How Lunch Duty Spawned a Mom’s Devotion to Parish
BATH BEACH — Just reading the list of Eileen LaRuffa’s activities at St. Finbar Church is exhausting. She is a parish trustee, a eucharistic minister, belongs to the Marian Rosary Society, and is the public relations director.
Yet, the indefatigable LaRuffa never tires of it: “It’s my life.”
LaRuffa has been a parishioner of St. Finbar for 61 years. She started attending Mass there in 1960, shortly after she and her husband Dominick moved to Bensonhurst as newlyweds.
“I grew up on the other side of Brooklyn, near the Brooklyn Navy Yard,” she said.
Bensonhurst is the community next door to Bath Beach, where many of St. Finbar’s parishioners live there.
LaRuffa has fond memories of St. Finbar in the 1960s. “The church used to be packed at every Mass. There was no Cabrini, no Dominic’s,” she said, referring to St. Frances Cabrini and St. Dominic churches, both of which were built in later years.
“We had 5,000 parishioners, and all of them came to church,” LaRuffa said.
“Monsignor Scanlan had been here for years. He built a great parish,” she said about the church’s pastor from 1936 until he died in 1961.
In 1969, she enrolled her son Dominick in St. Finbar School. That started her on her road to volunteerism. “I started small. I did lunch duty,” she said.
A few years later, she enrolled her daughter Maria in the school.
Lunch duty led to other activities, and LaRuffa started writing announcements for the parish bulletin. “I used to print the bulletin myself – 5,000 copies. I had a small printer in the basement,” she explained.
LaRuffa gradually became more active. She enjoyed working with the various pastors who served St. Finbar. “Father (Paul) Klohr came in 1960, and he was there until 1978. Father (Dominick) Cutrone came in 1970, and he was here for about seven years,” she said.
“Father Cutrone always said he made me what I am today. That is true. He had confidence in me to achieve any activity he asked me to undertake,” LeRuffa added. “I always told him, ‘You took me out of the kitchen and put me into the community.’”
In the mid-1980s, a group of parishioners got together and renovated St. Finbar Church on their own. LaRuffa was part of that effort: “We put up scaffolding, grabbed paintbrushes, and got to work. It was great because we had real teamwork.”
St. Finbar Church isn’t the only place that benefits from LaRuffa’s talents. She is a trustee of Visitation Academy, secretary of the 62nd Precinct Community Council, treasurer of Brooklyn Community Board 11, treasurer of the Citizens Emergency Response Team, and a Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee member.
LaRuffa has forged good working relationships with many pastors over the years, including Father Anthony Failla, Father Joseph Holcomb, Father James Mueller, and Father Michael Louis Gelfant.
“Each one of them brought something to the table and worked with us to keep this parish going,” she said.