By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Diocese Set to Ordain Largest Class of Catholic Priests in the U.S.
The Most Reverend Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, will ordain 13 men to the priesthood on Saturday, June 28. This group of men, who have served for the past year as transitional deacons, composes the largest class of new priests in the United States. The diocese is thus helping to reverse a long decline in vocations that has led to a shortage of priests within the Roman Catholic Church.
The ordination liturgy will take place at the Brooklyn Diocese’s newly renovated and recently dedicated St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral on Pacific Street, between Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues, in Prospect Heights. The co-cathedral underwent a six-year, $18-million renovation.
“These 13 men represent the great diversity of ethnicity, life experience and socioeconomic background of the Church of Brooklyn and Queens. Yet, all share the one desire to serve as a priest,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “I am privileged to ordain them as priests of Christ and welcome them to the Presbyterate of Brooklyn.”
Ordained as transitional deacons in August of last year, the 13 men successfully completed their seminarian formation. They will serve the multicultural communities of the Diocese of Brooklyn, known as “the Diocese of Immigrants.” Their backgrounds also reflect Brooklyn’s ethnic diversities: Italian, Polish, Irish, Haitian and Hispanic, including Nicaraguan. One of the new priests has dual Italian and Puerto Rican heritage.
Four of the 13 candidates are Brooklyn natives and are among eight who were born in the United States. The other five include two who were born in Poland, one from Italy and two from Haiti.
The Brooklyn natives are: Jeremy Canna, age 27; Jason Espinal, 27; Carlos Velásquez, 26; and Evans Julce, for whom no age was provided in the Diocesan announcement, which was made on Friday morning, June 20.
Vincenzo Cardilicchia is from Italy and Marcin Chilczuk and Cezariusz Jastrzebski are from Poland. Juan Luxama and Robert Pierre-Louis are from Haiti. Felix Herrera, Gregory McIlhenney, Peter Penton and Anthony Rosado are from other parts of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, the Archdiocese of New York and other U.S. cities. Many have enjoyed other careers, ranging from law and business to filmmaking. The eldest candidate is 55.
Rev. Jeremy Canna, 27, was born in Marine Park, where he grew up as a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish. He became an altar server and was inspired by the example of his parish priests and Father Joseph Gancila, who served his pastoral year at the parish. He attended kindergarten at Good Shepherd School, Marine Park; grammar school at St. Agnes Seminary, Marine Park; and middle school in the Genesis Program at Xaverian High School, Bay Ridge.
For Father Canna, the door to the priesthood opened when his parents suggested that he consider attending high school at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Elmhurst. During freshman year, he was impressed by the priestly example of his teacher, Father Fred Marano, and he began “falling in love with all things Catholic.”
He went on to attend Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston; Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, L.I.; and St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y. During summers, he assisted in the diocesan archives office. He earned his bachelor’s degree with a double major in psychology and philosophy and a minor in theology at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He attained master’s degrees in theology and divinity from the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception.
A gifted pianist and organist, Father Canna grew in his love for the faith through music ministry. He played the keyboard for daily Mass at the prep seminary and played the organ at Mass while living in Douglaston.
He left the seminary to study mental health counseling, but left himself open to discernment and realized that the priesthood is his calling. Father Canna will offer his First Mass of thanksgiving at St. Thomas Aquinas, Flatlands, on Saturday, June 28 at 5:30 p.m.
Rev. Jason Espinal, 27, is a Williamsburg native. He said that evangelizing young people is the ministry closest to his heart. He is the son of Carmen and Jose Espinal, immigrants from the Dominican Republic. He grew up as a member of Transfiguration Church in Williamsburg and attended the parish school. He attended Bishop Loughlin M.H.S., Fort Greene; and Murry Bergtraum H.S. for Business Careers, Manhattan. He went on to the Borough of Manhattan Community College and also worked at a law firm in Downtown Brooklyn.
On some level, he always knew he was called to the priesthood. Growing up, he was mesmerized at Sunday liturgies and, after receiving the sacraments, he stayed close to the church. He sang in the choir and participated in the parish youth group, which was connected to the Jornadas de Vida Cristiana Movement. He lived Jornada 139. He credits then-parish Deacon Jorge Gonzalez with guidance and mentoring. He spent his diaconate year at the Basilica of Regina Pacis, Bensonhurst. Throughout, he has derived the greatest joy from working with youth and young adults. A talented singer, he feels music helps people “to know and love the Lord,” while enhancing the reverence and beauty of the liturgy.
Father Espinal will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at his home parish of Transfiguration on Sunday, June 29 at 11 a.m.; Deacon Gonzalez will assist at the altar.
Rev. Evans Julce, a native of East Flatbush, grew up in the parish life of Holy Cross Church, where he was baptized and received the sacraments. He began his schooling at St. Francis Xavier, Park Slope. He became interested in film studies and filmmaking while in high school and then at Hofstra University.
