Diocesan News

New Pastor as Recovery From Sandy Continues


Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was the main celebrant of the Mass of installation for the new pastor of Blessed Trinity parish, Breezy Point, Father Peter Rayder, seen to the bishop’s left.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was the main celebrant of the Mass of installation for the new pastor of Blessed Trinity parish, Breezy Point, Father Peter Rayder, seen to the bishop’s left.

A year after Hurricane Sandy hit Breezy Point, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio visited Blessed Trinity parish to install a new pastor and to continue to show support for the Rockaway Peninsula.

“Here in Breezy, you have been people of perseverance,” he told the congregation gathered at St. Thomas More Church. “I think you know exactly what it means to be persevering in faith.”

To help them keep steadfast on their path to recovery, the bishop installed Father Peter Rayder as their new pastor. Blessed Trinity parish includes three worships sites: St. Thomas More, St. Genevieve and St. Edmund churches.

Father Rayder takes over for Msgr. Michael Curran, who has been appointed to the faculty at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, N.Y.

The newly appointed pastor said he is thankful for the parish community that has been entrusted to his care.

“People have great faith and great trust in Blessed Trinity parish,” he said. “It energizes us. It keeps us focused.”

Although a year has passed, Father Rayder said there is much left to be done to fix the damage left by the superstorm. The pastor, though, is confident in the people of the Rockaway Peninsula.

“It’s a long road ahead, but they have control over it,” he said. “There is no fear. They know what has to be done and there is no fear.”

“Many lives have been broken, homes damaged, but our faith is strong,” said Father Sean Suckiel, who is serving his first priestly assignment as parochial vicar at Blessed Trinity.

“We are coming back,” he said. “It’s a parish that’s spiritually strong.”

A year after the storm, Father Suckiel estimates that about two-thirds of the parishioners have returned to the community.

Parishioners Angela and Roger Sarmuksnis said they had to leave for six months.

“I feel like Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ I’m finally home,” Angela said.

Roger said he feels like the parish is nearly back to normal. Mass attendance seems to be strong, he said, though that is due in part to the fact that one of the worship sites is closed for the winter. St. Edmund Church was open during the summer months but is closed now for renovations.

“The challenge is sticking together through one more winter and then hopefully everything will be back to normal,” said Deacon Jim Ruoff, who has been a parishioner since 1947.

Roger said he barely notices the changes from week to week.

“It happens slowly,” he said. “Every time you come back to church, there is something else fixed.”

It started with the electricity and the lights coming back on, he explained. Then the sand started to disappear and Msgr. Connelly Parish Center, which doubles as a gym, was renovated.

“We are coming back slowly but surely,” said Diane Ryan, a parishioner for over 50 years and member of the parish council.

“Our church is the center of the community,” she said. Even when the church buildings were closed during the weekdays, the priests were outside helping the people.

Father Suckiel said the Church and the priests in Breezy Point continue to have the same priority as they did in the immediate aftermath of the storm: “to assure people that the Church has not abandoned them.”

In addition to spiritual support, Blessed Trinity has also supported the people financially. Father Rayder estimated that 98 percent of all financial donations brought in as relief for Hurricane Sandy have been dispersed directly to the people. The parish even paid for the stamps used to mail out checks from its own funds.

In order to bring back a sense of normalcy, Father Suckiel said the parish has been concentrating on reviving events for the youth. The parish has Catholic Youth Organization basketball and soccer, open gym night, religious education and the Under Cross Youth Group.