New Lay Leaders – 64 Parishioners Complete Pastoral Institite’s Program for Leadership

by Steven Childs

Newly instituted lay parish ministers are congratulated by Bishop Frank Caggiano at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston.

The Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens can look forward to leadership and service from another crop of newly commissioned lay leaders.

Culminating three years of religious instruction and spiritual formation as part of the Pastoral Institute’s Lay Ministry Program, 64 people from 31 parishes received commissions as Lay Pastoral Leaders during a bilingual Eucharistic liturgy and ceremony at the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston on Monday, May 21.

Whether to serve as RCIA instructors, pilot bereavement ministry programs, or work in any of the host of other capacities for which the Pastoral Institute trains its candidates, the newly commissioned ministers’ instruction equipped them with the pastoral skills that will permit them to serve in their parishes as pastoral leaders as part of the “new evangelization,” said Nelsa I. Elias, associate director of the Pastoral Institute.

Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano was the main celebrant at the commissioning Mass and delivered a homily in which he compared the lay minister’s role to that of the conductor of a symphony.

“A truly sublime conductor can allow everyone in the orchestra to be great, not in competition with one another, but in service to one another,” he said. “Your ministry will be about unity and community and collaboration.”

Bishop Caggiano challenged the newly minted leaders to “go one step further,” “to allow every single man, woman, and child to realize their gifts and to respond to the call to be great in Jesus.”

“Let’s seek out the goodness in all God’s people, the potential in all God’s people, the talents in all God’s people,” he directed. “Your work just begins in earnest tonight.”

After communion, Bishop Caggiano along with Director of the Pastoral Institute, Gerald Tortorella, and Secretary for Catholic Education and Formation, Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J., presented certificates and pins to the new graduates as they came to the altar one-by-one.  Concluding the ceremony, Tortorella thanked the 37 ministry supervisors, 39 mentors, and 40 instructors, who taught classes at four sites throughout the diocese, as well as the many other people – especially the new ministers’ families – who played roles in making the commissioning possible.

Sister Maryann McHugh, C.S.J., a pastoral associate at St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights, serves not only as one of those instructors, but as a supervisor as well.  As an instructor, she teaches a class on cultural diversity that explores how immigration has shaped the history of the Diocese of Brooklyn and, additionally, leads a one-day workshop on communication and culture in tandem with Sister Alice Reichmeider, O.P.  In the latter, Sister Maryann says she instructs her students how to communicate better with people of other cultures by teaching them the values unique to those cultures.

“It’s really trying to lift up awareness on things we share in common,” she explained of her workshop.

As a supervisor, Sister Maryann worked with Deokie Dunlap, a parishioner at St. Paul the Apostle, Corona, who trained so that she could teach RCIA classes.  Helping a young mother in her class this year, Dunlap demonstrated extraordinary sensitivity and showed great promise as a teacher, said Sister Maryann.  But Dunlap gives a lot of credit to Sister Maryann.

“She was there to coach me,” said Dunlap.  “Everything that seemed to be difficult in the beginning got better.”

Like Dunlap, Fran Giuda also became a lay leader to help educate.  A lifelong parishioner  of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, South Ozone Park, Giuda, 64, says she took courses on the Old and New Testament, and canon law, as part of the Lay Ministry Program because she wanted to plan and organize co-community catechesis meetings, two-hour meetings where people of all ages meet to discuss religious topics and consider forming new ministries based on those discussions.

“Learning never stops,” Giuda said. “Everybody should be a lifelong learner.  Co-community catechesis is a way to bring everybody together to learn about Jesus.”

Sister Margaret Sweeney, C.S.J., a pastoral associate at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who mentored Giuda by reviewing her course work and providing spiritual guidance once every month, says that Giuda, already an active member of her parish, will prove an even greater asset now.

Giuda agrees that the past three years of training have prepared her for her new leadership role well.

“I wanted to really understand what my faith was based on,” she said. “That’s what it’s (the Lay Ministry Program) given me.  I come to my faith now with a deeper understanding.”

The following persons were commissioned for lay ministry in their parishes:

Blessed Sacrament, Cypress Hills
Elizabeth Annette Woods

Blessed Sacrament, Jackson Heights
Yaicinio Rojas Sanchez
Rosalba Sierra

Holy Family, Flushing
Jason Sloninski

Immaculate Conception, Astoria
Rose G. Cavagnolo
Patricia Clayton
M. Luisa Cruz
Christa Gesztesi
Alida Guzman
Joann Ianniello
Denise Meloni
Michael Anthony Meloni
Ana Maria Murichi
Edward P. Prager
Marilyn K. Reyna
Linda Briggs Villegas
Omar Villegas
Karen Weinhofer
Robert Whitlock

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Windsor Terrace
Mary DeBernardo
Antonio Gonzalez

Most Precious Blood, L.I.C.
Ody Y. Esquivel Fernández
Patricia Hidalgo Oyarzábal
Lazaro Rivadeneira Montenegro
Raymond Grech

Nativity BVM – St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr, Ozone Park
Walter Strack

Our Lady Perpetual Help, South Ozone Park
Frances Guida

Our Lady of Refuge, Flatbush
Nicolás Peña

Our Lady of Sorrows, Corona
Angeles Carpio
Noe Carpio
Isabela O. Guachiac Guarchaj

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Bayside
Marianne Cooney

SS. Joachim and Anne, Queens Village
Alejandra Rosales

SS. Simon and Jude, Gravesend
John Orlando

St. Agatha, Sunset Park
Ayde Alvarado
Cristina Muñoz
Osvaldo Olivarez

St. Athanasius, Bensonhurst
Christopher Irizari

St. Brendan, Midwood
Vincent Mangual

St. Elizabeth, Ozone Park
Maria Alvarado-Rios

St. Gerard Majella, Hollis
Denise R. M. Das

St. Joan of Arc, Jackson Heights
Martha C. Hernandez
Felipe Eduardo Russi Paez

St. Laurence, East New York
Luis A. Serrano
Judina Wilson

St. Martin de Porres, Bedford-Stuyvesant
Willie C. Fye

St. Mary Magdalene, Springfield Gardens
Doris Olivier

St. Mary Mother of Jesus, Bensonhurst
Marie-Annette Buonpane
Martha Elen Castro

St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Gertrude, Far Rockaway
Amy Mohedano
Maria Luisa Zipriano

St. Paul the Apostle, Corona
Deokie Dunlap

St. Sebastian, Woodside
Virginia Ann Lawrence

St. Stanislaus Kostka, Maspeth
Eileen B. Ciorciari
Carolyn Madaio

St. Teresa of Avila, Prospect Heights
Guerlyne Bernard
Filiette Guillaume
Josepath Leslie
Paula Vincent
Theresa Whiteman

St. Therese of Lisieux, East Flatbush
Beverley Green
Yvrose B. Plantin

Transfiguration, Maspeth
Diane Roslyn Morgan
Mary Ann Todzia