He was challenged to live his faith more deeply by a religious sister and that challenge changed the course of his life. Born and baptized at East Flatbush, he is the second of three sons born to Haitian-immigrant parents Joseph and Marie Julce and transferred to St. Teresa of Avila when his family moved to South Ozone Park from Brooklyn. He attended Bishop Loughlin M.H.S., Fort Greene; Leadership Secondary School, Manhattan; and Bayside H.S., where he developed an interest in film studies. Julce’s career interests at the time included being a police officer, a public high school teacher, a filmmaker, but never a priest. He planned to get married and have children, not to officiate over marriages and baptize children.
Father Julce will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at Presentation B.V.M., Jamaica, on Sunday, June 29 at 9 a.m.
By contrast, Brooklyn native Rev. Carlos Velásquez, 26, was given the gift of sensing his vocation early, in childhood. Born in Fort Greene, he is the only son of Nicaraguan immigrants Carlos C. Velásquez and Martha E. Solís from La Paz Centro. Velásquez grew up as a member of Sacred Heart Church in Fort Greene, now part of Mary of Nazareth parish, and attended public schools P.S. 46 and J.H.S. 113 before enrolling in Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Elmhurst. As part of his formation, he served for several summers at St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Gertrude parish in Far Rockaway, while working at the Margert Community Corporation, a nonprofit housing organization, originally founded by that Far Rockaway parish. He also completed a summer assignment at DeSales Media Group. He served his pastoral year at the merged parish of SS. Peter and Paul and Epiphany in Williamsburg and his diaconate year at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights.
For Father Velásquez, there was never any question as to what God’s will was for his life. “I have always wanted to be a priest,” he said. “I am very grateful that the Lord placed that desire. Father Velásquez will offer his First Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral on
Sunday, June 29 at 2:30 p.m. Msgr. Vaccari will preach at the Mass.
The Ordination Mass will be live-streamed by NET TV at www.netny.tv. NET TV is a cable network featuring news and information with a Catholic point of view and is available in the New York area on Cablevision (channel 30) and on Time Warner Cable (channel 97) as well as nationally on Verizon FiOS on Demand.
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Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly Votes to Lift Ban on Same-Sex Marriages
Denomination Also Votes On Preventing Gun Violence And Other Social Justice Causes
The 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (USA) agreed to grant pastors discretion in determining whether or not to conduct same-gender marriages in civil jurisdictions in which such marriages are legal.
The action effectively removes the ban on Presbyterian pastors marrying same-gender couples in those jurisdictions.
The Assembly approved sending out for presbytery approval a constitutional amendment to W-4.9001 of the PC(USA)’s “Book of Order” that would change the constitutional definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two people, traditionally between a man and a woman.”
The General Assembly voted on this after clearing a number of procedural hurdles.
The vote on the authoritative interpretation — which takes effect immediately — was 371-238, or 61 percent to 39 percent.
The vote on the proposed constitutional amendment — which goes to the denomination’s 172 presbyteries for ratification — was 429-175, or 71 percent to 29 percent. A majority of the presbyteries must vote in approval of the measure for it to take effect.
Commissioners apparently agreed with speakers who argued that ministers must have pastoral discretion around marriage decisions, particularly in the 19 states — and the District of Columbia — where same-gender marriage is legal.
There was dissent in the Assembly, especially among those who hold to more traditional theological and Biblical interpretations of marriage.
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Recommendations that the Presbyterian Church (USA) advocate measures to prevent gun violence won resounding approval on Thursday, June 19, from the 221st General Assembly (2014).
“Gun violence is a public health crisis in the United States that is not being adequately addressed,” said Teaching Elder Commissioner Wallace Fletcher of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, adding, “30,000 people a year are killed by guns in the United States.”
The Assembly’s action calls for several steps. Among them are the formation of support, healing and advocacy groups for those who have experienced gun violence in their families; opposition to legislation that exempts gun manufacturers and marketers from legal liability and/or financial accountability for the medical and security costs of predictable gun misuse and availability to criminals, the unstable and the self-destructive; opposition to “stand your ground” and other legislation that may entitle gun owners to shoot before taking alternative measures (such as relying on law enforcement and/or other de-escalation techniques) in perceived defense of persons or property; encouraging church sessions and PC(USA) entities that own property to declare their particular premises and gatherings to be gun-free zones; raising the age for handgun ownership to 21; supporting legislation to ban semiautomatic assault weapons, armor-piercing handgun ammunition and .50-caliber rifles; and advocacy in support of state and federal legislation to regulate ammunition.
