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Father Francis Pizzarelli

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

There is so much chaos in our midst. As we see a light at the end of the tunnel and start to feel free from the shackles of this pandemic, we need to seek out a deserted place to renew our spirit, recharge our battery and reflect on the things that are most important to us.

These past 18 months have been challenging. We have seen so much suffering, so much death, so much pain. For many of us, over the past few weeks we have been fortunate to reconnect with children, grandchildren, parents and good friends for the first time in more than a year. It’s overwhelming because we are beginning to realize that we have to create a new normal.

Hopefully, this new normal will cause us to value human connections over things; to see the importance of the people in our lives and to try to live every moment to the fullest. Hopefully, this new normal will underscore the importance of human relationships and the need for us to be respectful of all human beings no matter what their social circumstance, their sexual orientation, their race, religion or ethnicity.

As we begin to embrace this new normal, may we appreciate the sacredness of all life at all stages; may we also appreciate life’s fragileness and respond appropriately. We never know the time, the hour or the day that life as we know it might end. So, the challenge is to live life to the fullest, to make every moment count and to communicate to the people we love how much we love them and how important they are to us.

During this pandemic, I have seen so much pain and suffering, so much senseless death. I have deepened my appreciation for the people who give of themselves every day in healthcare and mental health — for all the essential workers that have sacrificed so much so others might live.

This past year has made me appreciate how hard life can be for so many who live in the shadows of mental health and addiction. Recently, I buried a 35-year-old recovering heroin addict who died last year in the midst of this pandemic. He spent the better part of his life in active addiction and destructive decision-making. He was lost and couldn’t find his way. Finally, he made the decision to embrace the road to recovery.

As he began that journey, it was very difficult. He had a number of stumbles along the way. He committed himself to a long term, nontraditional residential treatment program that helped him to change his life. He discovered a voice he never thought he had in poetry. It helped him to see life with a different lens. It empowered him to discover spirituality that helped him to cope with some of the potholes that he encountered along the way. His mother said she discovered a son who she thought was dead and found a son that, at first, she did not recognize. She saw laughter, compassion and concern for others. His new voice provided solace for so many and she found peace of heart. Although brief, she had reclaimed a lost son who was blessed with three years of a wonderful life.

This young man was doing well but like anyone who carries the cross of addiction, it took only an instant for him to disconnect and lose his life. The world is better because he walked among us and shared his new voice of hope, love and life. However, he is also a powerful reminder of how fragile life is and we do not know the time, the hour or the place when life ends. His life is a powerful reminder that we need to live each moment to the fullest, to become the best version of ourselves and to leave this world better than when we found it.

Addiction is like a cancer spreading out of control. People do recover and reclaim their lives but we have to do more to support those who are struggling on that road to find their way.

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

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The pandemic has changed the course of human history forever. As we move forward beyond all the restrictions, mask wearing and debate around being vaccinated, we are trying to create a new normal. No one is quite sure what that might look like.

Whatever the new normal looks like, we need to transcend all of the political rhetoric and polarization that has infected the soul of our nation. We need to reclaim basic respect for people, no matter what their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and/or socioeconomic status.

Our vision has become so blurred; our moral compass impaired. Those we have elected to lead us, no matter what their political party, need to lead by example.

Our country was founded on diversity and freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech does not give anyone the right to trample on another person’s freedom or perspective. 

The pandemic has consumed so many of our healthcare resources to care for those infected by the virus. Our healthcare community, with great courage, rose to the occasion and have been heroic in their care for all of our sick. Unfortunately, other healthcare concerns have not had the proper attention. Everyone in leadership, on both the federal and state level, have acknowledged the heroin epidemic is a national healthcare crisis. However, no money promised has reached the rank-and-file providers. Insurance companies continue to determine the financial equation for treatment. The recidivism rate based on their equation is dismal and becoming worse by the day.

