by Father Frank Mann
Recently, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio assigned me to residence at St. Sebastian’s, Woodside. From the day of my arrival, Msgr. Michael Hardiman, pastor, has been hospitable. The pastor has unpretentiously gone out of his way to make my stay both warm and inviting, albeit quite exciting as well. Likewise, all the priests stationed here – Fathers Mike, Ted and Joy – are not only genuinely fraternal amongst themselves and to myself, but each is also gifted with a wonderful sense of humor. I cannot pass the opportunity to add that Msgr. Hardiman’s executive assistant, Anna, would be the envy of any pastor or administrator in this diocese.
I had never set foot inside the church of St. Sebastian. That is indeed an embarrassment for someone who has been ordained for more than 33 years. To be blunt, my jaw dropped when I walked into the church. It is a preacher’s paradise. For days, I tried in vain to find an adequate adjective to describe this inspiring house of worship. Then, one afternoon, while sifting through an Internet thesaurus, it finally materialized: “Grand!”
Everyone should visit this church before they exit the world. What is so special about its interior, a former Loews movie theatre, is that there is absolutely no obstruction between the priest and congregation. There is nothing to block one’s view: no statues, no columns, no nothing!
Whether he is on the altar, in the sanctuary or in the pulpit, the priest can see every individual in this vast and glorious church. The acoustics are to die for. The effect is both stirring and energizing when preaching and celebrating the Eucharist.
Likewise, Mass attendance is mind-boggling. On Thanksgiving morning, for example, it was jam-packed. I have never experienced a Thanksgiving eucharistic celebration like that in my entire priesthood!
St. Sebastian has three weekday Masses and eight on the weekend. Each of them is better than well attended.
Celebrating Mass here is both uplifing and invigorating. I experience a spiritual surge after each and every liturgy. There is no doubt that St. Sebastian’s is a soul-filled powerhouse in the diocese. Without doubt, the communion of saints also seems to find abundant hospitality and a home. There are novenas after each of the Masses: Miraculous Medal, St. Jude, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Anne, St. Anthony, St. Peregrine and St. Sebastian. There is a pervasive and engaging invitation to attend eucharistic adoration, benediction and holy hours. The church also “houses” a cozy chapel: Our Lady of Woodside. It is open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. I dare say that St. Sebastian is somewhat akin to a cherished “Catholic city.” The parish center is found to be a privileged “mecca” unto itself. Here one can find a stunning swimming pool, expansive gym, variant meeting rooms, a spacious computer room with multiple laptops and an immaculate, professional basketball court. It is open to parishioner and non-parishioner for a modest membership fee.
The school is a wonder unto itself. I was very impressed with the variant original art works of the students that are displayed in the halls.
One cannot be stationed at St. Sebastian without being both spiritually and physically energized by what it has to offer.