She was passionate in her love for the poor, she was never afraid to speak up or offer a challenging response if she felt something was wrong, she was ever present to her staff and volunteers, she was determined to overcome any obstacle in her way. She is irreplaceable – our beloved Joan Echausse. All that having been said, I come to this moment of needing to make a decision about the leadership that will empower the excellent work of Parish Outreach to move forward.
“Outreach” describes so much of the work that is done throughout so many ministries in our parish. Even beyond the excellent work that is done by the food pantry, Saint Brigid’s Well, and Casa Mary Johanna, there is the ministry to the homebound, the ministry to seniors in our parish, the ministry to the grieving who have lost a loved one and the ministry that is done at Saint Brigid’s Attic. Wherever there is loneliness, brokenness, pain and need, we at Saint Brigid’s have done the best we can to offer our loving and supportive presence. “Outreach” embraces all of this work – and can embrace so much more.
Today there are more challenges that face our community than ever before. Our immigrant population, most especially those whose temporary protected status may be ending, live in confusion and fear. The real possibilities of family members being separated from one another is an ever growing threat. Then there are the challenges of funding our programs. All non-profits report that charitable contributions are down and even the Catholic church on Long Island faces massive challenges in the continued wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal. We need to pull together more than ever before.
I have created a new position in our parish staff - “vicar for outreach services.” The work of the vicar is to assist our outreach coordinators (Ximena Aravena, Lupé Ramirez, Barbara Powell and Yanira Chacon) in the development of a strategic vision and concrete goals that can meet the challenges we are facing these days. The vicar will also help form a board of volunteers who can assist in the process of planning and evaluation of all the programs and ministries that fall under the expanded umbrella of “outreach” as I have described above (outreach to the homebound, the work of Saint Brigid’s Attic, senior connections, ministry of consolation, etc.).
The vicar will draw upon the resources of Catholic Charities, CARECEN, the Town of North Hempstead and other community neighborhood programs of outreach so that all our efforts may be more effectively coordinated. The vicar will also be engaged in the work of grant writing and coordination with the philanthropic work of the newly founded Catholic Community Foundation. And, as we look toward the future, there are initiatives that will need to be made in networking with our neighboring parishes.
To this end, I have appointed Deacon Darrell Buono to take up the work of being Vicar for Outreach Services. He officially begins his work at the end of August, but even in these intervening months will be immersed in learning about the successes of what has been done in this parish and the challenges that lie ahead. Deacon Darrell is excited to take up this responsibility and is eager to listen, to learn, to collaborate and to help us to move forward in awork that truly defines the very essence of our parish community here at Saint Brigid’s.