Divine Mercy – Beatriz E. Garcia
Good Shepherd – Stephen Trani
Holy Cross, Brooklyn – Ana Dolores Hernández, Graciela Mendoza-Dominguez
Immaculate Conception, Jamaica – Joselina Tavarez
Mary, Mother of the Church – Rosa Estrada
Our Lady of Mercy – Mónica Taveras
Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Astoria – Maria Esther Bolaños, Reyna Maria Cortés, Etelberto Garcia, José D. Hernández, Elva M. Pichardo
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Brooklyn – Irma L. Blas, Ana Lucia Concepción, Marco Antonio Garcia, Ana Ruth León
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, South Ozone Park – Cecilia D. Cervantes, Austria A. Martinez, Melissa A. Patrick, Maria Teresa M. Rosales
Our Lady of Refuge – Immacula Dorcély, Anna J. Jean-Jacques, Harold Manyoma
Our Lady of the Cenacle – Yolanda Ramirez
Our Lady Queen of Martyrs – Therese E. Michael, Richard C. Perl
SS. Peter & Paul – Altagracia Espinal, Agustin H. Guerrero Zambrano, Jose I. Muñoz, Hilda L. Rivera, Martha J. Tavarez
St. Andrew Avellino – James W. Travers
St. Brigid – Alexis Abreu, Annette Colon, Ana Díaz-Hernández, Oscar Salazar Llatas
St. Gerard Majella – Alicia A. McMaster
St. Joan of Arc – John Fitzgerald
St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church – María Isabel Castro-Serraty, Moisés Luna Marin
St. Mary Magdalene – Vitalis Ndikum
St. Matthew – Catherine F. Abdullah
St. Paul the Apostle – Hiannette Lora
St. Pius V – Eloise Nesty, Ana Rodriguez, Ruth H. Sosa
St. Raphael – Bogar S. Casiano Cruz, Paul Casiano Cruz, Maria de los Angeles Magdaleno de Casiano
St. Rita, Brooklyn – Sandra Maristela Cañas
St. Rose of Lima, Brooklyn – Theresa Anwar
St. Rose of Lima, Rockaway Beach – David M. McNeil
St. Sebastian – Rosemary Sullivan, Patrick J. Sweeney, Nebiyat Woldemichael
St. Sylvester – Emérito Rosario Ramos
St. Teresa – Ruperto Gordillo, Juan Lantigua
St. Teresa of Avila, Brooklyn – Cheryl N. Wright
Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – María G. Burgos (posthumously awarded)