Authors Posts by Father Francis Pizzarelli

Father Francis Pizzarelli

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Voters wait outside the first Presidential debate at Hofstra University. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It amazes me how socially indifferent so many young people are today. Every semester I take an informal survey on how many of my students are registered to vote; how many know who is running for elected office and what his or her social platform is about. The number of students who are not registered is most disturbing. Probably a little more than half are registered to vote and less than 20 percent of those students are planning to vote. Most of them have no idea what the candidates stand for.

However, the most shocking issue was their indifference. Many expressed that voting was a waste of their time because their vote does not count. A number of students expressed that our political system is so corrupt and inept, they wanted nothing to do with it. They expressed frustration that from their perspective government only paid attention to special interest groups and not to the real needs of their constituents.

As we continued this conversation, it became apparent to me that too many of our students are academically bankrupt when it comes to government, social policy and human affairs. Many of these students believe that special interest and community opinion on issues is shaped by what CNN or Fox News reports. Their lack of understanding of our political system is a poor reflection on our educational system. We definitely need to do more to educate and engage our students in our political process. They are our future leaders.

The debates this presidential election year were a disgrace. They were not true debates. Neither candidate really answered the questions posed within the time frame that was established. The moderators were too timid and did not keep the candidates on task. Thankfully “fact finders” clarified and corrected all the misleading and blatantly false statements that were made. Neither candidate made a strong case for his/her political agenda or what they really were going to do to change and transform America if elected president. Instead of watching two well-educated candidates debate the serious issues facing our nation, we heard countless ad hominem attacks directed to each other. At times, it was very entertaining but lacked any real substance or helpful information.

One of my graduate students asked if those who run for public office are the best that we have to offer! It’s an interesting question. Another question was why don’t the best of the best choose public service as a possible career? Look at what we do to those who choose to serve our nation. Our focus is never on their ability to lead and serve and the political agenda they advocate for; but rather we focus on exploiting their family and every misstep or imperfection they possess. Why would anyone in their right mind want to subject their family to that kind of public scrutiny that is genuinely unconscionable? If we want the best of the best to lead us, then we must treat them with dignity and respect. We must work harder at attacking the issues and not the person. As a nation we deserve the best to lead us.

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

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Recently, I participated in the Freshman Investiture Service at Joseph’s College in Patchogue. I have been privileged to be a faculty member in the social science department for more than 30 years. This service of welcoming is very simple. It is an ancient tradition practiced in many colleges and universities around the world as a formal way to welcome the new community of scholars and learners to the college. This year the theme for the Class of 2020 was integrity.

As I watched more than 500 college freshmen walk into our athletic center, representing every community on Long Island and beyond, I said to myself: “What an important theme for this class!” It seems that genuine integrity has truly been lost or buried in the rubble of human selfishness and narcissism. The present political and social landscape in our country seems to be devoid of any real sense of integrity.

What is true integrity? It is honesty, truth, principal, character and respect woven together in the fabric of one’s soul. It should be the foundation of every person’s life! It should shape how we treat each other, socially, politically, morally and religiously. Integrity is critical to sustaining a peaceful and respectful world.

Unfortunately, it seems like some people in power on every front have lost their way in this regard. Dishonesty and lack of respect is infectious everywhere. It wears many faces. It is the senseless violence in our streets. It is the blatant lack of respect for people who risk their lives to protect us every day — as well as the lack of respect on the part of some who use their power abusively.

We lack integrity when we discriminate against people because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their immigration status, their race and their ethnic origin. That Investiture Service provided for me a renewed sense of hope because more than 500 college coeds were reminded in a variety of ways of how profound and important real integrity is, if they hope to reach their goals and live their dreams.

The world desperately needs a new generation of leaders who are grounded in integrity. The class of 2020 potentially has the next generation of business leaders, college professors, compassionate doctors, lawyers and trades persons. The next generation of political leaders are among this class; our next representatives and senators and possibly the next president of the United States of America!

We must work hard to change the national discourse because of our integrity. We must work harder at being more inclusive, less judgmental; we need to build less walls and better bridges. We need to celebrate that which unites us and not that which divides us. We must focus on building people up and empowering the next generation to use their gifts and talents to make the world a better and more peaceful place to live. Hopefully, we in education will challenge the members of the class of 2020 to strengthen their integrity as they begin this new chapter in their lives.

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

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It is hard to believe that summer is almost over and everyone with children is getting back on the school track. Colleges around the country are in full swing. Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools have students beginning in each for the first time. Family life has returned hopefully to normalcy — whatever that means!

The beginning of the new school year is always an excellent time for reflection, reassessment and evaluation regarding the things that are most important in most of our lives.

The present political landscape is probably the most combative and explosive in this century. Our children are witnessing a public discourse that is more than disturbing not because of the ideas and issues being discussed but rather because of the demeaning language being used that is discriminating and bordering on hate rather than unity.

Each new school year is an opportunity for parents to clarify their expectations of their children from participating in family life, to school expectations and social behavior.

