by Msgr. Steven A. Ferrari
Looking at the old black-and-white photo before me, I regarded the five young smiling people positioned near the baptismal font. One gentleman is proudly holding a three-month-old baby boy swaddled in white, while a still-in-his-20s priest with dark hair and moustache stands beside him. On the photo’s back is written the date and place: January 23, 1982. Blessed Sacrament Church, Jackson Heights, Queens.
I had been ordained a priest in the church by Bishop Francis Mugavero on the last day of May in 1980. The first few years of my priesthood would be very joyfully spent serving the fine people of this large multicultural parish. But little did I know then that this particular baptism would bring marvelous personal blessings so many years later.
For this innocent baby would grow through the years in a loving and nurturing home of deep faith, devotion and knowledge. He would one day enter the seminary, and in June of 2008 be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Brooklyn. Father James Rodriguez would become a parish priest, diocesan vocations director, teacher at the diocesan high school seminary, an international marathon runner, a certified counselor, and most importantly, a fine, holy, dedicated priest.
And now that Msgr. Perfecto Vazquez has so suddenly gone to his well-deserved heavenly reward, leaving me virtually alone to serve the needs of the hundreds of faithful in St.Teresa’s parish in Woodside; now that my body – and spirit – have been weakened by the chemotherapy treatments and subsequent infections I’ve experienced since last August’s lymphoma cancer diagnosis; now that the prayers and cries of countless people have been bombarding the heavens for help and health, now comes the Christmas miracle I would never have imagined.
Father James Rodriguez has been assigned by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to be the parochial vicar, or assistant priest, here at St. Teresa’s for approximately six months.
The baby baptized 37 years ago is now assisting the ‘old priest’ who poured the blessed water on his tiny forehead so long ago.
When I introduced Father James to the parishioners of St. Teresa’s the first Saturday he was here in early December, I tearfully told them it is truly a miracle that he is with us. Together as priests, he and I now serve and worship God as it was meant to be. What a blessing for me personally is this Christmas gift!
All things come together in God’s mysterious, marvelous plan. Some things take more time than others.
Thirty-seven years? That’s no time in God’s eternity. But for me, and for St. Teresa’s parish, it has been well worth the wait.
Msgr. Ferrari is the pastor of St. Teresa’s parish in Woodside.