Religion

Front row, from left, Leg. Susan Berland, Mikayla Shapiro, Beth Goldberg, Noah Rosenzweig, Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon and Carol Nuzzi; back row, from left, Elijah Morrison, Justin Winawer, Sarah Strent and Justin Mintz. Photo by Shahron Sharifian

Last week seven Long Island teens were honored at the Annual CTeen West Suffolk Dinner at The Chai Center in Dix Hills, for their work and dedication to this vital youth community service organization.

Sarah Strent of Commack received the Leadership Award, Mikayla Shapiro of Commack and Justin Mintz of Plainview received the Rookies of the Year Awards, Noah Rosenzweig of East Northport and Justin Winawer of Plainview received the Chesed (Kindness) Awards, Beth Goldberg of West Babylon received the Dedication Award and Elijah Morrison of Melville was named Teen of the Year. The hosts for the evening were CTeen West Suffolk teen leaders, Carly Tamer and Hannah Sharifian, both of East Northport.

Beth Goldberg and Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon. Photo by Photo by Shahron Sharifian

Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Suffolk County Legislator Susan Berland, Carol Nuzzi representing Sen. John Flanagan and Councilwoman Jacqueline Gordon of the Town of Babylon all attended to personally congratulate the teens. Warm greetings and certificates were also sent from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Among this year’s activities, CTeen West Suffolk teens cooked for needy families, held a toy drive, packed holiday gifts for ill children, enjoyed a paint night with seniors at an assisted living facility, listened to the life stories of Holocaust survivors and attended three major conventions — a regional, national and international Shabbaton, where they represented Long Island.

“It was an inspiring and moving night,” commented Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, the director of CTeen West Suffolk, which is based at The Chai Center. However, he explained, this is just the beginning. “We need to reach every Jewish teen and let them know they have a home at CTeen West Suffolk.”

 Sarah Strent, who was named the Leader of the Year, told the crowd, “One very significant message I took away from this year of CTeen is that everyone is a leader. You don’t need a title or a sweatshirt to prove that. I firmly believe every single one of you is capable of achieving anything you set out to do.” 

 With over 200 chapters globally and tens of thousands of members, CTeen, the fastest growing Jewish teen network in the world, inspires and facilitates teens who want to give back to their community and environment, with an emphasis on positive character development. The CTeen Network believes in the power of youth and transforming the teen years into a time of purpose and self-discovery. The goal is to turn youth into leaders. Under the direction of Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum of The Chai Center, the CTeen West Suffolk chapter has tripled in size to more than 60 members since its launch just four years ago. 

The cover of Karol's book

By Donna Newman

One of the certainties of life is that, unless one departs first, sooner or later each of us will have to deal with the death of a loved one.

Among his many duties as a spiritual leader, Stephen Karol, now Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, has ministered to the bereaved. He has officiated at funerals, counseled families and helped people navigate the mourning period that begins upon a death and continues through memorial services throughout the ensuing years.

Rabbi Karol has gathered a series of memorial sermons into a book titled, “Finding Hope and Faith in the Face of Death” and subtitled, “Insights of a Rabbi and Mourner.”

Author Stephen Karol

What motivated you to write this book?

I decided to do it for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve gotten really good feedback on my Yizkor (memorial) sermons. People have asked for copies and that sort of thing. And, throughout my career officiating at funerals, I just think people need comforting, hopeful messages to help them cope with death. That’s what this book provides.

Is this a ‘Jewish’ book, or do you feel it has broader appeal?

The book is written primarily for Jews, but not exclusively. While I speak from a Jewish context, a lot of what I have to say in these messages can be applied to people who are Jewish or not, religious or not, whatever they may be.

Why publish it now?

As a congregational rabbi I was devoted to my congregants — and happily so — and didn’t have the time to write a book. Now, in retirement, I decided to share my words of comfort. And when I submitted my proposal to the publisher (Wipf and Stock), they loved my idea and enthusiastically agreed to publish it under their Cascade Books imprint.

What was the most challenging part of compiling the manuscript?

