NEW YORK — Steven Pavignano, OFM, was installed last week as pastor of All Saints Church on East 129th Street, the first Franciscan formally appointed to that post. Steven relocated recently to the Harlem church from Hartford, where he had ministered for three years, after spending more than two decades in the South.
The Sept. 28 Mass, celebrated by Steven, was attended by friars from All Saints, including, Christopher Keenan, OFM, Charles Gilmartin, OFM, Glenn Humphrey, OFM, and Daniel Sulmasy, OFM, as well as Michael Harlan, OFM, Jerome Massimino, and Brian Smail, OFM, from St. Francis Friary on West 31st Street. Relatives and friends from New England also attended the Mass and the festive reception that followed.
Benedict Taylor, OFM, founder of Create, Inc, the respected social services organization in Harlem, preached the homily. He and Steven got to know each other while serving on the Province’s African-American committee. In his homily, Ben spoke of how the friars at the Harlem church are all, in various ways, healers. “One works with the fire department, another leads 12-step programs, another is a teacher, and, of course, Dan is a doctor,” Steve said.
Steven said he has great respect for Benedict. “Many people owe their lives to Ben because of how Create helped them,” Steve said. “He is essentially the healer of Harlem.”
Friars seem much more community-involved than other priests, said staff member Diane Holmes-Sumpter, an employee for six years and a parishioner for 20. “Many people in the neighborhood know brothers Glenn, Dan and Charlie,” she added.
Franciscan leadership of All Saints began in 2002 when Neil O’Connell, OFM, took over as administrator. Before that, the parish was served by three other religious orders, said Holmes-Sumpter.
All Saints Parish was established in 1879; its beautiful church, dedicated in 1893, was the last one designed by the architect of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, James Renwick. Located in a neighborhood of mainly African-American since the late 1940s, it also attracts people from outside the community. Many came for the Sept. 28 Mass, which was a celebration of homecoming, Steve said.
In a message in the parish bulletin, Steven welcomed those who had returned for the celebration of homecoming. “It is good to gather and recall stories of the past, on which we have built, and from which we continue to grow.”
Attendance at Mass grew during the last six years, while Neil was here,” Steve said.
Background in Diversity
Steven, a New Jersey native, comes to the parish from Hartford, where he served three years at St. Patrick-St. Anthony. He spent 27 years in the South, in towns including Athens and Thomasville, Ga., and then in Greenville, S.C.
Steve said he enjoys working with diverse cultures, an interest that evolved from a research project about the African-American community while an undergraduate at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y.
“I want to build the strongest Catholic church here that I can,” Steve said.
“As I begin my role as pastor for the parish, I ask your support and prayers,” Steven said, in the parish bulletin. “I look forward to working with you, witnessing to the kingdom of God. With the guidance of our pastoral council, we have started developing a strategic plan to help us develop as a stronger faith community.”
He continued: “There are two areas I want to focus on. The first is prayer and the second is justice, peace and the integrity of creation (JPIC).”
The most consistent ministry at All Saints is the food pantry, a valuable service that is open on Saturday mornings. It was established 18 years ago, Steve said, and is run by Stephanie Ali, pastoral council chair, and Laura Robinson, of Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA).
During his first two months, Steve has been working on a variety of initiatives. With members of the parish, he is evaluating the physical condition of the church complex to determine what repairs are needed, reviewing the mission statement of the parish, and getting to know the community.
“Since I have a JPIC bent, I am enjoying reaching out to the community,” Steve said, adding that he wants to set up a gathering at the parish this fall to build on a November event happening in Rome, the meeting of Muslim and Catholic theologians.
“I hope to invite the Manhattan Muslim community to share fellowship, prayer and discussion. It will be a way to reflect locally on what is happening internationally,” he said.
Shown in the photo above are, from left to right: Steven, Kevin Little, Gregory Hochstein, Stephanie Ali, Gregory Sumpter, Tyson Boudreaux, Dorothy McWhite and Michael Ohuche.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.