Bishop DiMarzio Blesses Newly Renovated St. Gabriel Church
EAST ELMHURST — Father Gioacchino Basile had a big dream for his parish: renovate St. Gabriel Church and make it more beautiful for his parishioners. One year after his death, his vision has become reality.
That church was the place where Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio joined the parish community and Father Nicholas Apollonio, the administrator, at a Mass to celebrate Father Basile’s life and legacy. Father Basile died of complications from COVID-19 on April 4, 2020. He was 60 years old.
The April 20 Mass, which marked a year and two weeks since the pastor’s death, also served as a celebration of the newly renovated church.
During the Mass, the bishop blessed the new church’s altar and baptismal pool, which is embedded into the floor in front of the altar. The renovation also included the installation of new murals behind the altar.
While Father Basile no longer walks the earth, “he is here,” Bishop DiMarzio told parishioners. “He’s with us in the Communion of Saints.”
The bishop urged them to pray for the intercession of saints. “Pray to them. Talk to them,” he said, adding that people should look at saints as “friends in high places.”
Bishop DiMarzio praised the beauty of St. Gabriel Church and called on parishioners to welcome the entire East Elmhurst community into the building.
“This renovation is not just for you here tonight. It is for everyone. People can come here and feel elevated,” he said.
In his time as pastor, Father Basile built a strong, loving relationship with his parishioners, according to Carmen Morales, who has been attending Mass at St. Gabriel for several years.
“He was always there for us. He was like a father to us. I still miss him,” she said. “But I really feel that he was with us tonight. He is looking down at us and he is happy.”
Father Basile was proud of his Italian heritage but also had a deep love for Hispanic culture, according to parishioners. A mariachi band serenaded parishioners as they left the church after the Mass.
Father Basile was born in Calabria, Italy, and was ordained to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Newark in 1995. He was assigned to the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2008 and was appointed to serve at St. Gabriel Church. Prior to his arrival in the diocese, he served as a priest in the Diocese of Ponce in Puerto Rico.
Father Basile was trained in the Neocatecumenal Movement and served as the spiritual director of Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Douglaston and assisted as a chaplain at LaGuardia Airport.
The vestibule of the church contains tributes to Father Basile, including a plaque on the wall and a large poster with a picture of the late pastor. The plaque contains a Biblical verse, 2 Timothy 4:7, which read, “I ran the race. I kept the faith. I won the crown.”