In creating the introduction to the book, I wanted to be honest. I had to confess that, despite my faith in life after death, I am afraid to die. So, I describe my fear and explain how it materialized at a particularly happy time in my life, shortly after my daughter’s birth. I tell about the ways I’ve learned to cope with it and describe how a combination of hope and faith have helped me not only as an individual but also as a rabbi. That’s why I think my words can be universal, because you don’t have to be a rabbi to believe what I believe, and to feel and think what I feel and think.

How did you choose the sermon that became Chapter 1?

The first chapter in the book was chosen because it dealt with a personal loss. I titled it, “Accompanying the Dead” and it begins: “My uncle Harry died last month.” I talk about the experience of being in my uncle’s hospital room with him when he died, and officiating — along with my brother who is also a rabbi — at his funeral. A good number of the chapters involve personal experiences.

The cover of Karol’s book.

Aside from your own personal losses over the years, did other experiences contribute to your understanding of life and death?

I suffered a heart attack in 1995 that gave me a greater sense of perspective. One of the messages in the book is that we need to value life and make every day count. We need to tell people that we love them whenever we can.

How long was this book in the making?

The book consists of 16 sermons that I have given both at Temple Isaiah and at Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham, Massachusetts, over the course of my tenures at both synagogues. So, when people ask me how long it took to write the book, tongue in cheek I say: 35 years.

“Finding Hope and Faith in the Face of Death” is currently available for purchase on Amazon, Kindle and Ingram. Meet Rabbi Karol at a book talk and signing on June 24 at Temple Isaiah, 1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook from 5 to 7 p.m.; or at a book signing on June 28 at Barnes & Noble at the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove from 7 to 9 p.m.

Billii Roberti, a member on the Town of Huntington’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainability, attends the meeting on solar prospects for churches and nonprofits. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

A Huntington Station church recognizes that the Bible says God made light and it is good, now if only they could afford to reap the sun’s benefits.

Bethany Presbyterian Church is one of many houses of worship with an interest in harvesting solar energy, but many are finding the upfront costs are too high.

In 2017, the church financed an audit of its electric system and insulation in an effort to increase its energy  efficiency, Pastor James Rea Jr. said. While this helped reduced the congregation’s electrical bill by 20 percent, according to Rea, the  congregation is interested in taking it a step further.

We would do solar, but we just can’t afford it right now.”

– Christopher Sellers

“We would do solar, but we just can’t afford it right now,” Christopher Sellers, an elder at Bethany Presbyterian, said, noting the church is still paying for the energy audit.

While renewable energy proponents point to community solar initiatives, where the output from a solar farm is shared among multiple buildings, there is still a large upfront cost and requires a significant amount of space to build the solar farm according to Ryan Madden, a sustainability organizer for Long Island Progressive Coalition.

“We need solutions like community solar,” Madden said. “Our version of community solar takes the form of bringing in multiple organizations at the same time to bring down cost and creating locally driven solar campaigns.

LIPC partnered with Massachusetts-based company Resonant Energy, which works with nonprofits to provide low-cost solar, to create the PowerUP Solar initiative. The initiative seeks to bring together nonprofits and churches for the intent of purchasing solar systems in bulk to help decrease the cost. PowerUP member organizations held a meeting with other interested groups June 13 at the Huntington Station church to advertise their plans.

Madden said nonprofits have a difficult time when it comes to getting a solar hookup simply because of the issue of affordability.

We’ve seen widespread adoption in single-family homes, but not so much in small commercial spaces.”

– Isaac Baker

“They are not usually looked at by solar developers because its more expensive, or there are multiple decision makers in those organizations that can stall a project,” he said.

Other than cost, Isaac Baker, the co-president of Resonant Energy, said the nonprofits also have to contend with a lack of incentives to get into solar, specifically that nonprofits are not eligible for the federal
solar tax credits that homeowners or for-profits can get. There are no current programs that financially help New York organizations transition from traditional electric to solar.

“We’ve seen widespread adoption in single-family homes, but not so much in small commercial spaces,” Baker said. “[A large amount] of rooftop is available in any state on small commercial buildings that are owned by nonprofits.”

