by Rose Gramegna-Weidler
In a standing room only crowd at the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Church in Ozone Park, more than a thousand people came together with one common goal: to say thank you to Father Paul Palmiotto. I had the honor of attending the Mass on Sept. 29 to celebrate the life and priesthood of an incredible man who was retiring from the priesthood due to an illness that has limited his ability to speak.
The Mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto. Six priests concelebrated. While looking around at the huge crowd, the bishop said something very interesting. He said, “In these times, when priests get bad press, this is good press.” Each and every one of us in that church were an actual testament to “good press.” In our cynical world where the media capitalizes on negativity and good press sadly does not draw the attention nor does it make the money that bad press does, it’s important that we confront the media – if only in our hearts, and become advocates for good press.
In light of the topic, I wanted to take the opportunity to give Father Paul some much deserved “good press.” Father Paul was a young priest at St. Mary Mother of Jesus Parish in Bensonhurst when he met my husband and his cast of characters. They were all young teens with a lot of free time on their hands. Father Paul was always there for them when they needed an adult to talk to.
He opened the gym for them so they would not have to play in the street. He was an advocate for the youth of the neighborhood, which often meant getting calls from them in the middle of the night, or picking them up when they were stranded. He met with parents when their kids had problems and met with kids when their parents had problems. Needless to say, he saved many of them from the different paths they might have taken had he not been in their lives.
He was instrumental in my husband’s teenage years and even his adulthood — representing a much-needed father figure. He was a “father” and a “Father” to my husband, as well to many kids in the neighborhood. He worked tirelessly so that they could become decent human
beings and because of him, most of them did. Still today, many of the kids from the old neighborhood flock to Father Paul when they are in trouble – or just when they need someone to talk to. He has never turned any of us away.
Looking around at the people who were in church that September day – it seemed that he never turned anyone away. Every person there had a story – a time when they were helped by Father Paul.
Father Paul has always done and continues to do God’s work. There are many other good priests out there that need good press. In this world where “bad press” attracts viewers and sells newspapers, I ask that those of you who read this, come forward and speak about your good experiences with someone affiliated with the church.
Tell a friend, tell a stranger – just let your good experience be known. Just make sure the word gets around. And also, pray for Father Paul and those like him, for the strength to continue doing God’s work.
Gramegna-Weidler is a parishioner of St. Mary Mother of Jesus, Bensonhurst.