Parents should not be afraid to set clear expectations in each area. It is not unreasonable to expect children who live at home to join in the family dinner, without smartphones, headsets or iPods. Dinner time should be an opportunity to share and support each other — a time to laugh and catch up on what is happening in each family member’s life.

It is not unreasonable to have a weekday curfew and a weekend curfew for your children living at home who are in middle school and/or high school. It can be adjusted based on age and grade and should be flexible enough to be adapted based on a son or daughter’s social activities. Parents who have students in elementary, junior and senior high school should restrict their children’s use of the internet. Parents should know to which social media their children connect.

Social media can be an excellent tool or a weapon of human and emotional destruction. Cyberbullying is becoming epidemic everywhere. If your knowledge of social media is limited or nonexistent, get educated. Most school districts sponsor valuable workshops in this regard.

As the new school year unfolds, you need to talk very seriously with your children about their social behavior and their social choices. Do not delude yourself. Your junior and senior high school students are increasingly more sexually active. They need to act in this regard respectfully and protectively. Ignorance is no excuse.

Drinking and drug use continued to be a problem in our community. Underage drinking is dangerous and can become reckless. Too many teenagers are under the influence of alcohol at parties when they are first introduced to opiates and other dangerous drugs.

The heroin epidemic is now a national health crisis. In our own community the clergy are burying at least one young person a week who has overdosed on heroin.

Don’t let your children fool you; oftentimes when they are using illegal substances they will drink a few swigs of beer before they get home so that they make you think that they are just drinking and as a parent you take a sigh of relief and say to yourself at least it’s not drug use!

As parents, we need to be more vigilant and diligent in our parenting. It is definitely among the most challenging and rewarding occupations. Our children are counting on us!

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

File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe that another school year has ended and the high school class of 2016 is in the midst of moving on. This class, like all classes before them, has made a powerful impact upon all of our communities. There are a record number of seniors going off to Ivy League colleges on scholarships. There are an exceptional number of young people going off to the service academies and enlisting in the military.

This year’s high school seniors have made their mark scholastically as well as athletically. An impressive number of sports teams have made it to the states with significant numbers bringing state titles home to their high schools in our local communities.

However, what is most impressive about the Class of 2016 is how many seniors, in addition to all their school activities, are involved in community service. Yes, many school districts have a mandatory requirement, but many don’t. More significant is the number of students who complete their obligatory number of hours and continue to give of themselves without expecting anything in return and the countless number of seniors who give of themselves with no compelling obligation.

This past year there have been so many different campaigns to help the sick, the poor and the terrorized, not to mention the various specialized needs of people who have suffered terrible tragedies due to hate, violence and terror.  So many of our seniors from the Class of 2016 gave from their hearts.

It is a commitment to community service in the spirit of inclusiveness that is refreshing, especially since we live in a world that seems more grounded in narcissism and self-centeredness, rather than thinking about others first, especially those in need.

Seniors, as you continue your journey, do not let the social filters of our time enable bigotry, exclusivity and social injustice. 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.

Teach love to those who know hate and let that love embrace you as you continue in the world.

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 complacency of yesterday and moving toward a new idealism of freedom and responsibility. Despite the recent act of terrorism and hate in Orlando, Florida, where 50 innocent young people were gunned down because of hate, it still gives me hope that tomorrow can and will be better.

As you graduate from high school, keep these simple thoughts in mind: May you discover enough goodness in others to believe in a world of peace and to work for peace grounded in justice.

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.

May 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 who you are 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, for everyone’s life is sacred, and even those who are different from you or whom you do not like.

Be more inclusive than exclusive. Don’t be blinded by those who tend to use shame, blame and guilt to shackle people down and divide them. Set people free with your respect and nonjudgmental way.

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 you hope for in the world.”

Congratulations graduates of the Class of 2016. Thanks for making the world a little richer, a little brighter and a better place to be!

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

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

On April 26 I presided at a funeral like no other in my 37 years within our community. The young man died too young — he was only 25. He came from a loving, tight-knit family. At the end of his funeral Mass, his father came to the pulpit and shared this powerful reflection:

“At my funeral these were my words spoken through my dad. I passed away on April 22, 2016, and I am looking to help those who struggle like I did. This is my story and my truth.

My name is Billy. I want to thank you all for coming and supporting my family. I shouldn’t be in this box but I am, and I’m doing great now. You know I am both a simple and complicated person. I am private, very private and proud. But even though I am so private my family and friends knew so much about me. For those who may not really know me, I’m going to share myself with you.

As a kid, I loved my sister J cause she taught me how to play baseball and everything else. I loved baseball — playing catch and doing pop-ups and grounders with J and my dad. I love my other sister — she was my second mother; she always made sure I was safe. I love my mom —she truly did everything for me. She is a rock — she was my rock. I love my dog Bullet. He was sick and we had to put him down just a few months ago. He always listened to me perfectly. He was my companion and his ashes are right next to me now.

I grew up in Miller Place and I loved baseball with my close friends. Did you know that I didn’t like school? (except of course if the teacher was pretty and of course going each day to see my friends.)