Some religious organizations on Long  Island have already invested heavily in solar technology. The Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood made a big splash earlier this year when they unveiled their community solar system on their main campus. The 3,192 solar photovoltaic panels on their roof power 63 percent of the convent’s residential and office space on the 212-acre property.

Karen Burke, the coordinator of land initiatives for the Sisters of St. Joseph, said that her sisterhood was looking to make the switch at other facilities.

The town is really into getting into as much solar as possible, so this is a great untapped resource.”

– Billii Roberti

Baker said that if the PowerUP can bring together 10 different organizations, bulk pricing could bring the cost of solar panels down to $114,000 per building with 56 kilowatts of output. The initiative’s members were promised to save approximately $2,200 per year and a net savings of $212,000 in 25 years, according to Baker.

The time line for the PowerUP initiative would have the nonprofits and churches getting technical assessments by the end of July, having installation done in September and the systems up and running by October.

Billii Roberti, a member on the Town of Huntington’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainability, said that Huntington should try to look to nonprofits to proliferate sustainable energy.

“[This initiative is] bringing in people who are otherwise unable to take advantage of solar, people who are disenfranchised in a sense,” Roberti said. “The town is really into getting into as much solar as possible, so this is a great untapped resource.”

On day 5 ... we visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem ... It was breathtaking.

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Greetings from Jerusalem, Israel! I am writing this column from the Notre Dame Hotel right outside the Jaffa Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem.

Twenty-three pilgrims from all over the metropolitan area made the commitment to journey together for eight days. We began our pilgrimage as strangers but are leaving as real friends who shared the journey of a lifetime.

Our pilgrimage began by landing in Tel Aviv where we boarded a bus that took us to the ancient seaport of Jaffa. From there we drove along the Mediterranean coast to the ruins of the ancient Roman capital of Caesarea built by Herod the Great in around 22 B.C.

We then went on to see the great Roman theater and the aqueduct in the Herodian port. From there we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. I celebrated Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes. We then proceeded to Capernaum — the city of Jesus and St. Peter. After that we visited the famous biblical city of Caesarea Philippi.

We began day 5 with a visit to the ancient city of Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. We visited the ruins of this first-century town and its synagogue, where tradition tells us Jesus himself visited, taught and preached. In the afternoon, we visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where tradition says the child Jesus was born. It was breathtaking.

On days 6, 7 and 8 we visited Masada, the fortress where Jewish zealots held off the armies of the Roman Empire — choosing suicide over surrender. We went to the Dead Sea where one floats and never sinks. It was 110°F that day and most of our trip. We visited a variety of other historical and religious sites outside of Jerusalem.

The rest of our pilgrimage was spent in the Old City. We prayed at the famous Western Wall, visited the room of the Last Supper as well as the Garden of Gethsemane. I had the privilege of saying Mass at the Church of All Nations, where Jesus prayed to be spared of the cross. After Mass, we had a panoramic view from the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem. We went into the Old City and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and actually walked the Stations of the Cross — Jesus’ final walk to the cross and crucifixion.

Each day was a powerful reminder of history and faith. By the end of our journey, we had gone from being a band of strangers to a community of friends grateful for the journey. 

This is my third visit to Israel. Each time I feel more enriched when I return home. The Scripture becomes more real and alive because I’ve seen firsthand the places of which it speaks.

This trip was unique because we went to Israel prepared for a lot of upheaval because of the news reports here in the States. We saw some signs of a nation at war; however, I heard firsthand a very different account of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

On my free day, I spent my time walking in the old and new city of Jerusalem talking to Jews, Muslims and Christians hearing their stories about life in Israel. Each person had the same hopes and expectations that we do — to live freely with respect, dignity and untapped possibilities to dream and make those dreams come true!

For every believer and/or lover of history, Israel should be on your bucket list. You will not be disappointed!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

As members of the Mount Sinai Yacht Club in Cedar Beach came out June 10 for the 15th annual blessing of the fleet, most understood, as old of a tradition it is, the blessing is time-honored way to guarantee
a successful boating season.

