By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn’s New Auxiliary Bishops Reflect on Pope Francis’ Visit
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about how Brooklyn’s Catholic leaders in the Roman and Eastern Rite branches live the messages they received from Pope Francis during his recent visit to the United States.
What’s it like to be consecrated as a bishop and then greet Pope Francis on U.S. terrain just two months later?
The Most Rev. James Massa and the Most Rev. Witold Mroziewski were consecrated as auxiliary bishops for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn in July. Then, in September, they had the rare chance to meet Pope Francis when he visited New York City and two other East Coast cities. And these two new bishops carry with them the blessings, joys and insights from that encounter.
Both auxiliary bishops shared their experiences and roles on the papal visit with the Brooklyn Eagle.
Bishop James Massa
Meeting Pope Francis was, for Bishop Massa, “a wonderful experience of the Catholicity of the Church. Because the Bishop of Rome — the Pope — represents the unity of all the local churches throughout the world. So when he comes to your diocese — or your city — he brings, in a sense, the rest of the Church, representing all of your fellow believers throughout the world.”
Bishop Massa explained that the word “catholic” (in lowercase form) originates from the Greek (katholikos/katholou) and means “according to the whole.”
“That’s what gives him the Catholic character of his office — representing the whole. So the whole Church is, in a sense, present in his person and in his actions. It was a reminder to me, as I was consecrated as a bishop on July 20, that I’m a member of the Catholic Church; that I minister as a bishop, in union with all of my brothers and sisters throughout the world.
“In addition to that, this pope has acquired a prophetic voice on some of the great challenges facing our time. And I was astounded at how interested members of other religions were in what he was going to say.”
Bishop Massa’s experience as a seminary professor and head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations brought him the invitation from Timothy Cardinal Dolan to be the site coordinator for Pope Francis’ September 11/Ground Zero service.
Bishop Massa explained that the word “ecumenical” applies to other Christians and the word “interreligious” applies to other non-Christian religions.
“My role was to come up with a concept for the gathering — to work with various representatives of the six religions represented on the stage: Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Christian, Muslim — on coming up with prayers for peace on that very special ground. Of course, it’s a sacred ground for all Americans, because of what happened there; the tremendous loss of innocent life resulting from the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“When we think back on the motivations of those who carried out those terrorist attacks, they were motivated by a distortion of religion. The gathering (at Ground Zero) would be a counterstatement of that. Together, religions witnessing in harmony that essential need to build bridges of friendship and understanding between religions and between cultures. And that’s what we were about. Being together in moments of prayer; being together as a common witness to peace.”
Bishop Massa, who got to attend papal events in New York, Washington and Philadelphia, said, “There were certain themes that were very dominant throughout the visit: the humility of this pope. It is the humility that is combined with a tremendous humanity that I think appeals to persons of all backgrounds.
“He reached out to people who are on the margins of society, as well as meeting with those who are the movers and the shakers. He was at the U.N. and then he was at a homeless shelter. He was addressing Congress and then he went to a prison to meet with inmates. He is a man for all seasons and all things to all people [to quote St. Paul]. That’s an ideal that leaders often strive for. It is realized in a remarkably concrete way by Pope Francis.
“Inevitably, the leader of a religion that has 1.2 billion people is going to have to say some things that will disappoint individuals. But he is remarkable, through his humility and humanity in the way he’s able to reach out to people and bring people together for a common purpose.”
Bishop Witold Mroziewski
Bishop Mroziewski has already visited Rome for the famed “Bishops’ School” that all newly consecrated prelates attend following their episcopal ordinations. (Bishop Massa had to miss this year’s session because he was organizing the Pope’s New York segment.)
“That was very fruitful to be with the newly appointed bishops around the world,” said Bishop Mroziewski, who is also pastor of Holy Cross parish in Maspeth.
“We visited Pope Francis for a private audience given to all the newly appointed bishops. Pope Francis spent almost two hours with us. It was unique. I thought it would be like only half an hour. It was so long and, individually, each of us with the Pope, and we spoke to each other.”
During the papal visit, Bishop Mroziewski was able to attend the Vespers for members of the religious orders at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as the Ground Zero interfaith service, the Mass at Madison Square Garden and the Saturday morning farewell at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
“Pope Francis told us that Christ is alive in the big congregations — big cities. New York is a great example of multicultural city and different kinds of faiths. People are together over here and their life of faith is visual, even in the darkness. That was so specific and so thoughtful, and also so enthusiastic. That was one message. The other message that was so helpful for myself was the message given to us at Ground Zero. The Pope spoke of a fountain of water that symbolizes life. In the time of trouble, we are united, we are together with the suffering, with the pain. And also, we are helping each other to arise from the sadness and the darkness to a new way of life.
“The other thing that came to my senses was the personal address to the Sisters of Mercy and to the nuns [at the Vespers]. The Pope mentioned their great work and their dedication to the Church; that is, the dedicated [consecrated] women who serve the Church. In my personal way of thinking, that was an absolutely extremely thoughtful apostolic journey.”
Working with Diocesan Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and his fellow bishops, Mroziewski expressed joy that they can move forward with evangelization and vocations ministries. These include their new evangelization project titled “Joy of Encountering Christ” and “Project Andrew.” The diocese seeks clergy and lay leaders who can involve themselves deeply. “Project Andrew” is for young men seeking to learn more about and discern a call to the Roman Catholic priesthood.
“Bishop DiMarzio has proclaimed that we get more involved in the project, which will take place in 2015-2018. The project is named ‘The Joy of Encountering Christ: Meet Me in Church,’” said Bishop Mroziewski.
