Brooklyn’s newest auxiliary bishop was welcomed back to the diocese Aug. 4 with a Mass of thanksgiving and reception at the Immaculate Conception Pastoral Center in Douglaston, Queens.
Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., Bishop of Mandeville, on the island of Jamaica, for the past eight years, joined the diocesan pastoral team as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said, “So, it is with gratitude to Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, that we welcome Bishop Neil Edward Tiedemann of the Congregation of the Passion, Titular Bishop of Cova, as an Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
Bishop DiMarzio pointed out that “Bishop Tiedemann has a missionary spirit,” citing his work among the impoverished of Jamaica, as well as previous parish assignments he had in the Brooklyn Diocese.
He said that Bishop Tiedemann has been assigned to be pastor of St. Matthias parish, in the Ridgewood section of Queens, and also will direct the diocese’s ministry to Caribbean and black Catholics. He noted that Brooklyn has the largest population of black Catholics of any diocese in the United States – approximately 250,000.
“Bishop Tiedemann has told me that he has found the greatest happiness in being a parish priest,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “Bishop Tiedemann’s heart is truly a priestly heart.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who presided, noted that the Brooklyn Diocese now has six auxiliary bishops while in the Archdiocese of New York, he has only five. Addressing Bishop DiMarzio, he said, “I guess you’ve won the Subway Series.”
The cardinal praised the reputation of the Brooklyn Diocese and its presbyterate, saying, “You’ve got a great legacy and you have great dreams with a new auxiliary bishop like Bishop Neil.”
The Mass of Welcome was attended by about 300 priests, deacons, members of Visitation B.V.M. parish, Red Hook, where Bishop Tiedemann has served as pastor, and his new parishioners from St. Matthias. A formal installation as pastor of St. Matthias will take place in the fall.
Bishop Tiedemann is no stranger to the diocese. He was born and raised in the diocese and ordained a priest of the Passionist Order on May 16, 1975 at Immaculate Conception Monastery in Jamaica, Queens.
He has served at the Passionists’ Immaculate Conception Monastery in Jamaica, Queens, as well as in Visitation, Brooklyn.
Tom Sweeney, a parishioner at Visitation, described the bishop as “a very, very wonderful person. A jolly person. Everybody’s friend. Everybody really had a lot of nice things to say about that man.”
“He was always so welcoming,” said Illeana Florentino, also from Visitation. “I remember at the end of Mass he would always go to the back of the church and he would greet everyone, the little ones, the older ones, he always had time to speak to everyone and always with a great smile.”
“It’s a great joy to come home to Brooklyn,” said Bishop Tiedemann.
“It’s special to come back here because no one thinks I speak funny here. … I spent 15 years serving here in the diocese, so it’s good to be home.”
Each by Name
The bishop’s face brightened with smile after smile each time he saw and recognized members of his former parish. He addressed each personally as he offered the Body of Christ.
After receiving the Eucharist, Robert Berrios of Visitation parish beamed when he returned to his pew.
“He remembered,” he told a fellow Massgoer, almost in disbelief. “He remembered my name.”
Berrios was delighted to find the same was true for fellow parishioners Florentino, Elsie Tweedy, Sylvia Dobles and Milagros Almonte.
“Just having him back in Brooklyn is beautiful,” Berrios said, “but the fact that he remembered our names is amazing.”
“I’m so happy he remembered me too,” added Dobles, who received a hug from the bishop and a kiss on her hand as he received well wishers after Mass.
Elsie Tweedy said she was touched by the bishop’s remarks and the emotion he showed when he said it was good to be home.
“We missed him here in Brooklyn,” she said. What she remembers most was how he used to read to the children at P.S. 15, and how he regularly visited the Red Hook housing project across from the church.
“There wasn’t a thing he didn’t do for the people,” she said, and she doesn’t expect anything less as he takes on this new role.
“I just hope he comes back to Visitation,” she added.
Father Claudio Antecini, current pastor at Visitation B.V.M., attended the Mass of thanksgiving with the parish’s Koinonia John the Baptist community. He plans to invite Bishop Tiedemann to the church this fall, after he gets settled into St. Matthias.
And the Ridgewood faithful were well represented at the Mass for their new pastor. Several dozen parishioners traveled to Douglaston on a chartered bus that was full to capacity, and the rest drove.
Mexican-born Silvia Galicia was “happy to welcome the bishop.” She said St. Matthias parish has been her home for 17 years. It is like “a family,” and they’re eagerly awaiting the newest member.
“I think he seems like a nice guy,” said Juliusz Ambroziak, 15. “I think he’s going to help the diocese a lot and I can’t wait until he joins our parish.”
Parishioner Anibal “Macho” Cordero could hardly contain his enthusiasm.
“We are so excited,” he said. “He seems like a humble servant-leader. We are blessed to have him at St. Matthias.”
In recent years, the parish suffered the loss of two pastors: Bishop Edward Scharfenberger to the Albany Diocese, and Msgr. Peter Zendzian, who died last year.
“We need a shepherd,” Cordero said. “We’re looking forward to having him join us, encourage us and bless us.”
Once the faithful and local clergy had a chance to personally greet the bishop, Deacon Asterio Velasco embraced his former pastor.
“I love him. I came from Jersey just to see him,” said Deacon Velasco, coordinator of the Hispanic Apostolate in the Archdiocese of Newark. He came to know the bishop when he served in his home parish of SS. Joseph and Michael, Union City, N.J.
Before becoming a deacon, he directed the religious education program that then-Father Tiedemann and Father Jim O’Shea started in the largely Hispanic parish.
Though he would have loved to see the bishop return to the Garden State, he wished him well in Brooklyn.
Good wishes were also sent from the bishop’s former Diocese of Mandeville.
“I found Bishop Neil to be a very caring, gentle person,” Theresa C. Givans, communications officer for the diocese, shared via email.
“He was always joking around, putting people at ease. He is very humble and able to laugh at himself,” she said of working with him.
“At the same time, he cared very deeply about the work that he was doing,” she added, explaining that his four episcopal priorities were evangelization, youth, vocations and lay involvement in the Church.
“He has made a tremendous difference in the diocese over the past eight years by the work that he has done,” Givans added. “We all love and miss him.”
Contributing to this story was Marie Elena Giossi.
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