Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Remembering Another B’klyn Auxiliary Bishop

The ordination of a bishop is always a joyous occasion.

This past Monday afternoon was no different when two Brooklyn priests – Fathers James Massa and Witold Mroziewski – were ordained to the episcopacy.

Diocesan functions are something like a reunion. There are many people you see only at such events when all the various segments of the diocese are represented.

It’s always wonderful to welcome home some past residents of Brooklyn and Queens. Two former Brooklyn priests, who now serve as bishops in other cities, were present. There was Bishop Gerald Barbarito, a former auxiliary bishop of our diocese, who is now bishop of Palm Beach, Fla., after first being bishop of Ogdensburg, N.Y. And there was Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who was ordained a little more than a year ago as the Bishop of Albany.

Then there also was Bishop Peter Libaschi, Bishop of Manchester, N.H., who grew up in Queens, attended Cathedral Prep, Elmhurst, on his way to being ordained for the Rockville Centre Diocese, where he served as an auxiliary bishop.

And here’s a neat piece of diocesan trivia. Also in the line of the procession was Sister Helen Kearney, C.S.J., president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, who is the niece of former Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Kearney, for whom a girls’ high school in Brooklyn is named.

Bishop Kearney was a bright light of the Brooklyn Diocese, who at 32 years of age in 1934, became the youngest Brooklynite ever named to the episcopacy. Unfortunately, he also died at an early age of 54 in 1956, but Sister Helen remembers Uncle Ray with great affection.

“He lived in Neponsit and we lived in Belle Harbor, so we would ride our bikes to his house quite regularly,” remembers Sister Helen, who says her uncle was a fun-loving guy who always found time for his nieces and nephews.

“He had very good sense of humor. He would come over to the house often for dinner. He died when I was in the fifth grade, so my only memories of him are from childhood.”

Bishop Kearney had grown up in Nativity parish in Bedford-Stuyvesant in a strong faith-based Irish family, which was the impetus for his vocation. He attended Brooklyn Prep and Holy Cross College before going to the seminary at North American College in Rome.

He was never a parish priest but spent most of his ministry working as a canon lawyer on the diocesan Tribunal. Sister Helen recalls he always kept a large book in his office that looked like the world’s largest dictionary but actually was the Church’s Code of Canon Law.

But she says that her uncle was no diocesan bureaucrat, although he was one who strived for excellence in everything he did. She says that she hopes he is remembered for his Irish wit and a great compassion that she is sure he brought to his work on The Tribunal.

Bishop Kearney is buried in a family plot at historic Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush, not far from the graveyard’s chapel and very close to some of the earliest Catholics who represent the beginnings of the Brooklyn Diocese.

So, while we look to the future service of men like our new Auxiliary Bishops Massa and Mroziewski, we can’t help but be mindful of the fact that our local Church is built on the shoulders of great men like a former auxiliary bishop, Raymond Kearney.

One thought on “Remembering Another B’klyn Auxiliary Bishop

  1. Bishop Kearney confirmed me at St. Rita’s in East New York (1954) when I was in elementary school. I recall him being very warm, witty and pleasant–very approachable and friendly. He had large thumbs, I recall. I probably judge all bishops now on my first, early and favorable impressions of him.