By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This week’s “Faith in Brooklyn” column focuses on spiritual health. Stories include the cooperative ministry of two churches to bolster their neighborhood’s spiritual health, a summer outreach aiming at healthy snacking and a new contemplative prayer outreach that will provide a mental and spiritual time-out from hectic midweek schedules.
* * *
Assumption, St. Charles Parishes Form Cooperative Ministry to Expand Neighborhood’s Spiritual Health
Each Parish Maintains its Own Identity
The parishes of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church and St. Charles Borromeo Church have formed a cooperative ministry with the purpose of strengthening community in Brooklyn Heights. This ministry, which has been progressing well since its inception earlier this year, helps the Catholic parishes each maintain their own identity. It also gives them the freedom to create new outreach programs together, with the goal of bolstering the spiritual health of the entire neighborhood.
“We are trying to work together to become the Catholic community in Brooklyn Heights,” said Rev. Edward Doran, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church and administrator of Assumption. Both parishes have strong histories, serving the historic districts of Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill — Assumption was established in 1842 and St. Charles in 1849.
Fr. Doran told the Brooklyn Eagle, “The parish of Assumption maintains its individual identity and its own magnificent campus and the parish of St. Charles maintains its unique identity and its beautiful campus. So, we have two churches, but we would to like to think we are going to work together, as a community, to promote an understanding of the Catholic faith tradition and how that might enlist the spiritual life of some of the people who live in the area. The challenge of helping all of our churches besets each and every congregation.”
How This Cooperative Ministry Developed
Even with 13 newly ordained priests in the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Roman Catholic Church is still trying to reverse the shortage of priests that has developed over the past four decades. A more amenable solution to closing churches has been the sharing of priests.
“When parishes are merged, or clustered, ordinarily the old parish is suppressed and a new parish rises,” Fr. Doran explained. “The cooperative effort that is being undertaken between St. Charles and Assumption is not canonical; there is no suppression. But, instead, it is simply an attempt to bring two faith communities together, to strengthen each other and strengthen the Catholic community within the Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO neighborhoods.”
During this discernment process, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio listened to the needs of both Assumption and St. Charles.
“The sentiment of both communities was taken into consideration,” Fr. Doran said. “And there was a willingness to cooperate, but a certain hesitation of losing the individual identity of each parish. So, the thought was that we could definitely work at cooperation and maybe that would be a better mode of working together first; and let’s see how that grows. The identity and the location of Assumption are very close to DUMBO. And there is going to be — and is — a tremendous growth in population in Brooklyn Bridge Park. There are new buildings going up. We will probably clearly need two worship sites. And I think maintaining those sites is the objective that became the emerging need. I think that, by and large, both communities are very satisfied.”
Mass Times and Ongoing Ministries
The parishioners of Assumption and St. Charles participated in a survey that allowed them to select preferences in the mass times. Fr. Doran and parochial vicar Fr. Joseph Hugo will shuttle between the two Heights parishes to celebrate weekly masses, in addition to each parish’s sacramental liturgies, such as weddings, baptisms and funerals.
St. Charles Church will continue to offer its 9 a.m. family mass, followed by family faith formation — religious instruction. The previous 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. masses will become an 11:15 a.m. mass. The 7 p.m. mass, which has been in place for several years, will continue, followed by the popular presentations on a Catholic theme and wine-and-cheese gatherings.
Assumption Church will keep its 10 a.m. mass and the 5 p.m. Saturday evening vigil mass.
“We’re in the very early stages of an ongoing process,” Fr. Doran said. “One of the ministries I can think of is bereavement. It would be a wonderful opportunity for our churches to work together. The more we cooperate with each other and involve ministry to serve the greater community — not only the individual church — that would be a tremendous blessing. They don’t need to be a member of either parish, not just to Catholics in the neighborhood, but the bereavement ministry will be available to anyone who has the need.”
He added, “As Catholic Charities reaches out to all faiths, we would like to provide whatever services we can; anyone would be indeed welcome. Membership is beginning to grow up. People looking for a spiritual home will find a welcome in all of our churches. The challenge is getting the awareness of our existence in our community and providing services that reach out to young families, to those who are grieving the loss of a spouse, to those who are experiencing sickness — working cooperatively, which the Brooklyn Heights Clergy Association does really well. It is very essential in this new era of evangelization.”
One of the major challenges that all the local churches face at present is the need for hospital chaplaincy — especially with the loss of Long Island College Hospital and with an uncertain future for the use of the LICH facilities.
“We were primarily serving Long Island College Hospital. With the demise of that hospital, it is very, very much up in the air,” Fr. Doran acknowledges. “We will obviously reach out to people within their homes, their communities. The void remains. Let’s see how health care needs will be met and how we can cooperate. We want to be leading instead of following.”
* * *
St. Charles Summer Outreach Takes Aim at Healthy Snacking
Parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo Church generously collected “healthy” snacks for the Providence House summer children’s program.
Providence House is a facility that provides support to battered, or formerly incarcerated, women and their children.
The St. Charles Outreach Committee is planning another stoop sale, this time to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. The first stoop sale collected more than $1,100.
* * *
September 11 Observances Include Gathering on Heights Promenade
A poignant community ritual has taken place each year since 9/11 on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, as members of the Brooklyn Heights Interfaith Clergy Association and neighborhood congregations gather there on the anniversary of the terror attacks. This year’s observance is next Thursday, Sept. 11, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Montague Street entrance to the Promenade. Everyone is encouraged to attend the observance, which will include readings and prayers from the faith traditions represented.
Moreover, Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights continues its 9/11 Requiem Eucharist at 7:30 in the morning.
* * *
Wednesday Contemplation Group Offers Quiet Time in Hectic Workweek
William Wordsworth wrote in 1802, “The world is too much with us late and soon.”
St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church, in the heart of the busy Montague Street business corridor, seeks to offer a midweek contemplative time-out. An announcement for the new outreach, which begins on Wednesday, Sept. 17, points out, “The irony is the more connected we become, the more we tend to be disconnected from the deeper reality of our inner selves and life in and with Christ. Our psychic and spiritual health is at risk, perhaps even more than we know.”
Contemplative prayer, a centuries-old spiritual practice, aims to help each person feel more centered and grounded and closer to God. Regularly spending time in contemplation can draw a person closer to God, according to the announcement.
“Using contemplative prayer, we are able to acknowledge the internal and external noise of life as it arises and let it go, so as to discover a deeper inner silence and stillness. We enter this practice without a specific objective or expectation, except to let the silence inform our hearts, unfolding over time,” the announcement reads.
The community is invited to take part in 20 minutes of contemplation in the church, at Montague and Clinton streets, on Wednesdays from 1 to 1:30 p.m., starting in two weeks. All are welcome. No prior experience, or particular skill, is needed.