Paterson Parish Celebrates Franciscan Identity

HNP Communications Around the Province

PATERSON, N.J. — The spirit of St. Francis is definitely in the air at St. Bonaventure Parish here, where parishioners celebrated an exuberant Francis Week during their 130th anniversary year. 

Daniel Grigassy, OFM, pastor, has been reminding the parish of the great pride it takes in its Franciscan heritage, since the arrival of friars in 1876. The parish commemorated its Franciscan roots with a movie series over the summer, and special Masses and seminars featuring the Provincial Minister and Provincial Vicar this fall. At the feast day of St. Francis Mass, Dan awarded 10 Francis Medals.

“I’m extraordinarily impressed with the efforts to attend to the needs of the poor by so many parishioners for so long,” said Dan. “What better day than the feast of St. Francis to acknowledge, at least some of those, who have embodied the values and ideals of St. Francis through their generosity of spirit, service, and support.”

A Busy Fall
Festivities have included the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14, with Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, presiding at the Sunday Eucharist. The Feast of the Stigmata followed on Sept. 17. On Sept. 20, a prayer and recollection on “Francis Through the Eyes of Bonaventure” was presented by Teresa Baker, SFO, chair of the National Franciscan Formation Commission. On Sept. 15 and 22, Dan offered a two-part session on “The Crucifix of San Damiano.” On Sept.  29, Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, lectured on “The Coming of the Friars to Paterson, 1876.”

Twenty pilgrims will learn more about Franciscan history this month through a 10-day pilgrimage to Franciscan Italy. Dan conducted three preparatory sessions for the pilgrims and will travel with them as their guide, along with Fr. Benjamin Regotti, OFM, Cap., of Philadelphia, and Br. Becket Ryan, OSF, of Brooklyn.

The Transitus was celebrated on Oct. 3, followed by refreshments sponsored by the St. John Vianney/St. Elizabeth of Hungary Fraternity of Secular Franciscans. The feast day Mass took place at 11:30 a.m. Two permanent deacons, Joe Balough and Tony Fierro, presided at the 2 p.m. Blessing of the Animals. 

Francis Medals Awarded
Profiles of the 10 medal recipients were provided by Dan.

• Theodore D. Choma, a parishioner of St. Leo’s Church, Elmwood Park, for the past 46 years, is well known to many friars. An alumnus of St. Bonaventure University (1960), he has a great affection for the friars. He is an active member of the finance committee at St. Leo’s and also at St. Bonaventure. He has donated many hours of professional service to needy churches, families, and businesses gratis as a certified public accountant. 

• Genevieve DeChellis was an active member of the Social Concerns Ministry from its inception, and has worked vigorously for the local poor. She never missed a planning meeting or any of the programs sponsored by Social Concerns. Although she now suffers from severe arthritis, she worked with her hands for years, crocheting Christmas ornaments and tree trims. She also knitted Easter shawls for the women at Father English Community Center in Paterson. 

• Eileen Egan and James Egan, posthumously, Feb. 29, 2008). Egan has been a dedicated member of the Social Concerns Ministry from its inception, along with her husband, Jim. She is the niece of Fr. Arthur Brophy, OFM. In addition to the various seasonal programs of the Social Concerns Ministry, the Egans worked in the monthly clothing drive and various other clothing distribution projects. Eileen and Isabel Kerwin started the successful Frozen Dinners Program. Jim took on the men’s shoes and clothing drive and worked vigorously to distribute shoes and clothing to the local poor. Other collected items went to Straight & Narrow, a drug rehabilitation center and social service agency in the city of Paterson.

• Isabel Kerwin has given of herself tirelessly to the parish. In addition to founding the Social Concerns Ministry, she has also served both as vice president and president of the Pastoral Council and of the Rosary Society. For more than 25 years, she was an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist and an active member of the Altar Guild and Lazarus Ministry. She was also a member of the Refounding Team. She has been the backbone of the Social Concerns Ministry. 

• Raymond and Bette LaConte have assisted the works of the Social Concerns Ministry since its inception. They have participated in the clothing drive, the Giving Tree and the School Supplies Project. Early on, they were instrumental in providing the delivery of many of the collected items to  sites in the city of Paterson. Ray served as Pastoral Council resident for several years and continues to sit on the council. He also was an usher and a lector for years. Bette has served as a lector, member of the choir, and a catechist for years, only recently retiring to the important role of safety monitor at the front door where the religious formation classes take place. 

• Mary Nugent is one of the pillars of the parish, who holds much of its history in her head and heart. An active member of the parish at 86, she is still employed in a full-time job as a secretary at ITT Electronic Systems, Clifton. 

• Martin and Lucille Walsh have provided relief to many needy people in the Paterson area and beyond. Marty was a high school guidance counselor and Lucille was an Army National Guard nurse. Using their skills for the good of others, they have volunteered in many programs. They have contributed significantly to projects that assist the poor, both here and at our missions abroad. 

“At this extraordinary time of celebrating our 130th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone,” said Dan, “I thought it most appropriate to acknowledge these outstanding parishioners and friends who have been deeply touched and transformed by the Franciscan spirit of St. Bon’s, one of the Province’s oldest parishes, and who embody that spirit now for others.”