The course and workshop offerings are available through
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Synagogue Welcomes Jerusalem City Councilmember as Guest Speaker
A Jerusalem city councilmember is coming to the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue to speak on religious pluralism in Israel.
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, who is a city councilmember in Jerusalem, will give “A Brownstone Brooklyn Update on Religious Pluralism in Israel.” He is the founder of Hashgacha Pratit, an alternative, community-based model of Kosher supervision that is making waves throughout Israel. He is also the dean of “Sulam Yaakov, the Beit Midrash for Community Leadership Development” in Nachlaot, Jerusalem.
Rabbi Leibowitz has been an innovative public leader in Israel for more than two decades. After serving as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, he received Orthodox rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Rabbi Chaim Brovender. Rabbi Leibowitz served six years as the rabbi of Kol Rina, the famous Miklat (Bomb Shelter) Minyan in Nachlaot.
Rabbi Leibowitz is an active member of the Yerushalmim party founded by MK Rachel Azariah and currently holds the Education, Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights portfolios in the Jerusalem Municipality.
His talk begins at 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 18. The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue is at 131 Remsen St.
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Representing Three Abrahamic Faiths, Heights Congregations Study Together
Plymouth, Mount Sinai Expand Successful Scripture Study, Welcoming Dawood Mosque
Congregation Mount Sinai and Plymouth Church, building on the success of their interfaith Scripture study last year, have expanded it to include all three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This year, the interfaith group expands to welcome the Dawood Mosque and to examine the Quran as well as the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament. Participants will explore Judaism, Christianity and Islam to better understand biblical figures such as Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Ishmael and others.
The Interfaith Scripture Study began on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at the Dawood Mosque (143 State St.). This change of location was announced after “Faith in Brooklyn” hit newsstands. The class continues on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at at Congregation Mount Sinai (250 Cadman Plaza West). The third class, on Wednesday, Nov. 18 will take place at Plymouth Church (57 Orange St.). All sessions run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The classes are free of charge.
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Learn to Read Hebrew in a Day at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue
The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue (131 Remsen St.) is offering a Hebrew-in-a-Day Reading Course on Sunday, Nov. 1. Learn to read the Hebrew “alefbet” (aka alphabet) during this day-long immersive course.
This class is perfect for adults seeking an intensive introduction to reading Hebrew, or a refresher for those wishing to hone their reading skills. The class runs from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A $75 fee includes materials.
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Grace Church Hosts Guest Organist Dr. Carole Terry
Dr. Carole Terry, professor of organ and early keyboard studies at the University of Washington, will present an organ recital at Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights on Sunday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m.
Terry’s recital will include works by Bach, Alain, Mendelssohn, Vierne and Reger. Terry performed the first organ recital after the parish’s organ was completed in October 2001.
This past summer, Terry was a performer and judge for the world renowned St. Albans International Organ Festival. In addition to her teaching duties, she continues to enjoy an international career presenting recitals and giving master classes.
This recital will be the first in a series at Grace. Dr. Gail Archer, professor of music at Vassar College and at Barnard College, will perform on April 24, 2016.
Tickets to the Oct. 18 concert are $20 and will be available at the door.
American Guild of Organists’ John Wolfe Plays at St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral
Organist John A. Wolfe will perform a benefit recital at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph on Saturday, Oct. 25. His program will include the music of Bach, Franck, Guilain and Messiaen.
The 4 p.m. concert is a fundraiser for the American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter Scholarship Fund. Wolfe is the chapter’s sub-dean.
The American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter has established the 2016 Scholarship Competition to encourage excellence in the performance of organ music and to inspire, educate and nurture future generations of organists. The competition will be held on March 12, 2016, at Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights.
Tickets to the Oct. 18 concert are $20. The cathedral is at 856 Pacific St., between Vanderbilt and Underhill avenues, in Prospect Heights.
Gregory Eaton Returns for Recital at Cathedral of St. John the Divine
As part of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s recital series, Gregory Eaton will be playing the complete Symphonie VI of Charles-Marie Widor. The room and instrument are both world-class, and very well suited to Widor’s music.
Eaton served for more than 20 years as the organist and director of music at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights, and spearheaded the Wednesday Organ Concerts and other music series at the Episcopal parish. He is also a past dean of the American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter. His Oct. 18 concert begins at 5 p.m.
The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, at 1047 Amsterdam Ave. and 112th Street, is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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Evensong Memorial Service Announced for Grace Church’s Rector Emeritus
The Rev. Goldy Sherrill Served Parish 1967-93
A Service of Evensong in Thanksgiving for the Life of the Rev. Franklin Goldthwaite Sherrill will be held on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 5 p.m., with a reception to follow in the Guild Hall. Sherrill served as rector of Grace Church for almost three decades and was a leader in the Brooklyn Heights community and the Diocese of Long Island.
Fondly known to this community as “Goldy,” Sherrill was the 12th rector of Grace Church, from 1967-93. During his 26 years as rector of Grace, Sherrill gained a beloved reputation for his pastoral compassion and his outreach to the wider community. He was a director of the Brooklyn Chapter of American Red Cross Disaster Volunteers, trustee and president of the Navy Yard Boys and Girls Club in Brooklyn, trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Community Council for Medgar Edgars College and chairman of the board for the Interfaith Medical Center. He worked for fair and affordable housing and helped establish and build the Nehemiah project in East New York. He was also a co-founder of the Heights & Hill Community Council in the early 1970s.