Up Front and Personal

Reflections of a Grateful Diocesan Co-Worker

by Gerald Tortorella

Gerald Tortorella, the retiring head of the diocesan Pastoral Institute, was honored at the national convention of the National Association for Lay Ministry. Joining him there were, from left, Nelsa Elias, of the School of Evangelization staff; his wife, Maria; and Shirley Lascano and Mary Harris, diocesan representatives at the convention.

As has been reported in these pages, I will retire later this year as the Director of the Pastoral Institute of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s School of Evangelization. I was honored at the recent Commissioning Ceremony and honored with the National Association for Lay Ministry’s Spirit of the Conference Award. Now it is my turn to recognize and honor those persons who accompanied me along this journey.

For the past 10 years, it has been my honor and privilege to serve the People of God in Brooklyn and Queens. Since the announcement of my retirement, I have received many heartfelt words of thanks and appreciation. However, the ones that have overwhelmed me the most are the ones from former and current ministry formation students who point out the effect that I have had on their lives. So, I want to thank the thousands of participants who have answered the baptismal call to ministry in the Church and whom I have had the honor to serve. You have impacted me in ways that will never be known. I am overwhelmed that you have permitted me to be a part of your spiritual journeys.

For the opportunity to serve in this ministry I am indebted to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J., who hired me 10 years ago and to the late Bishop Thomas V. Daily for his foresight that set in motion a formal ministry formation program back in the late 1990s.

I appreciate the assistance that has been provided by Ted Musco and the staff of the School of Evangelization. My heartfelt thanks to the pastors, parish staff members, instructors, mentors, supervisors and benefactors who have supported lay formation. And I have never lost sight of the people who launched me on this fantastic journey from my parish of St. Andrew Avellino: Deacon Len Sclafani, Joyce Lubofsky, Sister Jean Flannelly, the late Msgr. James Grace, and Father Joseph Holcomb, who has encouraged me these last few years.

I thank my wife and lifelong partner in ministry, Maria, for her patience when I transitioned from the business world and for her unwavering support and help. While we both carved out separate careers in ministry, we have always taken the time to minister together at our parish, whether it be as lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion or as members of any number of committees and teams.

Of course the work of ministry formation cannot be done without the support of talented co-workers. Special thanks go to Lizbeth Ugarte, who for the last six years, has served with joy, professionalism and pride in her ministry. I wish Lizbeth much success in her new role working at the Marriage Tribunal.

I have had the privilege of collaborating with a wonderful person, Nelsa Elias, whose spirituality has enriched the programs and their participants and her nurturing spirit has allowed the participants to achieve their full potential. The diocese is truly blessed to have such a talented and caring person to serve the People of God.

Editor’s note: Caption was corrected June 14 to remove reference to Gerald Tortorella as “Dr.” and update the name of the organization from the National Association for Lay People to the National Association for Lay Ministry.