Faith In Brooklyn for July 10

Solidarity in Religious Observance

Ramadan and Tisha B’Av Offer Chance For Interfaith Meals and Fellowship

This Monday at sundown, Muslims began observing Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar. It is during Ramadan that Muslims commemorate the prophet Mohammed’s receiving the Qu’ran revelations from Allah—which is the Arabic word for God. The last 10 days of Ramadan are considered especially significant, and indeed mystical.

The start of Ramadan is determined by a combination of astronomical calculations and the sighting of the moon, and this month lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. Because Islam follows a lunar calendar, Ramadan begins about 11 days earlier each year, and for the past few years has fallen during the summer heat, thus demanding greater endurance on the part of observers.

During Ramadan, Muslims are required to abstain from food, water and pleasurable activities from dawn until sunset.  Fasting, which is one of the third pillars of Islam, teaches self-control and closer devotion to God. Many Muslims point out that this self-control pertains not only to intake of water and nourishment, but behavior and temper, during a period when it is most challenging to remain charitable at all times.

Ramadan also emphasizes the centrality and joy of hospitality.

After sunset, Muslims break their fast by eating dates with water, engaging in prayer, and then inviting family, friends and community to an Iftar, or break-the-fast meal. And, in recent years, Muslims here in Brooklyn, such as at the Dawood Mosque on State Street, have extended that hospitality to their Jewish and Christian neighbors. Moreover, the synagogues have reciprocated, hosting Iftar dinners for Muslims at the Dawood mosque and the wider community.

As part of these Iftars, Muslim youth leaders in the community explained that even the rigorous fasting and abstention rules allow for compassion. For example, those who are ill, pregnant or menstruating, or who are otherwise frail, are excused from the fasting. Instead, they increase their level of charity or other good works.

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This year, Ramadan and the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av coincide. Tisha B’Av, named for the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av, commemorates the destruction of the two Temples in Jerusalem. Jewish tradition has assigned other tragedies of our history to this day as well; although Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) has its own commemoration in the spring.  Tisha B’Av services include the reading of the Book of Lamentations.  Tisha B’Av usually coincides with late July or mid-August on the secular calendar. This year it falls at sundown on Monday, July 15, and concludes on Tuesday, July 16.

Because the fast days—and the conclusion of those fasts—of Tisha B’Av and Ramadan coincide, the opportunity arises to share a break-the-fast meal and to learn about each other’s religious traditions. Congregation Beth Aloha in Park Slope hosts a Break-the-Fast meal on Tuesday, July 16. Participants will enjoy dinner and meaningful conversations as they explore each other’s faith and customs, make new friends, and listen to Turkish Sufi music and Hebrew songs. Registration is available through the synagogue’s website. Halal and Kosher food will be served. Co-sponsors include: Congregation Beth Elohim, The Turkish Cultural Center Brooklyn, The Kings Bay Y, The Kings Bay Y at Windsor Terrace, and the Universal Foundation.

Also offering his support to the Muslim community is Brooklyn’s interfaith booster, Borough President Marty Markowitz. He issued a statement on Tuesday in greeting: “Brooklyn is proud home to many vibrant and progressive Muslim communities —hailing from as far as Turkey, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Syria and Pakistan to Palestine, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan and beyond. Today begins a month of fasting, charity, and introspection for the hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide and our vibrant Muslim population here in Brooklyn, and I wish them all Ramadan Mubarak during this most holy time of the year for Islam.”

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Tisha B’Av services are also offered at the Kane Street Synagogue (236 Kane St., Cobble Hill) on Monday July 15, at 8:45 p.m. in the Goldman Center Social Hall. Worshipers pray the Ma’ariv evening services in a hushed tone, and then (if physically possible) the worshippers sit on the floor for the chanting of Lamentations and the singing of Kinot (hymns) in an exquisite cantillation special for Tisha B’Av. As lights are dimmed to reflect the darkened mood, worshipers need to bring flashlights to read the texts. Shacharit Morning services are read at Kane Street starting at 9 a.m…Rabbis Joseph Potasnik and Seth Wax lead Tisha B’Av services at Congregation Mount Sinai at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 15. The weekday Maariv (evening service) precedes the chanting from the Book of Lamentations (also called the Book of Eichach)…Members of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue will have a special opportunity to observe Tisha B’Av in a different tradition, at the Sephardic Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This particular shul is Orthodox, with separate seating by gender and liturgies entirely in Hebrew.

Tisha B’Av and the three weeks immediately preceding it are called a time of decline or descent into sorrow. Afterwards, the Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of Comfort (this year on July 19-20) begins a more uplifting seven-week period of consolation, self-examination, re-commitment to the community and spiritual optimism, culminating on September 6 with Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year.

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Due to the timing of Ramadan, the Arab-American Bazaar that takes place each July in Bay Ridge will be held later this summer—on the Sunday after Eid al-Fitr--on August 11. Featured will be musical performances from all over the Middle East, games and rides for children, culinary favorites, crafts and gifts, community partners, and more!

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Black and Jewish Teens Visit NY To Continue 50-Year Legacy Of Anti-Prejudice Activism

This week, Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood and other New York City venues welcomed a delegation of Jewish and black rising high school seniors from the Washington, DC metropolitan area, with the mission of transforming prejudice into learning and respect.

The teens are part of a delegation from Operation Understanding DC, whose mission is to build a generation of African American and Jewish community leaders who promote respect, understanding and cooperation while working to eradicate racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination.

During the 50-year span from 1963, which was considered a seminal year in the American struggle for Civil Rights, some headway has been made: widespread racial violence has diminished, friendships and marriages have increased among persons of different races and backgrounds; segregation has been nullified; and America’s first black President—himself bi-racial, is serving his second term. However, recent Supreme Court rulings on the Voting Rights Act and the Trayvon Martin trial underscore the ongoing need for honest dialogue about race and persistent inequality.

Continuing the legacy of their freedom-riding predecessors such as Medgar Evers and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Operation Understanding DC’s young leaders will devote three weeks meeting with speakers who will broaden their world views, visit sites where our country’s most important Civil Rights battles were fought and have daily debriefing sessions to help them process and articulate their experiences.

As of press time on Tuesday, June 9, the youth delegation was scheduled to meet with Crown Heights community activists Devorah Halberstam of the Jewish Children’s Museum and Richard Green of the Crown Heights Youth Collective; gain an understanding of how to effectively represent diverse constituencies from Councilmember Stephen Levin, who serves portions of Brooklyn; challenge their perspectives on identity in a workshop lead by director/producer Lacey Schwartz. In other parts of the NY metropolitan area, they planned to hear a firsthand account of the 1961 Freedom Rides from Lewis Zuchman, Executive Director of the Supportive Children’s Advocacy Network; learn about LGBT youth of color in East Harlem with Billy Green, director of the Gay Lesbian and Straight Supporters initiative; explore both the Lower East Side and Harlem; and attend call- to-prayer services at Masjid Malcolm Shabazz on West 116th Street and Shabbat services at B'nai Jeshurun on West 88th Street.

From New York, the students and three group leaders will fly to North Carolina, then travel by bus to 13 cities in five states including: Greensboro and Charlotte, North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, Alabama; Meridian, Jackson and cities throughout the Mississippi Delta, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee. The group will return to Washington, DC by plane on July 31.

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Parish Offers Vacation Bible School—for Adults

Think Vacation Bible School and one imagines kids enjoying crafts and other activities associated with the stories from Holy Scriptures. But a series that St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church launches this Sunday is geared for adults.

The theme: “Paul’s Letters Home.” The Rev. Sarah Kooperkamp, Assistant Priest-in-Charge at St. Ann’s, and Biblical Scholar Dr. Maia Kotrosits, will lead this study of the Letters (Epistles) to the Corinthians, Romans and Galatians. The purpose of the Vacation Bible School, according to an announcement in the parish’s online newsletter, “is to increase our Biblical literacy, to read Paul’s letters as a community, and to hear God’s voice to us today through the reading and reflection on Holy Scripture.”