“This is for the entire season to make sure [the club’s members] have a safe and fun boating season,” said Reverend Jerry Nedelka, Venerable Canon for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. He has conducted
the blessing of the fleet ceremony for nearly two decades. “This is a great opportunity for fellowship among friends and club members.”

This year Nedelka and Reverend Francis Lasrado of Infant Jesus R.C. Church in Port Jefferson, held up a cross and gave blessings to the many boats, both large and small, of the yacht club’s members as they crossed in front of the marina. The reverends even blessed the Town of Brookhaven’s pump out boat as it crawled its way across the harbor to the mouth of the Long Island Sound.

The blessing was attended by club trustee Bill Dick along with various local government officials including
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

“This … shows our strong, community-focused mindset,” Dick said.

Anker said the club plays a big park protecting the local harbor front and environment, especially when it comes to the repair of the channel that travels from Mount Sinai Harbor into the Sound, which is constantly affected by erosion and storms.

“They are good stewards of our environment,” Anker said. “They are an anchor in the marina community, and
they have been instrumental in efforts to repair the channel.”

Matthew Seyfert, right, approached his pastor Chuck Van Houten about his Eagle Scout project, constructing blessing boxes, for local churches. Van Houten reached out to other pastors to see if other houses of worship would be interested in receiving one. Photo from Dave Seyfert

By Rita J. Egan

Blessings have been popping up more and more at churches in the Three Village area thanks to a Stony Brook Eagle Scout.

Matthew Seyfert recently achieved the rank right before his 18th birthday. The Ward Melville senior completed a project where he and other Scouts assembled seven wood structures like the Little Free Libraries found all over Long Island. Called a blessing box, Seyfert said the cabinets will provide spots at seven local churches where congregants can add an item that may be needed by others. The member of Setauket Troop 70 said he completed his project just in time, since boys have until they turn 18 to reach the pinnacle of the program.

Blessing boxes during assembly. Each Scout had a different job during the project including painting and drilling. Photo from Dave Seyfert

“It felt really good, because even though I was a little pressed for time when I started my project, I tried to pick a project that I really didn’t do as a requirement just for completion,” he said. “[It’s] something that would have a larger impact on my community. It meant a lot to me.”

The Eagle Scout said he was watching the news when he heard about a blessing box in Texas, and thought it was a good idea to create a cabinet for his own place of worship, Stony Brook Community Church, among others. The Scout said church members typically fill the cabinet with items like school supplies at the beginning of the academic year, and socks and gloves or nonperishables in the winter.

When he approached the Rev. Chuck Van Houten, Seyfert said the pastor of Stony Brook Community Church was enthusiastic about the project, and reached out to other church leaders through the Three Village Interfaith Clergy group to see who else would be interested in one.

Van Houten said he was impressed with Seyfert’s endeavor, but added he wasn’t surprised, noting how involved the high school senior has been in the church, and the leadership qualities he possesses.

“I thought it was a great idea, especially since one of the main missions or ministries of our church right now is feeding people in the local school district,” the pastor said.

“I thought it was a great idea, especially since one of the main missions or ministries of our church right now is feeding people in the local school district.”

— Rev. Chuck Van Houten

Once a month church members purchase food for a local food pantry, according to Van Houten, who said the Stony Brook Community Church box will mainly be used to house nonperishables. He said the best part is that people can drop off or pick up items every day, all day, unlike a pantry where dates and times can be limited. In the next few weeks, the Seyferts will join Van Houten in finding a place in front of the church for the blessing box, and he hopes that all community members will use it in the future.

Seyfert said while a few church councils were concerned maintaining a blessing Box may be a big responsibility, he explained it would be on a stand and easy to move, adding it’s up to the congregation what they want to fill them with and how often.

The Scout’s father, Dave, said he was proud of his son for coming up with the idea, especially because financial situations can change dramatically with sickness or job loss, and said the need is greater than many would think in the Three Village area. The pair put together a prototype back in November before moving forward.