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Affirming a commitment to work for the common good in society together with people of other faiths, the 221st General Assembly (2014) also voted to approve a policy statement titled “The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
“Relationships are a way in which we live out our faith in Christ,” said Aimee Moiso, coordinating member of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, in introducing the “interreligious stance” recommendation. “In 2008, the General Assembly adopted the Ecumenical Stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA), which reiterated our relationship with Christians of other denominations. It also stressed the ongoing and mounting need for similar guidance on how we relate to people of other religious traditions.”
If ratified by the presbyteries, section G-5.0102 of the “Book of Order” shall be amended to include “The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA),” which reads as follows: “The Presbyterian Church (USA) at all levels will be open to and will see opportunities for respectful dialogue and mutual relationships with entities and persons from other religious traditions. It does this in the faith that the church of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is a sign and means of God’s intention for the wholeness of all humankind and all creation.”
The recommendation also calls for the Presbyterian Mission Agency to develop and promote resources explaining the “interreligious stance.”
After commissioners approved the recommendation, Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Vice-Moderator John Vest led the Assembly in reciting the words of “An Affirmation of Interreligious Commitment.”
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Orthodox Jews Around North America Will Pay Tribute to Chabad Leader Rabbi Schneerson at Special Event
Known widely as “The Rebbe,” Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, assumed leadership of the Chabad Lubavitch movement in 1950, establishing a worldwide network of educational, social and religious institutions that transformed the post-Holocaust Jewish landscape. Congregation B’nai Avraham will mark the 20th anniversary of the Rebbe’s passing with an event called “Soul Encounters.”
“One of the foremost religious leaders of our time, the Rebbe touched the lives of countless individuals and continues to live on through his visionary teachings and in the work of his emissaries, whom he charged with bringing the light of Judaism to every corner of the globe,” writes Rabbi Aaron Raskin, spiritual leader of Brooklyn Heights’ Orthodox Congregation B’nai Avraham.
Jewish communities around North America are expected to join with “Soul Encounters,” at the Rebbe’s resting place, known as the Ohel, on Sunday, June 29, just a few days before the Hebrew date of the Rebbe’s passing. “Soul Encounters” will focus on personal prayer and reflection. Lectures and workshops will explore Rebbe Schneerson’s life and his message for mankind, delicious meals and farbrengens will ensure a memorable day, spiritually energizing for a long time to come.
Those interested in participating should contact Rabbi Raskin at 718-596-4840
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Mount Sinai Hosts Talk on Syrian Refugee Crisis
Congregation Mount Sinai presents “My View of Syria & Israel: A Conversation with a Syrian Refugee” on Saturday, June 28.
The United Nations calls the Syrian refugee crisis “the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times.” More than 2.5 million people have fled Syria, with 7 million more displaced inside the country. Join Congregation Mount Sinai for a Shabbat morning conversation about the conflict with a dynamic Syrian refugee who aided wounded and ill civilians before being forced to flee the country. He will recount his experience meeting an Israeli relief worker, which stunned him into learning that a supposed enemy country was helping his people, while his own government was killing his neighbors.
The conversation takes place at 11:30 a.m., immediately following Saturday morning Shabbat services. Kiddush follows.
This talk is presented in cooperation with the Multi-Faith Alliance for Syrian Refugees in Jordan (www.multifaithallinace.org). Please contact the Synagogue office at 718-875-9124.
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Bethlehem Church in Bay Ridge Spearheads Book Drive for Riker Island Inmates
Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge has enjoyed a surge in membership and ministries over the past few years. The church is now reaching out to increase enjoyment of reading to inmates of Riker’s Island. Citing a passage from Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel about visiting and ministering to prisoners, the church has launched a book drive.
Bethlehem Church seeks to educate the public.
“On any given day, there are 11,000 inmates housed in the city’s jail system, including men, women and adolescents as young as 16. Some are serving sentences of a year or less, but most are in custody, awaiting trial,” a church statement read. “And while some are charged with serious crimes, many others are incarcerated for lower-level, nonviolent offenses. Not having enough to do while in custody is not good for inmates’ well-being. In addition, inmates with too much time on their hands can be more difficult for correction officers to manage. A book is a positive way for an inmate to pass the time and stay out of trouble.”
Members and readers of “Faith in Brooklyn” are invited to donate a book, or a book store gift card.
Among the most requested books: Vocational and educational books – for example, for careers in the automotive, electrical, plumbing and construction fields; GED & ESL (English as a Second Language) test prep books; books on how to start your own business; textbooks of all levels; books on parenting, relationships, psychology, health, fitness and other “self-help” books; books on alcohol and substance abuse, addiction and recovery.
Also requested are books on hobbies, word games and puzzles, current affairs, fiction, African-American history and literature and Spanish language. Children’s books are also welcome for the children of inmates.
Donors are asked to avoid giving any kind of literature about crime, or books that detail how to conduct criminal activity.
Any books that cannot be used for inmates for whatever reason will be donated to Hour Children (hourchildren.org), a charitable organization that helps formerly incarcerated mothers reunite with their children.