My early days as a priest

Posted October 26, 2018 at 12:00 am

After serving as a priest for 58 years, I’m often by asked by people who knew that I was a native New Yorker, how I became a priest of the Diocese of Paterson, NJ? I was born in Manhattan, raised in St. Joan of Arc Parish, Jackson Heights, Queens, and I graduated from Fordham University in 1953. The Korean War was still winding down and I was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving my first year as a military policeman, and my second year as a chaplain’s assistant.

I knew that I wanted to be a priest, so after my discharge I immediately made an appointment with the Brooklyn diocesan chancellor, who told me that their seminary was at full capacity, and that i lacked any college credits in Greek. I was

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    Judas and his fate/ Divorce and friendship

    Q There’s a question that has occurred to me from time to time, and I would appreciate your answer. I was always led to believe that suicide is a mortal sin, so someone who takes his own life cannot go to heaven.   

    It makes me wonder what fate awaited Judas when he hanged himself after turning Jesus in. Is he condemned to hell, or would he be forgiven for the role that he played, since Jesus had to be betrayed to save mankind?

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    Archbishop Romero, a saint for El Salvador, Pope Francis and even LSU

    On Sunday, Oct. 14 Pope Francis declared Archbishop Oscar Romero a saint and a martyr.  While still the Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis had told a confidant that, if he became pope, he would make Archbishop Oscar Romero a saint. Popes often are making a statement through those they choose to promote for sainthood.  Archbishop Romero was a man after Pope Francis’ own heart.  Now his life and death are offered to the entire world as examples of the Gospel values Pope Francis cherishes and has so often preached and written

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    Thoughts while praying the rosary/ Should Sunday Mass be obligatory

    Q I would appreciate your help with a question I’ve had for a long time. When I am saying the rosary, should I be thinking of the words to the Hail Mary or about the particular mystery I am then on? (Morrilton, Arkansas)

    AI think it’s a matter of personal choice. Whatever best helps to make these moments a time of prayer and of peace, whatever makes you more aware of the presence of God and his love, that is the way

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    The search for an indubitable truth

    In a book, “12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos,” that’s justifiably making waves in many circles today, Jordan Peterson shares about his own journey towards truth and meaning. Here’s that story:

    At one point in his life, while still young and finding his own path, he reached a stage where he felt agnostic, not just about the shallow Christianity he’d been raised on, but also about most everything else in terms of truth and trust. What really can we believe in? What’s ultimately to be trusted?

    Too humble

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    Finding Jesus in the breaking of the bread

    A mother sent her two sons to college, and as sometimes happens, she discovered a few years later that they were no longer going to church. To her questions they only answered, “We don’t get anything out of it; it is not important in our lives now.” She prayed and prayed, and one Sunday, without warning, they sat down next to her at Mass. “What made you come back?” she asked later that evening. They told her the story. 

    A few weeks before,

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    Divorced and Communion/ Missing Mass and mortal sin

    Q I am in my 50s and have now been divorced for three years. I was married in the Catholic Church and have always attended Sunday Mass regularly and received Communion. But I have begun to wonder whether I should still take Communion. 

    I asked a priest recently in confession, and he said that it was OK, but I still feel unsure about it. (Also, I have kept my marriage vows so far; but if I were to become involved with someone else,

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    Fanucci, Laura-FAITH AT HOME.pdf

    When hard conversations have to happen

    “I wish we didn’t have to talk about this.”

    What parent hasn’t thought or uttered these words, taking a deep breath before jumping into a hard conversation with their child? Whether a crisis at home, a conflict at school or an atrocity in the news, tough subjects are unavoidable in families.

    The recent sex abuse scandals that are rocking our church are no exception.


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    Dementia and the sacraments/Proper attire for eucharistic ministers

    Q I bring holy Communion to a local nursing home. Of the 66 Catholics there, many of them have no visitors. Those with dementia are asked whether they would like to receive the Eucharist, and if they say yes, I give them the host.  

    It saddens me that Jesus suffered to give us his mercy in confession and in anointing, and yet I don’t feel that I can ask a priest to bring these sacraments because I don’t know whether the people were

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    Finding God

    If you are a long-time fan of Colbert, you may remember Father James Martin SJ. He was Colbert’s chaplain on his former late-nite show. Today Father Martin is editor at large of America, the national Jesuit review of faith and culture which recently won the 2018 Catholic Press Association Magazine of the Year award. Before joining the America staff, Father Martin was also chaplain to actors and actresses on Broadway and the author of 15 books, including “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything,” “A Jesuit Off-Broadway,” and “My Life

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    An ode to the church

    Carlo Carretto was an Italian monk who died in 1988. For many years he lived as a hermit in the Sahara Desert, translated the Scriptures into the Tuareg language, and from the solitude of the desert wrote some extraordinary spiritual books. His writings and his faith were special in that they had a rare capacity to combine an almost childlike piety with (when needed) a blistering iconoclasm. He loved the church deeply, but he wasn’t blind to its faults and failures, and he wasn’t afraid to point out

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    EDITORIAL: Confusing times

    Anger. Hurt. Sorrow. Confusion. Misleading. Distrust. Disillusionment.

