Diocesan News

NeoCat Seminary Honors Bishop DiMarzio During Gala Fundraiser

By Michael Rizzo

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio (right) accepts the Maria Porta Caeli award from Father Julio Cesar Sanchez, rector of the Brooklyn Redemptoris Mater seminary at its Oct. 3 inaugural fundraising gala. (Photos: Michael Rizzo)

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y. — The first fundraising gala for the Redemptoris Mater missionary seminary in the Diocese of Brooklyn was a sold-out event honoring Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who has strongly supported the distinctive center for strengthening Catholic evangelization.

About 400 backers of the diocesan house of formation gathered on Oct. 3 to present Bishop DiMarzio with the Maria Porta Caeli [Gate of Heaven] Award.

Father Julio Cesar Sanchez, rector of the seminary, said the fundraising gala was a thank-you to all the supporters of Redemptoris Mater for their work serving the Church and society. Bishop DiMarzio embodies that work, he said.

“We want the young men in the seminary to bring the good news of Jesus to people,” Father Sanchez said. “Bishop DiMarzio has been a champion in announcing the good news and reaching society at large. He’s supported us and has testified for Christians in the faith.”

The event, held at the Inn at New Hyde Park, was originally scheduled for 2020 but had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s gathering came 18 years to the day after Bishop DiMarzio began his service to the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“It was providential,” Father Sanchez said. “It’s an honor for us to honor him and say thank you.”

“I’m happy to be honored and happy we were able to start the seminary,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “This is our missionary seminary. Some of the men who become priests will remain in the diocese, and some will be our contribution to the missionary Church.

“Many of these seminarians come from foreign countries, and in Brooklyn we can use young men in all foreign languages,” he added.

Redemptoris Mater seminaries, which are not part of a religious congregation, were initiated by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1987. These missionary seminaries, whose name means “Mother of the Redeemer,” are focused on preparing priests and others to advance the Church’s missionary role of evangelizing, or spreading the news of the Gospel around the world.

They are established by diocesan bishops and follow a pattern of practice and formation called the Neocatechumenal Way.

Its key themes include humility, simplicity, and praise of God.

Bishop DiMarzio established the house of formation for the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2018. There are currently 20 seminarians in residence at the center, located at the Incarnation Convent in Queens Village.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio greets one of the Irish step dance performers at the Brooklyn Redemptoris Mater Seminary inaugural fundraising gala.

Music for the gathering was provided by five young adults from different parishes who called themselves Jazz for Jesus, plus a performance by some of the seminarians. Another Redemptoris Mater supporter arranged for members of the Ciara Greene School of Irish Step Dancing in Bayside to perform.

The evening’s highlight was the inaugural Maria Porta Caeli Award. Father Sanchez said the award’s name acknowledged the Blessed Virgin Mary as the way to redemption and recognized people like Bishop DiMarzio, who opened peoples’ hearts to honor God.

In his acceptance speech, Bishop DiMarzio praised the attendees for supporting the seminary and the new evangelization of the Church. “We need to attract people to Christ through our words,” he added, “and how we show ourselves.”

Then, recognizing the recent announcement that Bishop Robert Brennan will succeed him as the ordinary of the Diocese, Bishop DiMarzio said some things wouldn’t change.

“I’m not going to disappear,” he said. “I’ll still be close to you.”

The evening emphasized the Redemptoris Mater embrace of the Neocatechumenal Way as a pastoral means to initiate and reinvigorate Catholics in their faith.     

Elvia Perez, a member of the Neocatechumenal Way community at St. Gabriel’s, East Elmhurst, where a Redemptoris Mater priest is administrator, came to the gala with other family members.

“The price of the ticket is nothing,” Perez said of supporting the seminarians, “compared to the grace of God I have received through their help in my life.”

“Support us by praying for us,” Father Sanchez said before the gala began. “We are here for the diocese and the missions and our purpose is not just to help young men become priests but humble, holy, missionary priests.”