“I thought it was a well thought out project and well executed,” David Seyfert said.

The Rev. Gregory Leonard of Bethel AME Church in Setauket stands in front of the church’s blessing box. Photo from Dave Seyfert

Matthew Seyfert said future Eagle Scouts need to supervise the projects more than build them, so he got together some fellow Scouts and gave each boy a job based on age. While some did prep-work, others painted and others drilled. His father said local businesses Ace Hardware in Setauket, Riverhead Building Supply, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Omega Moulding Company donated supplies. Seyfert decided they would have roofs in colors that matched each church, after Setauket Presbyterian Church asked what color the boxes would be.

They’ve been placed at six locations so far, including Stony Brook Community Church, Setauket Presbyterian, Bethel AME Church, Caroline Church of Brookhaven, All Souls Episcopal Church and Setauket United Methodist Church. The Scout said he hopes to find a home for the seventh one in the near future. He said he has mixed feelings about the project being over.

“It was a relief, but it was also kind of sad because we were working on it for so long, that it was weird to not be focused on it,” Seyfert said. “But it felt really good to now finally implement them.”

The Eagle Scout project has left him with some advice for other boys looking to achieve the feat.

“Choose something you’re interested in so it’s not as much work,” Seyfert said. “Also, start early. It’s a lot of planning. You really can’t start without planning.”

By Rita J. Egan

William Shakespeare once compared a good deed to a candle’s beam, writing it shined in a weary world.

The power of a good dead is something members of Temple Isaiah’s Social Action Committee have known for decades. For the last 20 years, they have organized a cleanup at West Meadow Beach in Setauket, according to Iris Schiff, the committee’s chairwoman.

Once calling the volunteer opportunity “Mitzvah Day,” the group has now dubbed it “Good Deeds Day” occurred April 15. But the Stony Brook temple usually celebrates it later in the month when days are a bit warmer. Schiff said this year the Stony Brook temple invited congregants of Setauket Presbyterian Church to join them. On April 29, after a communal brunch at the synagogue, a handful of volunteers headed to the beach.

“We are hoping that other faiths will join with us in the future.”

— Barbara Curtis

Barbara Curtis, a member of Setauket Presbyterian who organized church volunteers, was on hand with bag in hand.

“A good deeds day brings our faith communities together in the very best way,” Curtis said. “We are hoping that other faiths will join with us in the future.”

Rev. Mary Barrett Speers, pastor of Setauket Presbyterian Church, said in an email the beach was the perfect spot for the joint community project.

“I personally love the idea because all God’s children share God’s earth,” Barrett Speers said. “We all love West Meadow Beach, and right after Earth Day, what better way is there to celebrate our beach than by caring for it?”

Schiff said the beach was in excellent condition, and after a couple of hours of cleaning up, they only had about a half a dozen bags filled with bottle tops, balloons, cans and random pieces of plastic.

She said the cleanup wasn’t the only good deed of the day. In the morning, children from the temple painted and decorated wood crates and donated them to Setauket Presbyterian Church’s Open Door Exchange, an outreach program which redistributes furniture to those in need. A few families also volunteered with Great Strides Long Island, Inc.at Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island, a nonprofit organization that helps developmentally disabled children ride horses.

After the beach cleanup, Schiff said she felt good about the day.

“Everybody was just right on the same page and feeling the same way,” she said. “I’m really hoping that next year we’re able to expand this and bring in some of the other faith communities.”

Volunteers at St. James R.C. Church, above, pack up baked goods to be included in care packages for parishioners away at college. Photo from Mary Arasi

Nowadays texts and social media comments may be the trend, but a Setauket church is keeping a cherished form of reaching out alive.

Care packages sent to former parishioners of St. James R.C. Church include snacks and a copy of The Village Times Herald.” Photo from Mary Arasi

Recently, 107 students from the Three Village area attending college away from home received care packages in the mail thanks to 10 parishioners from St. James R.C. Church in Setauket. On April 13, the group filled boxes with goodies, including baked goods from 18 volunteer bakers. Once they sealed the packages, they delivered the boxes to the April 15, 6 p.m. Sunday Mass for service attendees to volunteer to take home and mail to the recipients.