    Emotions many Catholics around the world are likely experiencing, and one could argue with good reason.

    Once again, allegations of clergy abuse are rocking the Catholic Church, and although this is not the first such scandal, perhaps none have been as far reaching, from affecting nearly an entire state to landing high in the church’s hierarchy.

    In mid-June, allegations of abuse to a minor implicating then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick were found to be credible. He submitted his letter of resignation from the Cardinalate to the Vatican on July 27,

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    Bishop Muench.pdf

    Bishop Muench’s statement on clergy abuse

    Recently reported abuses by some clergy from other Catholic dioceses in our country leave us heartbroken and sickened. As the Church continues to address the issue of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, news of the horrendous and inexcusable offenses committed by a former cardinal and revelations of the decades of criminally and morally reprehensible abuse contained in the report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury reveal a spiritual crisis in our Church. 

    Our shame is intensified by the sometimes failure of Church

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    Beautiful stoics

    There’s a rich literature being written today by some highly intelligent, sensitive men and women who might best be described as agnostic stoics. Unlike some of their atheistic counterparts whose one-sided attacks on religion suggest that they “doth protest too much,” this group doesn’t protest at all. They don’t attack faith in God; indeed they often see salient religious doctrines like belief in the incarnation in Christ, belief in original sin and belief in a resurrection as helpful myths that can be invaluable for our self-understanding, akin to

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    #Me-too moment for abused Catholics

    The Catholic Church is only a short time behind the entertainment industry. Revelations of retired Cardinal Archbishop Theadore McCarrick’s many years as a sexual abuser, together with a 10-year delayed report on clergy sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses have captured headlines on media outlets around the United States and the world. Catholics have found themselves shocked, shamed and bewildered once again, having gone through a similar experience 10 years ago, after a similar exposé in the Boston Globe newspaper. People all over the nation have been calling

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    Washing hands at Mass/The ‘poor in spirit’

    Q One of the parishes that we sometimes attend does not have the “lavabo” (the washing of hands) during Mass. The priest has been asked about it, and he simply says that we don’t do it at this parish. But isn’t the lavabo a standard part of every Mass? (It’s done everywhere else that I’ve been.) (Albany, New York) </span id=”0″>

    A Yes, you are right: The lavabo is, in fact, a standard part of every Mass and has been so since the

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    Why I believe in God

    Some of my favorite authors are agnostics, men and women who face life honestly and courageously without faith in a personal God. They’re stoics mostly, persons who have made peace with the fact that God may not exist and that perhaps death ends everything for us. I see this, for example, in the late James Hillman, a man whom I greatly admire and who has much to teach believers about what it means to listen to and honor the human soul.


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    Fanucci, Laura-color.pdf

    Keep holy the commute and the car pool

    Our minivan is one big silver stereotype.

    Granola bar wrappers on the floor. Cheerios stuck between seats. Baseball gear rolling around the back.

    I’ll admit our car is overlooked; I’d never let the house get this dirty. It’s also much-maligned, as I crack jokes regularly about minivan life.

    I know I’m not alone in feeling like we live in the car some days. The average American spends

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    The unclean spirits of an increasingly secular society

    At our Sunday Masses in “ordinary time” this year we are hearing Gospel readings from St. Mark. More than the other Gospel writers, St. Mark describes Jesus campaigning against “unclean spirits.”

    He drives them out of individuals, and in one of last month’s Sunday Gospels, he sent his apostles out two by two to preach repentance, giving them “authority over unclean spirits” (Mk 6:7). We know today that illnesses are caused by bacteria and viruses and mutations of genes. These were unknown to Jesus’ audiences and to people

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    To the friends I’ve known

    Recently, reading Commonwealth magazine, I was struck by this line by Jerry Ryan, a Little Brother of Jesus: “I have lost contact with so many people who meant a lot to me at different stages of my life, people I loved dearly and really cared for and who had given me so much and made me what I am.”

    That’s so true for me and, I suspect, for most of us. People enter our lives, friendships develop, and then some of those

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    God rested. Don’t we need the same?

    This column almost made a liar out of me. 

    “I’ll write about leisure,” I decided one morning at Mass, snuggled next to a rarely calm child, soaking in the Sunday quiet. 

    A perfect topic for July’s sultry weather and summer vacations. Gentle reminders that God calls us to rest. 

