By Jessica Easthope
Father Kevin Sweeney, pastor of St. Michael’s parish in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and now bishop-elect of the Diocese of Paterson in New Jersey, is making a big transition during a very turbulent time.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced a lot of closings and delays, including Bishop-elect Sweeney’s own ordination, but he says it’s allowed him time to learn more about his parishioners and his faith.
“We have to deal with the circumstances that God gives us and life gives us day by day,” the Bishop-elect told The Tablet, “so I’m sure it would be very different.”
“I’ve tried to give what I can but I’ve received so much more especially with the community here at St. Michael’s and the inspiration of their faith and the people of faith here,” he added, “so I’ll certainly bring that with me to my new assignment and ministry in Paterson.”
It comes at a time when leadership within the Church is needed more than ever. People are relying on their parishes to seamlessly livestream Mass and make services available to them, whether it’s virtually or from a safe distance.
“I’m striving to serve the people here in the parish and our ministry has changed so much and our lives have changed so much,” said Bishop-elect Sweeney. “Even in streaming Masses and praying with people over the phone, these are the times that we’re living in.”
Though he hasn’t been able to fully immerse himself in the unique culture of the Paterson Diocese, he hasn’t let the pandemic stop him from getting to know his new community and those who will help him lead it.
“Getting to know the Church in Paterson, even virtually or by phone and text and email,” is what he’s doing. “This past Wednesday, I sent an email to the priests of the Diocese of Paterson and got wonderfully encouraging responses and welcomes, so that’s been a very positive experience,” he added.
As for when Bishop-elect Sweeney’s ordination and installation will take place, that’s still up in the air, but the physical move to Paterson is expected within the coming days and weeks.