50 Years of Good Words

Maria Hayes In the Headlines

NEW YORK — When people call the Good Word ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, they are never sure what they will hear, but they always know the message will be good.

For 50 years, people have been able to dial a number at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street in New York City and listen to a short, optimistic, upbeat message. The ministry has especially been a comfort to the homebound, elderly, sick, those suffering from loss and those looking for hope.

“The Good Word’s beginnings are associated with Philip Lavere, OFM, who for many years was the early voice of the ministry,” said Kevin Tortorelli, OFM,who currently oversees the service. “Gerald Carr, OFM, contributed many years to the Good Word as well.”

Several other friars — including William Fitzgerald, OFM, John McDowell, OFM, Cassian Miles, OFM, andEmmett Murphy, OFM — have also been involved with the ministry at different points throughout the service’s 50 years.

Today three friars — Kevin, who has looked after the Good Word for roughly 12 years, Felix McGrath, OFM, and Fr. Placid Stroik, OFM, of Assumption Province — as well as a dozen laypeople help maintain the ministry, each taking a week to compose and record a message.

“Some use proverbs or other bits of wisdom, some use Scripture or aphorisms from the lives of the saints. Some prefer a joke or a bit of humor,” Kevin said. “The goal is to have one’s 30-second message leave the listener more at peace or more cheerful amid the difficulties and problems of life.”

The phone access system does not show how many people have listened to the Good Word on a given day, but Kevin is hopeful that new technology will address this issue once it is acquired.

“The future of the Good Word service will always depend on people who are willing to take the time to prepare a 30-second message for the week,” said Kevin of the service that began on Feb. 3, 1963.

To listen to the Good Word at St. Francis of Assisi, call 212-736-9233.

 Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.