Buffalo Native Facilitates Seniors Group at NYC Parish

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

NEW YORK — During more than 50 years as a friar, much of the ministry ofPatrick Fitzgerald, OFM, has had a similar theme. Though the venues and ages of the participants may change, he is consistently facilitating activities for Province ministries that reflect the Franciscan spirit.

For 16 years, Patrick organized activities for students at his alma mater, St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. Now, he facilitates the St. Francis Seniors Group at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.

Recently, Patrick organized festive parties for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. These are just two of the many events he runs for the seniors group, which meets weekly and includes about 25 regular members who pay nominal membership dues. 

Popular Group Draws from NYC Suburbs
Seniors come far and wide to attend the group, many traveling by bus or train from the New York City suburbs, according to Patrick. “The group has no minimum age requirement,” he said.

The March 12 St. Patrick’s party included refreshments, prayers, Irish music, and, of course, green attire.

Patrick, who has been leading the group for three years, is quick to explain his involvement: “I facilitate the events; I don’t direct them.” Marie Harrington, the parish’s outreach director, he said, organizes the programs for the seniors. Programs include mainly lectures. The parties are arranged by volunteer Irene Vendetti.

The group was formed approximately 30 years ago by John McVean, OFM, who went on to establish with John Felice, OFM, the St. Francis Friends of the Poor residences in New York City. 

At St. Bonaventure, the activities Patrick was involved in included concerts, plays and lectures. In those days, he was known as Fr. Brennan Fitzgerald on campus.  He enjoyed the interaction with students as well as arranging appearances by well-known performers such as Judy Collins, America, the Doobie Brothers, Bruce Springsteen and booking Broadway shows such as “A Chorus Line,” and “Bubblin’ Brown Sugar.” 

seniorservicesA Welcoming Franciscan Presence
Patrick, a Buffalo native, who relocated from Western New York to St. Francis Friary on West 31st Street in 1986, enjoys his life in  New York. It includes his ministry at St. Francis — presiding and preaching at Masses, pastoral counseling, and sacrament of reconciliation — as well as serving on the board of directors of the 34th Street Partnership and as clergy liaison to the NYPD Midtown South precinct.

Patrick also enjoys the seniors group, and the participants appreciate his involvement. His main role is to “be a welcoming Franciscan presence.” 

Camille Luisi of Greenwich Village in downtown Manhattan said Patrick is a “real people person.” By his style, he encourages everyone to get along, she said. “He does a good job of blending together all of the members.”

Luisi and her husband, Jim, have been participating in the group’s programs for nearly 20 years, she said. “I’m one of the originals.” 

Rudy Dezan of New York City, a relatively new member, said last week that he comes mostly to socialize, and called the group very pleasant. 

The photo above shows Patrick with guests at the St. Patrick’s Day party. Behind it are other photos, including one of guests looking at a picture of Patrick at SBU in 1973.

Information about the St. Francis Seniors Group can be obtained by calling Patrick at 212-736-8500.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province. She knew Patrick in the 1970s, while she was a student at SBU.