For more than two decades, Mary Arasi has organized a group of volunteers in the spring and fall to create care packages for parishioners who are attending college away from home. Through the years the group has consisted of a variety of congregation members, from children to senior citizens, filling boxes with baked goods, snacks, a religious article and even copies of The Village Times Herald.

Arasi said she writes a note to be photocopied and included in each box and then asks the volunteers to add a postscript. She said she requests the senders to write something on the outside of the box, too. In the past, holiday greetings and shout-outs for local teams have been added to the notes and boxes.

“I feel that it’s really important the students know another person touched the box,” Arasi said.

Congregant Arlene Collins, a teacher at Sts. Philip and James School in St. James, said she has volunteered from time to time to fill boxes since 1997 when Arasi called her to ask for her oldest son’s college address. When her friend explained what she was doing, Collins decided to volunteer. She said she has known Arasi since their children were in nursery school, and the assembling of packages is the perfect time for the two to catch up with each other and others they have met through the years at the church.

“Every time I received a care package I had a moment of feeling really grateful that someone was thinking about me enough to send me something in the mail.”

— Kerri Farrell

Collins said all three of her children received packages during their college years until her youngest graduated in 2008, and they always looked forward to the packages’ arrivals.

“They were getting ready for finals, and a package would come, and they were so happy, especially with the baked goods,” Collins said.

During the last package assembly, the teacher said she was delighted to see the names of a couple of former students and included a note to say hello and wish them well.

Kerri Farrell remembered helping to assemble boxes when she was a teenager and receiving the care packages from the church when she attended college, starting with the 2004-05 school year. She said she was touched to receive them, especially during the first two years when she was feeling homesick.

“Sometimes when you’re in a new place and feeling overwhelmed, you forget nice little things like that because you’re caught up in the day-to-day stuff,” Farrell said. “Every time I received a care package I had a moment of feeling really grateful that someone was thinking about me enough to send me something in the mail.”

College students feeling overwhelmed or homesick is why Arasi said she keeps the care packages coming.

“If one of those boxes gets to a kid on a really bad day, and it made a difference that their church family cares about them, then it’s all worth it,” she said.

by -
0 1001
A victim of a priest at Saints Philip & James Roman Catholic Church in St. James came forward to share his story publicly last week. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Alex Petroski and Sara-Megan Walsh

A group of lawyers is working to deliver a clear message to survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members: You are not alone.

Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse, a national team of attorneys, released a report Feb. 5 detailing allegations of childhood sexual abuse made against 51 individuals associated with the Diocese of Rockville Centre. The report, titled Hidden Disgrace II, is comprised of clergy referenced but not named in a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury investigation of the diocese, those accused in previous media reports and individuals accused by survivors.

The goal of the report was to create a central location where Long Islanders can easily find information about accused clergy members, to empower survivors and to enlighten communities to the abusers’ diocese appointments, according to Jerry Kristal, an attorney at the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, who joined up with the law group behind the report.

At least one North Shore survivor has felt empowered and publicly shared his story in the aftermath of the report’s release.

The group is also working to make the public aware of the April 30 deadline to file a claim with the diocese compensation program for victims of abuse.

A 40-year-old secret

A man alleging childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a St. James priest stepped forward Feb. 15 to share his story publicly for the first time.

Steve Werner, 59, of North Carolina, alleged that as a teenager growing up on Long Island, he was repeatedly inappropriately touched by Father Peter Charland, a priest at Sts. Philip & James R. C. Church in St. James — a Diocese of Rockville Centre church — in the early 1970s.

“This opportunity is part of my own healing processing of being able to uncover the secret I’ve carried with me for 40-something years,” he said.

“This opportunity is part of my own healing processing of being able to uncover the secret I’ve carried with me for 40-something years.”

