I hope you’ve been watching my new weekly TV show on NET called On the Block. In it, I get a chance to go into the neighborhoods to meet with priests of Brooklyn and Queens to discuss their vocations.
The settings are informal as we sit on stoops and park benches and sometimes even just stand next to a picket fence for our conversations.
Being a former seminarian, I have a sense of the discernment process that every man goes through while preparing for priesthood. It’s an educational and interesting journey, but it also can be emotionally draining trying to figure out whether or not one is called to serve the Church as a priest.
As a matter of fact in the first two episodes, each priest admitted to questioning whether he wanted to accept the challenge of being in the seminary.
The first two shows have featured two popular Brooklyn clergymen – Father Michael Gelfant, pastor of St. Finbar’s, and Father John Maduri, pastor of Most Precious Blood, both in the Bath Beach section of Brooklyn.
Father Gelfant’s story was intriguing because he talked about his own personal conversion to Catholicism, having grown up in a Jewish-Italian household. Being friendly with the priests at Our Lady of Miracles parish in Canarsie, especially then-Father Ray Chappetto, proved instrumental in his asking to be baptized.
Father Gelfant talks about his family’s reactions to his decision and also his brother’s later decision to join him in the faith. He also paints a colorful picture of what serving the people of St. Finbar’s has been like.
Father Maduri told about his wanting to pursue a career in business and then joining the Franciscans before entering the diocesan seminary. He tells us about the death of a high school classmate that was instrumental in his choosing a path of service in the Church.
The episode that aired this week featured a chat with Father Stephen Giulietti, parochial vicar at St. Bernadette’s, Dyker Heights. It’s the only show we shot indoors because it required a piano to show off Father Giulietti’s talent as a musician. You might recall that he was recently featured in the recently televised priests-organists recital at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral.
In the coming weeks, we will highlight the ministries of Msgr. Steven Aguggia, and Fathers Kevin Abels, Carlos Velasquez, Alonzo Cox and Thomas Vassilotti. Without giving away any secrets, one of them was an accomplished musician who played bass in the orchestra for Broadway shows. You’ll have to tune in to find out which one!
On the Block was the brainchild of Robert M. Longo, who also serves as director and cameraman. Actually, one episode had already been taped when I found out about the project and volunteered to host. That “lost” episode hopefully will be reshot at a future date for continuity’s sake.
On the Block is about vocations to the priesthood but it’s also an interesting look behind the scenes at the dynamics of what it takes to become a priest in today’s society that doesn’t always promote spiritual values.
As Longo said to me, if one man thinks about becoming a priest after watching this show, it all will have been worth it.
On the Block can be seen each Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. Encore performances are on Wednesday at 2 a.m., and Tuesday and Thursdays at 9:30 a.m.