    But then my work schedule picked up. So did my husband’s. House projects became emergencies; kids got sick; calendars got thrown off. 

    When I finally

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    ‘Last rites’ in a coma/ Mass attendance on holy days

    By Father Kennth Doyle

    Q  My daughter, who was 50
    years of age, became deathly ill, spent six weeks in the intensive care unit, then entered hospice to die. When death was imminent, a nurse finally found a priest to administer last rites. (It was a Jewish hospice, and they weren’t used to calling a priest.)

    By that time, my daughter was in a coma. She hadn’t been to church or to confession in I don’t know how long  although she was baptized, made first Communion, etc.

    As soon as the priest gave her the sacrament, she passed away.

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    ‘Humanae Vitae’ upholds the dignity of women

    By Danielle Van Haute

    This July 25 marks the 50th year anniversary of Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), arguably the most widely contested encyclical in the church’s history. When the encyclical was promulgated, it was a time of change that included new possibilities and new concerns. Man was advancing in the areas of science and technology, the sexual revolution was in full swing, and contraception, in particular the birth control pill, offered the promise of solutions to problems ranging from women’s role in society, to economic disparity and the fears of population growth. It was prudent and necessary for

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    School shootings

    By Father John Catoir

    When plane hijacking became a national threat, we immediately addressed the problem by upgrading preventive measures at our airports. Ex-ray surveillance, body searches, luggage inspections were all resisted at first, but these stricter methods worked. The immediate public reaction was to complain: it’s too invasive, too time-consuming, too annoying, etc.  But now people feel safer, and the threat of hi-jackings is no longer on everyone’s mind.

    We need to do the same thing for our children, who are terrified by the mass-murders at schools. We need to upgrade our surveillance techniques.

    The problem needs

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    The soul of America is in danger

    By Father John Carville

    We worry about our children, our relatives and our friends who begin to go down a dark path in their lives.  Whether it is infidelity in marriage, dishonesty in business or addiction to alcohol or drugs, we see the light of goodness dim in their lives, and we wonder if their souls are being lost.  Our nation too has a soul, a soul that for many years has burned brightly, as expressed so beautifully on monuments like the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial.

    “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled

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    Donating body to science/ Flags on the altar

    By Father Kenneth Doyle

    Q I would like to donate my remains to medical science. Does the Catholic Church approve or disapprove of this action? (Chesapeake, Virginia)

    A The Catholic Church not only allows this but encourages it. Your donation could enable doctors, nurses and medical researchers to understand the human body better and save lives in the future.

    The U.S. Catholic bishops in their policy document Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services state that Catholic health care facilities should provide the means for those who wish to donate organs and bodily tissue both for transplant

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    By Father Ron Rolheiser

    Our culture doesn’t give us easy permission to mourn. Its underlying ethos is that we move on quickly from loss and hurt, keep our griefs quiet, remain strong always and get on with life.

    But mourning is something that’s vital to our health, something we owe to ourselves. Without mourning our only choice is to grow hard and bitter in the face of disappointment, rejection and loss. And these will always make themselves felt.

    We have many things to mourn in life: We are forever losing people and things. Loved ones die, relationships die, friends

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    Readings at funeral Mass/ Sunday shopping

    By Father Kenneth Doyle

    Q Are there restrictions as to which scriptural readings may be used at a Catholic funeral Mass? My dad has told me that he wants St. Matthew 25:31-40 to be read when he dies. He has always liked that reading and has lived his life accordingly. Is there any reason this passage could not be used at his funeral? (Northampton, Pennsylvania)

    A The Order of Christian Funerals is the ritual book approved for Catholic funerals in the United States. In it is offered a selection of 45 different scriptural passages for the first and second readings

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    Honoring our fathers

    By Laura Fanucci

    Beer. Golf. TV. Mowing. Burping. Fishing.

    According to greeting cards in the store aisles, this is all that modern fathers care about.

    Father’s Day is clogged with lowbrow stereotypes. Dad just wants to hog the remote control, crack a few crass jokes and drink a cold one.

    He’s not nurturing, caring or involved. He’s not devoted to his wife, children or grandchildren.

    But think about the fathers you know. Chances are they defy such silly typecasting. They’re washing dishes and changing diapers. They’re sacrificing to pay for college or moving to be near grandkids.

    Many men

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    Stirring the smoldering ashes of our faith

    By Father Ron Rolheiser

    Anyone who has ever watched a fire knows that at a point the flames subside and disappear into smoldering coals which themselves eventually cool and turn into cold, grey ash. But there’s a moment in that process, before they cool off, that the coals can be stirred so as to make them burst into flame again.  

    That’s the image St. Paul uses to encourage us to rekindle the fires of our faith when they seem to be burning low: “I

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