— Steve Werner

Werner said he joined Sts. Philip & James’ Christian singing group, the PJ Folk Singers, led by Charland when he was 11 years old. The musical group, at its height, had more than 100 members consisting of parishioners and children from the surrounding communities, according to Werner’s attorney J. Michael Reck of Jeff Anderson & Associates.

Werner said it didn’t take long for him to notice that Charland was giving him preferential treatment. The priest offered him special parts in plays, a leadership role in the musical group, even gifted him a trumpet, according to Werner.

“Those behaviors, as they built, the amount of touching that occurred increased and increased,” he said.

Werner alleged he spent time alone with Charland in the church’s rectory, in the priest’s car, and even took private flights alone with the priest, whom he claims had a pilot’s license. The musical group also traveled overseas to tour Romania under Charland’s supervision.

“I certainly thought it was wrong but I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to stand up,” Werner said. “It’s something I regret.”

Father Charland left the St. James parish in 1975. His name disappeared from all church records made available by the diocese after 1976, according to Reck. New York State records show Charland was a certified social worker from 1978 until his death in 2004.

“It appears the church made no offer to warn the community of his dangerous proclivities,” Reck said.

It wasn’t until 2013 that Werner found the courage to tell someone about his alleged abuse. He shared his story with his mother and a few close friends in an email.

Werner said in recent years he has reconnected with other members of the PJ Folk Singers and heard tales that echo his own. He is in treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder related to his alleged abuse, Werner said, and struggles to cope with his own feelings of shame and guilt.

Requests for comment from members of the PJ Folk Singers were not returned. The St. James church said it had no comment on Werner’s allegations and deferred questions to the diocese.

Not alone

Werner filed a claim, through his attorney Reck, with the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Plan for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy members. He is one of eight former members of The P.J. Folk Singers filing claims that they were sexually abused by Charland as teenagers.

“By the filing of these claims, we pose the question of what did the church officials know and what could have been done to save these children from being exposed,” Reck said. “By submitting these claims, we hope these allegations will be investigated and the knowledge made public, so these events can never happen again.”

Reck said his law firm has reason to believe the church knew of Charland’s alleged actions, as parishioners, family members and survivors allege they made reports to the diocese in the ’70s. The lawyer shared the priest’s letter.

Charland, in citing the reasons he left the St. James church wrote, “I found myself becoming more and more self-centered and self-absorbed. As I look back on it now, I realize I had fallen prey to such miserable characteristics because of my own personal loneliness. I do not say this by way of excuse. … The truly scary part is knowing I was beginning to hurt people despite my best intentions to never do that to anyone. For this, I remain truly sorry.”

Accused North Shore priests

Several clergy members named in Hidden Disgrace II served at churches and other facilities on Long Island.

The report says the allegations should not be considered substantiated claims, but rather public accusations, unless otherwise indicated in the report.

Among those named in the report is Father James C. Miller, who was assigned to St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in East Northport and St. Gerard Majella Church in Port Jefferson Station in the ’90s. Miller was sued along with the diocese in 1994 for allegedly sexually abusing two teenage boys at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip, though he denied allegations, according to a 2002 Newsday report. He was moved to a position that did not involve working with children following the suit, including serving as chaplain at St. Charles Hospital and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, according to the website www.bishop-accountability.org, which was also the source material for much of Hidden Disgrace II.

“We stand in solidarity with our survivors and their families, and we continue our commitment and vigilance to the protection of children in our Church and in society.”

— Sean Dolan

Father Joseph Mundy was also assigned to St. Gerard Majella, along with stops at St. James R.C. Church in Setauket and St. John the Baptist Church in Wading River during the ’80s and ’90s. The report alleges Mundy was Priest A in the 2003 Suffolk grand jury investigation. The grand jury’s findings cite Priest A, “took a 14-year-old boy to a gay club in New York City where he and other patrons engaged in sexual activity with the boy.”

Mundy left the priesthood in 1999 according to www.bishop-accountability.org.

Two of the 51 priests were assigned to St. Margaret of Scotland Church in Selden. Public accusations against Father Angelo Ditta, the report alleges, match the descriptions of Priest H in the grand jury report, who allegedly began abusing a boy when he was 10 years old. Ditta was assigned to positions away from children beginning in 1998 and was removed from duty in 2002.

