By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
He’s heaven sent! The Rev. Michael Louis Gelfant, pastor of Saint Finbar Catholic Church in Bensonhurst, has been chosen by the organizing committee of the 32nd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade to serve as a grand marshal for the march. The parade will take place on Saturday, Oct. 12, on 18th Avenue, at 1 p.m.
Sponsored by the Federation of Italian American Organizations (FIAO), the parade pays tribute to the business and cultural contributions Italian-Americans have made to the borough over the years.
Twenty years ago, the City Council bestowed the honorary name of “Cristoforo Columbo Boulevard” on 18th Avenue in tribute to Christopher Columbus as a gesture to Bensonhurst’s Italian-American community.
Gelfant, who is half-Italian, wrote on his Facebook page that he is honored to have been selected as a grand marshal. “Happy to accept being grand marshal of the Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade in October. An honor for me personally and for our parish,” he wrote.
Gelfant, who arrived at St. Finbar three years ago, is credited by many in Brooklyn’s Catholic community for revitalizing the parish after it had been in danger of being closed by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn due to dwindling mass attendance and high debt. Earlier this month, more than 100 children received First Holy Communion at St. Finbar, the highest number of recipients in five years and a sign that young Catholic families, the lifeblood of a parish, are finding a home there.
The FIAO, headed by G. Jack Spatola, is a non-profit organization headquartered at 7403 18th Ave. The group offers social service referrals, assistance with immigration issues, and sponsors after-school programs and adult education classes. The FIAO is currently constructing a community center at 8711 18th Ave.