Outpatient treatment for the heroin addict is a disaster — 28 days for hard-core relapsers is just the beginning. To tell the truth, most insurance companies will only cover 11 days of residential treatment because they’ve decided that after 11 days it’s not a medical emergency! That’s disgraceful!

It is apparent to me that they have not looked at the evidence-based research in regards to chronic heroin users and relapses. The research is clear — they need a minimum of 12 to 18 months with the hope of reclaiming their lives and developing the skills to sustain a life of abstinence and recovery.

What we are painfully learning is that we need to invest more resources after intensive treatment into transitional supportive services to ensure a recovering person success.

In the last six weeks, I have buried six young people who overdosed and died of heroin and fentanyl. Each of these young persons was in a variety of residential treatment settings. I am one cleric in a small region. Sadly, the number is probably triple that and not getting better.

Addicts do recover and reclaim their lives thanks to a collaborative effort on the part of many. On Memorial Day, a young recovering addict who was once a high school dropout and is now a successful attorney was married in New Jersey to another lawyer. I was privileged to preside at the ceremony and when it was finished, he whispered this to me: “thanks for helping me to reclaim my life. I will never forget you. I will always give back!”

On another positive note, a shout out to our Marine Bureau in Suffolk County. On a Saturday afternoon this month I was driving a boat to Davis Park where I am the pastor. The boat was filled with musicians in recovery who were going to play at the 5 p.m. mass there. We got halfway from Patchogue to Davis Park and the boat overheated. We were drifting in the great South Bay. Two police officers who were finishing their tour at Davis Park came out of their way to tow us in time for mass instead of just signing off. I am forever grateful to these two public servants for their service but also for their power of example for the young men in the boat who witnessed their service and kindness.

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

A scene from Stony Brook University's May 19 9 a.m. graduation ceremony. Photo by Greg Catalano

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Graduation 2021 — what a year! In the midst of this horrific pandemic, so many of you have had the courage, despite so many obstacles, to stay the course and graduate with distinction from high school, college and graduate school.

This year has been plagued by so much sickness, death, and divisiveness. Yet, so many of you have volunteered to help those in need by your commitment to community service.

Graduates, as you continue your journey, do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. Always speak up and work for human rights; try to realize that being human and sensitive to others is more important than any successful academic record. Showing compassion and understanding rooted in justice is more significant than a science formula. These are difficult lessons to learn because they demand that you risk all that you are now for what you could become tomorrow.

Look around you! We are living in a very challenging world. A new revolution is afoot; your generation is moving away from the indifference and the complacency of yesterday and is moving toward a new idealism of freedom and responsibility. It’s happening around the world, especially in the Middle East and in Africa. It’s not happening among the political elite, but among our young, our students, your peers. It gives me hope that tomorrow will be better.

May a kind word, a reassuring touch and a warm smile be yours every day of your life. Remember the sunshine when the storm seems unending. Teach love to those who know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.

Photo by Greg Catalano

Let the teachings of those you admire become a part of you so that you may call upon them. It is the content and quality of your character that is important, not merely the actions you take. Don’t judge a book by its cover, or stop at the introduction. Read it through; seek the meaning and messages it offers for life. Everyone’s life is sacred, even those who are different from you or whom you do not like.

Don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame, guilt and religion to shackle people down and divide them; set people free with your respect and nonjudgmental way.

We live in a world that is very deceptive. Don’t let the corrupt political rhetoric of our time blind your eyes, impair your hearing or shackle your dreaming. As you graduate, the social landscape that you must navigate is treacherous; be prepared to sail stormy waters, but don’t lose heart, draw on the goodness that lives within and the goodness of others to stay the course.

May your moral compass be grounded in respect for all human beings, no matter what their color, their race, their creed or their sexual orientation. May this compass guide you on a path that is committed to working for peace and social justice. As Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

Congratulations graduates of 2021! Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter, a little more hopeful and a better place to be! 

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

Photo from Christine Pendergast

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Spring is supposed to be a time for new beginnings. Our spring has been marred by senseless shootings across the country, further inflamed by hateful rhetoric on both sides of the aisle that does not address the real heart of our social mayhem.

The vaccine which is supposed to be used as an instrument of healing in some circles is being used as a weapon. We have elected leaders that don’t lead but rather fuel the discontent and polarization that has become so infectious across our country.

It is springtime. Let’s talk about new beginnings, renewal and another way to talk with each other that is life-giving. Words matter. They can heal and help or hurt and destroy.

We need to challenge those with hurtful and despicable rhetoric to express their strong feelings in words that are respectful — words that don’t incite but rather encourage a deeper and more productive conversation about the things that really matter and have a profound impact on our community.

At the beginning of April, a young 16-year-old female Native American and African-American sophomore in high school wrote an op-ed piece in Newsday entitled “Why I sat for the Pledge of Allegiance.” Social media ripped her apart and she was threatened and harassed.

After reading her opinion piece, I decided to have my college and graduate students take a look at her article and discuss it. I saw for the first time what our future leadership could do. 

These students had a real in-depth conversation on a very delicate topic. It was impressive to see them exercise their well-developed critical thinking skills. They were genuinely sociologically mindful. They looked at every aspect of that student’s opinion. Not all agreed with her choice to be seated but they all agreed with her right to self-expression without harassment. They all condemned the despicable ad hominem attacks and rhetoric directed at her.

Ultimately, every class focused on the injustices she raised which led to a lively conversation of where do we go from here? How do we address these inequalities and hold people more accountable? It was refreshing to listen to the next generation of leaders speak passionately about human rights, social justice and express the desire to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

On October 14, 2020, Dr. Christopher Pendergast, a dynamic teacher, motivational speaker and founder of the A.L.S. Ride for Life, died quietly at his home in Miller Place surrounded by his family. He was 71.

On April 28, Dr. Pendergast would have celebrated his 72nd birthday. Although he is no longer with us physically, his spirit lives on with Ride for Life’s mission and his endless acts of kindness and love that he did for so many while he walked among us.

Before he died he and his wife wrote a very powerful book entitled “Blink Spoken Here.” The last words of this exceptional story say “speech is freedom. Communication is the connection to the outside world. We all have a right to speak and to be heard … even if it’s only one blink at a time … Never be afraid to speak up. Your opinions matter.” Amen!

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

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Spring is here. It is a time for renewed hope. Flowers are blooming; people are out walking. There is light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic that has senselessly stolen more than 1/2 million American lives and left countless families with so much sadness and pain. 

As this new spring is unfolding, once again we are a nation with tremendous grief and sadness for the senseless loss of life in Georgia and Colorado; innocent people gunned down senselessly by two disturbed gunmen with histories of mental illness.

We are painfully reminded once again that racism and hate still lives and is infectious across our country. The national divide takes a few steps toward healing and then it splits again. Children at the border and our broken immigration policy continues to polarize our nation and any kind of productive conversation that might move us closer to a humane resolution of a very complicated and delicate life issue.

We continue to struggle with nationalism and globalism, with human rights and the respect for the dignity of all human beings. It is a sad state of affairs when people of opposing viewpoints, different philosophies and ideologies, can no longer sit at the same table, break bread together and talk heart-to-heart about the issues that matter.

The beauty of our nation is that we have always been a beautiful tapestry of diverse color, thinking and believing — but woven together as one!

Unfortunately, there is a serious tear in this tapestry that is getting worse. The people we have elected need to lead by example, not by being revisionists or obstructionists. They must be agents of healing and unity, leading the way to building new bridges of opportunity and strength. The America we love was founded on diversity and difference; it must be stronger and more unified than ever before.

The hateful rhetoric must stop. We must reclaim our language of respect, compassion and tolerance which is the soul of our nation.

While I was driving home from the college that I teach at on a recent sunny Wednesday afternoon, I passed St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. In their parking lot were a large group of parishioners and volunteers feeding an endless line of fellow Americans and giving them bags of food to take with them. It was refreshing to see so many people reaching out to others smiling and laughing.

Now that’s the America that I know and love!

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

Interior of the U.S. Capital. Photo from Pixabay

By Fr. Frank Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Revisionists cause great conflict and tension in every social environment where we find them. I remember in my early college teaching career a well-known historical revisionist was speaking across the country trying to convince college students that the Holocaust never happened. He was eloquent, dynamic and tried to persuade those who would listen that it was a hoax and/or a grand conspiracy.

When we talked about this in class after an article appeared about him in the New York Times, a male student stood up with tears streaming down his face saying “tell my grandmother who escaped from a death camp in Germany with a tattoo on her arm that the Holocaust was a hoax!”

His intervention led to an intense conversation about truth, honesty and what is vital to developing an opinion and/or a viewpoint. We spoke about how all of that must be based on evidence-based research, not mere hearsay or the word of someone who is seen as respectable and credible.

Unfortunately, people lie especially if the lie can advance a project or a program that they value or support. Someone once told me “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

A group of revisionists have reappeared. They are attempting to rewrite the painful history of January 6, 2021 — the bloody and senseless insurrection that happened in the people’s house — the Capital — that day.

Fact: people marched on the Capital, challenged and encouraged by the former President of the United States to block the certification of the duly elected new president. The thousands who gathered believed that the election was stolen despite credible evidence from both sides of the aisle that it was not.

Unfortunately, more than a month after that horrific event, elected leaders in Washington are continuing to rewrite history and minimize the devastation, pain and suffering of that dark day in American history.

It is important for all Americans, no matter what your party affiliation, to stand up for truth and give voice to justice and peace.

As a nation, we need to heal and move forward. Diversity and difference in opinion and ideology is healthy in a democracy as long as people discuss, debate and disagree with dignity, civility and respect.

Those who lead us must model that behavior, even if some who are in power do not. We must build a new bridge of respect as we try to move forward. We must try to find new ways to build bridges of unity and harmony that empower us to become the best versions of ourselves.

By the way, March is National Social Workers month. Our social workers at every level, like all of our healthcare workers, have really stepped up, gone the distance and then some to support all of us during these challenging times. We should be especially grateful to the social workers working in our schools, our homeless shelters and in our addiction treatment centers. If you see a social worker, take a moment to thank them for their service, a service that really makes a difference!

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

U.S. Capital

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

“Walk a mile in my shoes” -— an old popular folk song is so appropriate as we begin the New Year 2021. We were all hopeful that with a new year and a new presidential administration we would embrace a new beginning for our nation; realizing that we are not going to agree on everything but hoping that we would all work for healing and unifying of the soul of our nation.

Unfortunately, this New Year began with a violent insurrection on the People’s House in Washington D.C. Powerful voices in leadership incited an angry mob to desecrate the capital and they were the direct cause of the loss of five innocent lives. Violence always begets violence.

No matter what you believe, the videotapes and audiotapes of that horrific day don’t lie. We all saw and heard firsthand the reprehensible behavior and language on January 6, 2021. It will go down in American history as one of our darkest days. Despite that beginning, the validly elected president spoke of unity, healing and peace in his inaugural address. Since that day, our legally elected new president has tried to lead by example.

The polarization of our nation is a very destructive force paralyzing any possibility for bridge building and genuine healing. Painfully, there are elected leaders with powerful voices who are paralyzing our nation and not listening to the people.

As someone in the trenches who has committed his life to reaching out to the most vulnerable among us, I am profoundly saddened by the hateful rhetoric, the violent and threatening behavior and the lack of compassion, especially among some of those we’ve elected to lead this nation forward.

We need courageous leaders — men and women who are not afraid to speak and stand for the truth. Honestly, why would anyone want to volunteer to be an elected representative in Washington after witnessing what has happened this past year? The vice president and the speaker of the house were threatened with murder and unspeakable violence. Other public officials who have spoken out for justice and peace have had family members threatened. 

The silence on both sides of the aisle is reprehensible. Their complicity is a disgrace. We the people must speak out about the social injustice and challenge the landscape of hate and disrespect. We are capable of being so much more. We can no longer remain silent and support this mediocrity and disrespect.

Freedom of speech is one of our greatest gifts and does not mean the freedom to lie, slander and demean another. The framers of the Constitution did not intend it to be a weapon to incite insurrection and/or violence. I believe the intent of freedom of speech was to support a platform to express the diversity of ideas and opinions within our nation and to look for consensus that supports the majority.

The majority of Americans from all ends of the political spectrum deplored the violence that was provoked at the People’s House on January 6; however, the loud boisterous minority dominated the headlines with endless excuses and unacceptable explanations for this senseless violence and loss of life.

“Walk a mile in my shoes” — we should all attempt to walk in another’s shoes especially the homeless, the poor, the addict, the mentally ill and the returning veterans. Think about the growing number of children, teenagers and young adults that are battling mental and emotional illness due to the growing challenges and stresses of the pandemic.

Despite living in the midst of all of this stress and suffering, I see hope, which is the real soul of America. I see people giving their stimulus checks to programs that support young people at risk; a middle school student standing up before his class and raising money for a project the benefits drug addicts and countless unsolicited random acts of kindness that inspire me to continue to “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and stay the course! Our local community is the America that I love and support!

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

METRO photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

This year will truly be one to remember; not because of any extraordinary achievement, but rather it was a year when the world almost stopped and millions of people died around the world because of COVID-19.

In our country alone, more than 1/4 of a million people have senselessly lost their lives. Every day we are breaking a record for people dying from the coronavirus.

Thanksgiving was celebrated in ways that most of us never imagined. So many families had empty plates at their table representing loved ones that could not come home and loved ones who have passed because of the virus. Unfortunately, some people did not heed the recommendations for gathering on Thanksgiving to keep all of us safe. As we prepare for Christmas, the virus is surging.

Christmas time is supposed to be a season where we celebrate renewed hope and gratitude for all the many gifts and blessings we’ve received. We give thanks for all the people who have blessed our life. The Christmas season is always marked with an energy that is transformative.

This year Christmas is going to be very different. However, we really should take pause and give thanks in the midst of all the suffering and struggle for the countless gifts and blessings each of us have. It’s a time to stay focused and mindful of what we have in this present moment. It’s a time to give not out of our excess but out of our need. It’s a time to welcome the stranger as a friend and brother or sister. It’s a time for making peace, healing fractured relationships and building new bridges that cross over troubled waters.

This Christmas season provides us a powerful opportunity to join hands and give voice to the voiceless, to work for social justice and respect for all God’s people, no matter who they are or where they are. This time of year is an opportunity to support the dignity and respect of every human person.

In the midst of our fear and anxiety, this holiday season is a powerful moment to renew and affirm the people and relationships that are most important in our lives. It’s an opportunity to reach out to those that we’ve become distant from and reconnect.

This Christmas marks my 40th Christmas in Port Jefferson. So much has happened from my first days as a young parish priest at Infant Jesus. My life has been so blessed and enriched by the countless people I have been privileged to know and work with. The collaborative spirit and compassion in our village that transcends religious traditions and socioeconomic profiles has inspired me and helped me to stay the course all these years. The work that I’ve been able to do is in large measure thanks to the generosity and love from so many.

Thousands of broken young men are whole raising their own families, making positive contributions to our larger community and giving back in countless ways. All of that has happened and continues to happen because of your generosity, your courage and your power of example.

This Christmas I am grateful for the countless miracles I have witnessed every day for 40 years and for the collaborative spirit on the part of so many that have contributed to the transformation of so many wounded and broken people. Thank you for helping to renew my hope. I am forever grateful. Christmas blessings!

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

METRO photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is once again upon us and the holiday season is fast approaching. This time of year is a time to give thanks. With all that has happened, with all the senseless loss of life because of the pandemic, we are reminded in the midst of all of that how blessed we are.

Our human landscape has changed so dramatically this past year. However, it has reminded me even more profoundly that all life is sacred, all life is fragile and we need to be so much more attentive to each other. We need to focus on all the things that bring us together rather than the things that separate us. This holiday season should be about building new bridges and not new walls.

With the election season behind us, we have an opportunity to begin a new chapter in our American journey; an opportunity to reclaim our soul as a nation, heal our wounds, stand together and celebrate all that makes us great. We are a tenacious people, diverse but extremely talented and gifted.

In the midst of all this chaos, I have continually been humbled and inspired with the random acts of kindness and compassion from ordinary people in our neighborhoods. On their own initiative, countless student groups have done extraordinary things for the poor and homeless in our larger community. The doctors, nurses, first responders and all of the support staff in our hospitals have been courageous and heroic in their response to the virus. They are a living example of what commitment to public service and community is all about.

We have an incredible opportunity to stand in solidarity with each other and work to make a better tomorrow or we can feed the divisive rhetoric that has become infectious and remain complicit by our silence.

This Thanksgiving will be my 41st Thanksgiving in Port Jefferson. I am forever grateful for these past 41 years. I have seen a community of tremendous diversity and talent stand with each other through good times and bad, always looking to build upon the goodness and kindness in our midst. This experience has inspired me to stay the course and to do my best to help make our community a better place. Every day I see miracles of hope and transformation take place because of the collaborative spirit to reach out to the most vulnerable and broken among us.

As we celebrate the holiday season, no matter what our faith tradition, let this be a time for renewed hope, a time for compassion and renewed understanding, a time for realizing that each and every one of us, no matter where we’re from or what we do, have the power to make a difference that really does count.

May we all be blessed and renewed during the holiday season.

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

Chris and Christine Pendergast

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that autumn is upon us. There seemed to be no summer. The political rhetoric continues to be out of control providing little substance on social policy and a future direction for our nation. The virus seems to be getting a second wind and a record number of young people are overdosing and dying due to heroin and fentanyl. These deaths are escalating at an alarming rate.

Despite this troubling landscape, random acts of kindness continue. Essential workers continue to be heroic and ordinary citizens are reaching out and a making a difference that really does counts.

On the morning of Oct. 14, a local hero went home to his God after a courageous life living with ALS, having spent his life working for a cure and supporting others who have been burdened with this incurable disease.

Dr. Christopher Pendergast, a retired Northport School District science teacher from Miller Place had lived with ALS for more than 28 years — a real light in the darkness. He had been a tireless advocate for research regarding finding a cure. His public advocacy is legendary.

However, what people did not know was the thousands of people across three decades that Chris touched with his selfless compassion, love and empathy. If he knew you were diagnosed with ALS, he and his wife Christine would quietly reach out to offer support.

In 1997 Chris founded the Ride for Life which touched thousands of students and people all over Long Island. He was a prolific writer and a powerful and moving public speaker.

Two weeks before Chris died, we met to talk about his last days. He was concerned about entering hospice. He felt that after 28 years of teaching all of us how to live that maybe he didn’t do enough for others! He already planned his celebration of life after his death; from the wake to the funeral mass to his final resting place. He picked out the readings, the music and the people he wanted to participate in his services. He told me he did all of this so his wife and children would not be burdened when he passed.

On the Sunday before he died, Chris came with his wife Christine to the 12 noon Mass at St. Louis de Montfort Church in Sound Beach. That was his Mass — he went every Sunday until very recently. He and his wife were catechists who prepared young people from the parish for confirmation.

That Sunday I shared with his community that he had just begun hospice. On behalf of the community, I thanked Chris for his courage and his power of example all these years. I asked the community to extend their hands in blessing upon our brother.

At the amen, they gave him a standing ovation as a way of saying thank you. On Wednesday, October 14, he peacefully went home to God. The world is a brighter and better place because Chris Pendergast walked among us!

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