Father Gabriel Massaro was publicly accused of abusing a 12-year-old boy from St. Margaret of Scotland in Selden during retreats in 1979, according to a 2002 Newsday report. He continued receiving assignments outside of the Rockville Centre diocese through 2005, according to www.bishop-accountability.org.

When asked for comment on the report, representatives from the various churches and facilities named in this section either did not respond to requests for comment or declined, directing inquiries to the diocese.

“We as a church recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse,” Sean Dolan, diocese director of communications, said in a statement when asked about the report. “Still, we embrace Christ’s healing power and the Mission of Mercy of the Catholic Church as we continue our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation program. We stand in solidarity with our survivors and their families, and we continue our commitment and vigilance to the protection of children in our Church and in society.”

Compensation program

During a phone interview, Kristal said details of other accusations against clergy members have not been made available by Rockville Centre, and added if it is in fact serious about standing by survivors, perhaps it should make the information publicly accessible.

“Making amends, whatever that means to survivors, they have the information,” Kristal said. “That’s the one entity that has all of this information, so we would urge them to come out with something similar put out by them. That would be wonderful.”

“That’s the one entity that has all of this information, so we would urge them to come out with something similar put out by them. That would be wonderful.”

— Jerry Kristal

A survivor who wishes to file a claim under the IRCP prior to the April 30 deadline must begin by registering online with the Washington, D.C., law firm overseeing the program as a neutral party. If he or she meets the two criteria set by the diocese — that the abuse was done by a priest or deacon and that the abuser was part of the Diocese of Rockville Centre — a claim form can then be filled out. Lawyers Helping Survivors of Child Sex Abuse, or any other personal lawyer, could step in to assist in filing the claim should a survivor seek assistance.

Once a claim is filed, administrators from the law firm overseeing the program evaluate the claim. If an offer to settle is presented to a survivor, they can either accept or reject the offer. Those who reject the offer and whose abuse took place outside of New York’s statute of limitations — which are considered among the strictest in the U.S., according to Kristal — would have no further recourse unless laws are changed.

Those who accept settlement money give up the right to bring a lawsuit in the event of future law changes. Survivors are the only participants in the program permitted to speak publicly about their abuse — the diocese and administrators from the law firm are bound to confidentiality.

To learn more about the IRCP or to file a claim, visit the website www.drvc.org or www.childsexabuse.org/.

From left, volunteers Alexandra, Ilene, Emily and Brian Horan; Sela Megibow; Cantor Marcey Wagner; Paula Balaban; and Adam Morotto. Photo from Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook established a new tradition this year, gathering a multi-generational group of congregants to cook up soup and vegetarian chili for people in need of support.

Cantor Marcey Wagner envisioned the community service event to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and enlisted Social Action Committee Chairperson Iris Schiff to help with the details.

From left, Julia Megibow, Hannah Kitt (seated), Lana Megibow, Abby Fenton, Hazel and Dasi Cash Photo from Donna Newman

The morning of Jan. 15 began with a reading of the story “As Good as Anybody” — written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colon — about the friendship that formed between civil rights leader King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The two men faced similar challenges growing up and shared a belief in the value of every human being. Heschel joined the civil rights movement and marched at King’s side in Selma in 1965.

Congregants brought fresh and canned vegetables to the synagogue and all the ingredients needed to make comfort foods. Everyone participated in the effort. After the chopping and mincing and blending, while the Instant Pots cooked, the children created greeting cards and small challahs to be delivered with the containers of food. The challah prep was under the tutelage of consummate baker Linda Jonas and the greeting cards were facilitated by artist Deborah Fisher.

The freezer is now stocked with portions of soup and chili to be delivered to the homebound, mourners and people who are ailing. They will also be available to families visiting the temple’s food pantry.

Temple Isaiah is located at 1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook. For more information, please call 631-751-8518.

Social

9,203FansLike
1,091FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe