Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Yes, There’s Room In the Rectory

In one week, we survived an earthquake and a hurricane.  Who would have thought!

Some managed with a little help from their friends.  Like the 28 parishioners of St. Mary Star of the Sea parish, Far Rockaway, who called their former pastor and found shelter.

Far Rockaway is located in Evacuation Zone A.  Evacuation was mandatory.  Initially, eight people called Father Jim Cunningham, now pastor of Holy Name parish in Park Slope, looking for a place to sit out the storm.

Father Cunningham had just returned early from a vacation with priest friends in New Hampshire and told his former parishioners they were welcome to come to Holy Name.  Soon eight became 28, ranging in generations from children to grandparents.

Ten people were put in the parish rectory, a residence built to accommodate more priests than currently live there. The others were housed in Shepherd’s Hall, a facility under the church that normally caters to social events.

Father Cunningham put out a call for sleeping bags. Holy Name parishioners responded with additional promises for food and assistance.

The people from Rockaway joined Father Cunningham for the 5 p.m. Saturday evening Mass.  The pastor introduced his friends and before he could say “Go in peace,” plans were being made for a community supper.

Holy Name parishioners treated their new inhabitants to a huge pasta meal served in the hall.  Volunteers brought in salads, soda, and desserts.  The party had begun.  Some stayed around during the evening and chatted with their visitors.  Others played board games and socialized in other ways.

The following morning, breakfast was served as everyone waited out the storm, that proved to be less severe than broadcast, although dangerous enough to wreak havoc in many people’s lives.

“There are a lot of great things about Holy Name parish,” said Father Cunningham on the day after his guests has returned to Queens. “But the way our parishioners reacted to this storm is one of the best.

“I’m always amazed at the generosity of the people here. The people in the neighborhood went into action.  Not only did they cook and set up, but they also stayed around and helped clean up.”

On Sunday, the day of the storm, only eight people attended the 7:30 a.m. Mass at Holy Name.  But the pastor said the numbers increased with each liturgy throughout the day and there had been a larger than usual congregation for the Saturday vigil Mass.
Holy Name survived the storm with only a minor leak in the rectory.  Scaffolding on a parish building project was unharmed. Everyone remained happy and dry throughout the ordeal.

The guests from Far Rockaway returned home with the knowledge that they had new friends in Park Slope as well as their old friend, Father Cunningham.

“I’m just glad they thought of me,” said Father Cunningham who had served for eight-and-a-half years in Far Rockaway.
“It was a great way to get together and see old friends.”

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