Each week, participants will have reading assignments (see below), lectures on Sunday mornings after the 11 a.m. service, and Q & A time. Another resource will be weekly blog posts at revsarah.blogspot.com.

Maia Kotrosits holds a Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary and is a Visiting Lecturer at Amherst College. She co-authored the first English-language book on The Thunder: Perfect Mind, a poem from the Nag Hammadi codices, and has another book titled Re-reading the Gospel of Mark Amidst Loss and Trauma, due to be released this fall with Palgrave Macmillan.

Vacation Bible School begins on Sunday, July 14 and runs through Sunday, August 18.

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Brooklyn Priest Is Among Speakers At Charismatic Renewal Conference

Charismatic Renewal of the Diocese of Brooklyn offers the opportunity for Roman Catholics in the diocese to participate in a conference, “Serving in the New Life of the Spirit,” taking place in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Guest Speakers include as of press time, Msgr. William John-Lewis, Maria Vadia, Walter Matthews & Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, who is a priest serving the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

(New) Academy Bus Lines will provide transportation during the weekend of August 2-4, the dates of this conference. Pick-up sites in Brooklyn and Queens will be announced. Departure is 11 a.m. on Friday, August 2 and return is approximately 7 p.m. on August 4. Cost is $ 60.00 per person round trip. Those interested should contact the Charismatic Renewal Office, 718-377-4101 by Thursday, July 11.

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Maronite Cathedral Bids Godspeed To Its Beloved Priest Musician

By Salma T. Vahdat, Parishioner

Four years seem like just yesterday that the Eparchy of St. Maron and the community of Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral welcomed the Rev. Geoffrey Abdallah of Sydney, Australia in 2009 to take up residence as Director of Music for the Eparchy. Little did we know at the time the gift we had been given.

Aboona Geoffrey, as he is affectionately known, came to the Eparcchy highly-qualified as a musician, composer, translator and, above all, a gentle priest. He completed his music studies at the University of Sydney, graduating with a bachelor of music degree in composition. He also studied composition under the Australian composers Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards and Eric Gross. His instrument of choice being the concert piano, Aboona Geoffrey studied with world-renowned Australian concert pianist Roger Woodward, both in Sydney and London. He also studied privately in Paris with Yvonne Loriod, the wife of French composer, Olivier Messiaen.

In 1989, Aboona Geoffrey experienced a change of direction, and attended St. Patrick’s College, Manly, in Sydney to study for the priesthood. A portion of these studies was completed at the University of the Holy Spirit in Kaslik, Lebanon. During his time in Lebanon he also studied Syriac Chant with the Church musicologist, Rev. Prof. Louis Hage, former president of the International Association of Sacred Music (Paris). Aboona Geoffrey was finally ordained to the priesthood in January, 1994.

He had positions in Sydney as Diocesan Secretary and Bishop’s Private Secretary, Youth Chaplain, Rector of St. Maroun’s Cathedral, Director of the Australian Maronite Liturgical and Musical Commission, Maronite Prison Chaplain, Episcopal Vicar for Youth and Episcopal Vicar for Community Services. In Lebanon he is a member of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission in Bkerke.

Aboona Geoffrey has composed many hymns and chants for the Catholic Church, both in the Maronite and Latin rites. He has also worked extensively since 1982 in the adaptation of Syriac and Arabic chant into English for use in the Maronite Diocese of Australia. “Gathered As Your Church”, which contains over 100 chants was released in 1997. Volume 2, released in 2001 contains music for the Latin Church. In 2013, The Book of Offering Music Book was published under his direction and contains 300 hymns and chants to accompany the new English translation of the “Book of Offering” (Mass Book).  An accomplished linguist, he has translated into English, “Precis of Maronite Chant” by Louis Hage and “Iconography of the Syro-Maronite Church Liturgical Year” by Abdo Badwi.

Aboona Geoffrey has been assigned to be the Rector of the Maronite Seminary in Washington, DC. It is true that he will not be distant from us here in Brooklyn and he is always more than welcome to return and visit when he can find time. The Cathedral Choir, which he melded into the best there is, will especially miss his wonderful direction. As a token of their affection for him they gifted him with a vestment. When he dons the vestment he will be encircled by their respect and love.

Aboona Geoffrey celebrated his last “official” Liturgy at the Cathedral on June 9. In his homily to the parish he thanked everyone for their love and well wishes. He said they all made his stay here very personal and loving. Following Liturgy a reception in the Social Hall was a scene of many embraces and smiles as we wished him success in his new position.

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New Health Center in Haiti Being Named In Memory of Brooklyn’s Bishop Sullivan

A new health center to be built in Haiti is named for the late Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan, who died last month.

The Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB), which is continuing its century of health care delivery in Haiti, has selected Cotes-de-Fer, Haiti, as the first site for the implementation of CHAMPS, an acronym for CHildren And Mothers PartnershipS.

CHAMPS has received a $2 million challenge grant for the building of the Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan Center for Health in that location.  The Center will be a 30-bed facility serving a catchment area of 55,000 Haitians, who currently lack access to quality health care facilities.

In honor of the Bishop’s life-long commitment to quality health care as a basic human right, CMMB has established the Bishop Joseph Sullivan Memorial Fund for Women and Children to support the building of healthy communities, or CHAMPS. Bishop Sullivan, an Auxiliary Bishop for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, was a beloved Church leader who recently died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident.  At the time of his death, Bishop Sullivan was entering his tenth year of service as a member of CMMB’s Board of Directors, two of them as Board chairman.

Recently unveiled by CMMB as the core of its strategic direction, the crux of the CHAMPS model is a 15-year commitment to build healthy, sustainable communities in geographic areas of focus via community engagement and partnerships. CMMB will work in partnership with an existing in-region health system and focus on mothers and children under five years of age.  In addition to Cotes-de-Fer, CHAMPS sites are being planned for geographic areas of need in Peru, Kenya and Zambia.

CMMB celebrated its centennial in 2012. Today, it is a leading faith-based NGO focused exclusively on global health care for the world’s poor. On an annual basis, more than 97 percent of the organization’s revenues go directly to its lifesaving programs.  In the last decade, CMMB has provided support to millions of those in need in more than 120 countries.

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Rabbi Potasnik Welcomes New Colleague to Mt. Sinai

Rabbi Seth Wax who has joined Congregation Mount Sinai in a full-time capacity and will be working with the synagogue’s longtime spiritual leader, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik. Rabbi Wax served as rabbinic intern at Mount Sinai for the past year. He was ordained at Hebrew College Rabbinical School in Newton, Massachusetts last month.
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Faith Newsmakers

New Priests Ordained for Brooklyn Diocese Reflect Borough’s Ethnic Diversity

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is helping to reverse the shortage of priests needed for the widespread ministries to Catholics around the United States. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio ordained eight men to the priesthood recently at St. James Cathedral-Basilica in Downtown Brooklyn, making this group the largest ordination class for the Diocese of Brooklyn since 2007.

The new priests, many of them immigrants, reflect Brooklyn’s ethnic diversity.

Three of the men hail from Haiti, two have Korean origins. The other three are, respectively, African-American, Italian-American, and Filipino-American.

“The Ordination of priests has been one of the great joys of my Episcopal ministry and I have had the privilege of Ordaining 45 men to the priesthood, including our eight newly Ordained, since I came to the Diocese in 2003,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “Their language abilities certainly cover the needs of our multi-ethnic Diocese, and I admire each of these young men. Despite the many distractions of the world, they have given up everything to come and follow Christ.”

Several of the new priests, foreign-born and U.S.-born, have ties to Brooklyn, through the churches they have served and where they received their education.

Father Dwayne D. Davis, 26, a native of Kingston, Jamaica in the West Indies, found his home in a town also called Jamaica, in the Borough of Queens. A convert to Catholicism,

He has served St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights neighborhood during his diaconate year. Previously, he served his pastoral (seminarian) year at Our Lady of Grace, Gravesend. Raised in the Pentecostal and Church of God traditions, Dwayne Davis was introduced to the Catholic Church at age nine after a chance encounter in his native Kingston.

Father Davis credits retired Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq, Father Caleb Buchanan and Father Paul Palmiotto with helping him to discern that plan and serve as models of priestly service. As a seminarian, he worked with the diocesan Vicariate of Black Catholic Concerns (VBCC), serving as founding project director of the Youth Leadership Ambassador Program and coordinator of the Kujenga Youth Leadership Program.

Father Raymond Flores, 27, born in the Bronx to parents of Filipino descent, was graduated from Brooklyn Technical H.S., Fort Greene. He was assigned for a year at Ss. Peter and Paul Church, Williamsburg. His ministry involved interacting with the Puerto Rican and Dominican communities in the parish. He learned Spanish in high school but still had to overcome language barriers, which he believed have prepared him well for the priesthood.

Father Stephen Giulietti, 27, was born in Rockville Centre (Long Island) and was educated in Floral Park, but he served a Brooklyn parish during his seminary training.

From a young age, he took an interest in the priesthood, serving as an altar boy at the parish. One of the priests inspiring him was then-Msgr. Raymond Chappetto, who was consecrated as an auxiliary bishop one year ago, on July 11, 2012.

Fr. Giulietti studied at St. John’s University, accepted a philosophy fellowship at Catholic University in Washington, DC, and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He completed his Theology training at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers. His pastoral preparation included teaching catechesis at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Carroll Gardens.

Father Paul Young Kim, 28, will become the first U.S.-born priest of a Korean immigrant family to be ordained in the Brooklyn Diocese.” In order to better help the growing Korean population in Brooklyn and Queens, Bishop DiMarzio sent seminarian Kim to Korea to brush up on his Korean language proficiency. During his pastoral year, then-Deacon Kim served at St. Athanasius, Bensonhurst, under the leadership of the pastor, Msgr. David Cassato, who is also a police chaplain to New York’s Finest.

Father Jun Hee Lee, 26, a native of Seoul, South Korea, also spent his early years in Asuncion, Paraguay, before immigrating to the U.S. at age nine. After spending a year in New Jersey, his family settled in Marine Park and found their spiritual home among the Korean community at St. Athanasius parish, Bensonhurst, traditionally known as an Italian parish but actually widely diverse in its parish membership. He attended Brooklyn schools, including Marine Park J.H.S. and Edward R. Murrow High School in Midwood, before entering Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston.

Fr. Michel Pierre Louis, 45, comes to the priesthood later in his career. He was educated in his native Haiti and He felt the call to religious life in his teenage years and stayed close to God through church activities. He was a high school religion teacher for nine years and a Montfort Brother for five years before coming to the Brooklyn Diocese at the invitation of Bishop DiMarzio in 2007. During his seminary training, Fr. Louis served summer and weekend assignments at Our Lady of Refuge parish in Flatbush. Fluent in Creole and French, he has been completing his final theological preparation for priestly ordination at the Inter-Institute Center for Religious Formation (CIFOR) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Father Killick Pierrilus, 27, was born in Saint-Marc in northern Haiti and was educated in his native land. For his pastoral year, he served at Holy Cross parish, Flatbush. He said it was a great coincidence that he was part of the Holy Cross order in Haiti and then served at a parish named Holy Cross in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“It was a wonderful experience for me,” Father Pierrilus said. “I learned different cultures from this parish. In this parish, we are three communities: English, Spanish and Creole. Each culture worshipped God differently.”

Father Lucon Rigaud, 35, knew when he was in the fifth grade in Notre Dame de Lourdes School, Haiti, and his teacher, a religious sister, gave his class an assignment that would change the course of his life. On the Friday before Good Shepherd Sunday, she asked the students to write down where they could see themselves in 10 years. Even though he took a detour and pursued a law degree-much more to his parents’ liking—he realized  that his true vocation was the priesthood.

When Rigaud decided to return to the seminary, his rector learned of his dream to be a missionary priest, and put him in touch with Bishop DiMarzio, who was visiting Haiti at the time. Bishop DiMarzio invited Rigaud to the Brooklyn Diocese. Father Rigaud celebrated his First Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, June 30, at 1:30 p.m., at Holy Innocents Church in Flatbush.