POMPTON LAKES, N.J. — Smiles were plentiful at St. Mary’s Parish here on a sunny Sunday afternoon earlier this month for the official opening of the Carnevale Center, a two-story, 19,000-square-foot facility with 17 meeting rooms. Parishioners, friars and visitors took great pride in completion of the three-year project that will serve the parish and community well.
Named for Michael Carnevale, OFM, who ministered at St. Mary’s Parish for a total of 22 years between 1973 and 2002, the last nine as pastor and guardian, the center will be used for formation programs and meetings, as well as special events.
Michael traveled to St. Mary’s for the event from Manhattan, where he is director of gay outreach ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church. His other roles at St. Mary’s, as well as details about the parish’s love for the friar, can be found in the Sept. 12 issue of HNP Today.
“I accept this honor today in the name of all friars who have gone before me,” Michael said. “This is a community that certainly mirrors the image of God and the spirit of St. Francis. The building is a testimony to all who make this parish great. My hope and prayer for the community is that you stay open to the mysteries of the future.”
Hundreds of people turned out for the Oct. 7 noon Mass, followed by a dedication and reception for the Carnevale Center, located across the parking lot from the church and school. Attendees included friars who had served the North Jersey parish, including Francis Gunn, OFM, Michael Harlan, OFM, and Ronald Stark, OFM. Parishioners and guests enjoyed the many humorous comments made in speeches, smiling as they chatted with longtime friends who they hadn’t seen in awhile.
Most Rev. Frank Rodimer, retired bishop of Paterson, N.J., celebrated the Mass, and Ronald gave the homily.
“The spirit of happiness and passion are important and they are here,” Bishop Rodimer said. “This feels like a carnival today,” he added, referring to the mood and name of the person being honored.
Speakers Thank Bishop, Friars
Ronald, who served the parish in the late ’70s and early ’80s, gave a homily that provided listeners with both repeated laughter and a reason to focus on his heartfelt words.
After light-hearted stories reminiscing about sleepless nights during construction, and teasing that Michael did about his height challenges — including playing the song “Short People” — Ronald told the congregation, “We’re here to celebrate church and a friar who is much loved.”
“From the beginning, parishes have been meant to be places where things are created anew,” he said. “St. Mary’s is a parish that is very much alive.”
Ronald mentioned that “we are here to celebrate the end of a holy week (with the feast of St. Francis)” and said that it is a day of both “pride and promise.”
Pastor Kevin Downey, OFM, introduced the honored guest, Michael Carnevale, as “a man who needs no introduction.”
Michael then thanked the bishop, saying, “You were always there for us, encouraging this parish. You are truly a father to the people.”
He also thanked Kevin. “You have done an unbelievable job in building this place. You have brought St. Mary’s to a new plateau.”
Michael gratefully acknowledged the friars with whom he has lived. “It is a privilege to live with men who have the same vision,” Michael said.
In his talk, Michael referred to friars who had served St. Mary’s but could not attend the festivities, including Boniface Hanley, OFM, who is now in Margate, N.J., Jude Murphy, OFM, who lives in Butler, N.J., and Sean O’Brien, OFM, of Tampa, Fla.
Building History and Use
“In March 2004, I stood here and shared with you a dream of a new center,” Kevin said. “Today, we have attained that dream – a two-story, 19,000-square foot center with 17 meeting rooms. Yesterday, we held our first event, a retreat that 80 attended.”
“So many people have given their time and talent to the project,” he added.
One of those people is Adam Dentinger.
“I sometimes wonder where we would be today if I hadn’t had a conversation with Art Scialla after Mass which led me to Lou March which led me to Adam Dentinger,” Kevin said. “God points me in the right direction to meet the right people.”
“Lou introduced me to his son-in-law Adam, a parishioner, who along with his wife, Julie, own Jewel Contracting. It was their construction company that won the bid to build the center. Adam was on site, overseeing the project, and has done an awesome job for St. Mary’s. I can’t thank him enough.”
“This week’s dedication is taking place because of Adam’s determination to meet the deadline,” Kevin’s Pastor’s Desk column said.
And the Francis Medal Goes to…
For their contributions to the project, Kevin awarded the Province’s Francis Medal to four parishioners. They were presented by Francis Di Spigno, OFM, a Provincial Councilor, who represented Holy Name’s Provincial Minister.
Recipients were Steven Dec, a graduate of St. Mary’s School, and Sean Flanagan, who oversaw the the construction of the center, insuring the quality of the work and keeping the project within budget; Blake Pra Sisto, who contributed greatly to fundraising efforts; and David Wigfield, who provided legal help during construction. Pra Sisto, who recently opened the nearby The Parish Store, selling religious items, led two campaigns that raised a total of $3.1 million.
“The incredible contributions from these four parishioners enabled us to have this great new facility,” Kevin said.
The center is hosting a busy fall schedule including:
► A four-week bereavement workshop called The Lighted Path begins on Oct. 30. It is facilitated by a staff counselor from Pathways Counseling service. information is available at 973-835-6337.
► A women’s morning of reflection beginning 9:00 a.m. on Nov. 3. Its theme is “Finding God in Ordinary Life.”
► A presentation by Sister Helen Prejean, OSJ, author of the book Dead Man Walking, on Nov. 9.
► A Women’s Advent Morning of Reflection titled “Get Ready for Joy” on Dec. 1.
Kevin summed it up best in a parish brochure: “The opening and dedication of the Carnevale Center is a time to give thanks to God who continues to bless our community in so many ways, and to the people of this parish whose generosity makes everything possible.”
Shown with the bishop in the photo above are Ronald, Kevin, and Michael. Additional photos taken at the Oct. 7 dedication appear on the home page of the Province’s Web site.