Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., was welcomed back Jan. 7 to the parish where he had been pastor from 1998 to 2005.
It was the first time since being ordained Bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica, in 2008 that he returned to Visitation Church in Red Hook. Last April, he was reappointed as an auxiliary bishop in the Brooklyn Diocese.
Despite an unexpected snowstorm, a small but excited crowd greeted the bishop who also serves as pastor of St. Matthias Church, Ridgewood.
“There were a lot more people who wanted to be here but were unable because of the snow,” said Frances DeLuca, a trustee of the parish who travelled three hours from Bellemore, L.I., to be present. “Many of the parishioners are elderly and could not come out tonight.”
“There’s no storm that can stop the Gospel,” said Father Claudio Antecini, pastor, as he welcomed Bishop Tiedemann.
“It’s been a long time,” said Bishop Tiedemann as he spoke to the congregation.
He said that the snow reminded him of his days as a pastor there when he had to get up at 6 a.m. to shovel the sidewalks.
In his homily for the feast of the Epiphany, the bishop said that like the Three Kings, “we are called to look for God. Then we have to spring up and do something and we continue on our journey by giving the very best that we can.
“The Magi, with their gifts, gave the best they could. We have to open up our hearts and give the best to Christ.
“Having found Jesus, life will never be the same again. We are different and we will never be the same again.”
Thirteen-year-old Lauren Duran, who served at the altar, said that she remembers the bishop from his days in the parish. “He was a good pastor,” she said. “He always was uplifting for the people. If they were sad, he helped them feel better.”
Sandy Serrano, who teaches religious instruction in the parish, recalled that “he was always kind, always with the community, always walking around the parish.
“I was happy when I heard he was made a bishop. I could see that happening to him.”
“It’s amazing, It felt like we were back home again with him,” said long-time parishioner Annette Amendola. “He was a priest who had feeling, love in his heart, compassion, always there for us, always joking with us, always spreading God’s Word.”
Priest, Pastor, Friend
Another veteran parishioner who participated in the Offertory procession, Normand Sweeney, said, “Bishop Neil is not only a bishop and a priest and pastor, but he’s a very good friend.”
Following the Mass, a buffet dinner was held in the parish hall beneath the church. Once a barren cellar, the space, which suffered severe damage after Super Storm Sandy, has been transformed into a comfortable meeting area.
All the work was done by parishioners and the members of the Koinonia John the Baptist community that operates the parish. The group includes the priests, brothers and sisters who live in the parish as well lay associates.