See, I had a problem with pills, actually for long time. This disease tortured and tormented me. My mom and dad took me to rehab many times. I did internal rehabs every minute of every day of my life. At times, I was so successful for long stretches . . . but, then I would give in and I don’t know why. I cannot explain it. It weighed heavy on me…

So, let me tell you what actually happened on Friday, April 22. It was a great day. I went outside. The sun was shining and actually it was a little warm, especially as I shot some basketball hoops in the driveway. I saw my mom, then texted her again later. I went to Stop and Shop for candy. I couldn’t wait for dad to get home — the weekend — cousin Dave’s house on Sunday — Game of Thrones Sunday night.

Then the devil took over. He tormented me like many times before. My heart hurt, my brain wasn’t working right. I went and sold a valuable of mine and I bought heroin. For the first time I thought I had a plan that would last but, of course, instead it killed me. I went softly as God said I had enough. The devil wasn’t going to torment me anymore. I was at home, where I loved to be, and now I’m in heaven smiling.

I’m sorry I have caused you so much pain. I always worried about everyone too.  I need everyone to go back to their routines and be safe. Please listen to me. Hug your loved ones like I hugged and kissed my mom and dad and sisters. Don’t let a minute ago by without saying ‘I love you.’ My pain is over. Enjoy. Be happy for me. Make me proud too. Be loyal to each other.

Lastly, I always struggled searching for what I was going to do with my life — my future. How can I be successful and live up to my own expectations? I now know and I’m smiling, because I actually got asked to be an angel, an angel to watch over my dad and mom and all the people I love and care for. I found my calling and I have a lot of work to do!

Please be smart and be careful. I love you all past the sky … My name is Billy. Don’t forget me!”

What you have just read are excerpts from a powerful letter written by a grieving dad in his loving son’s name. Since his son’s death, he, his wife and daughters have committed themselves to raising awareness to this national health epidemic that is claiming so many lives rich with potential and possibility.

The challenge before us is daunting. We must take the blinders off and realize that together we can eradicate this epidemic in our community if we care enough to stand up and be counted.

*Excerpts are reprinted with permission from the Reitzig family.

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

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

A few months ago a lead story on the front page of a number of daily newspapers in our larger community supported the headline “I forgive you!” It was the words expressed by the son of a highly respected woman who was killed by a highly respected doctor on the North Shore who drove home under the influence.

The son addressed the judge, the court and the doctor on behalf of his family. He said, “you are still a good man and you are still a good doctor.” He went on to express that the physician needed to move forward with his life and continue to do good for others. “That is what our mother would want.”

The doctor expressed profound regret and remorse. Allegedly all who were in the court that day were powerfully moved. The judge was so moved by the victim’s family’s compassion and forgiveness that he sentenced the doctor to a much lighter sentence than he had initially intended.

This family’s compassion and call for forgiveness is a powerful challenge to all of us. When we are victimized, our initial reaction is to be vindictive and/or get even; forgiveness rarely makes it to center stage.

So many drug- and alcohol-related tragedies are not calculated but are caused by reckless decision-making. Reckless decision-making does not always equal a bad person. A growing number of extraordinary young people are making poor choices that are very costly. They must be held accountable. However, long jail sentences are not the answer. They do not rehabilitate the person; too often they merely reinforce negative behavior.

Long-term incarceration for nonviolent drug and alcohol offenses are not cost-effective or helpful. We spend thousands of dollars to warehouse human beings that need treatment and rehabilitation so they might grow from this tragic circumstance and not become recidivists but rather become productive contributing members of our community.

Recently I presided at the funeral of a young man from a fine family from Nassau County who overdosed on heroin. He was 28. I worked with him in treatment a number of years ago.

TJ had battled addiction since he was 15 years old. He started using at the end of high school. In his early 20’s, his drug use was out of control. With great reluctance, he finally agreed to long-term treatment, after countless short-term programs did not work.

As a broken young man, he found his way to a long-term, nontraditional residential treatment program. He finished his formal treatment in 18 months and elected to stay for an additional two years. His friends and family said those three years were the best years of his life.

After he left that community, his journey was fraught with chronic relapses. His last relapse took his young life. While he was in long-term treatment, he was diagnosed with a depressive and anxiety disorder. He reluctantly agreed to take medication, which helped greatly, but he hated the stigma that came with that decision. When he left treatment, he stopped all his medications and hid behind his smile, his compassionate heart and his generous spirit.

It has been my experience that a growing number of hard-core heroin addicts suffer from the additional affliction of a variety of mental health disorders that unfortunately go undiagnosed and untreated.

The heroin epidemic is a national health crisis. Our traditional approach to treatment is failing miserably. Too many insurance companies are sentencing our young adults to death because outpatient treatment for most opiate addicts does not work — they fail because they die!

Our political leaders at every level of government express so-called concern about the severity of this national health crisis. However, they continue to hide behind their rhetoric that provides great photo ops but no additional money or beds for long-term treatment.

Let’s demand that they deliver on their empty promises!

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

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People at an anti-drug forum stay afterward to learn how to use the anti-overdose medication Narcan. Above, someone practices spraying into a dummy’s nostrils. Photo by Elana Glowatz

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

The heroin epidemic continues to be out of control. More and more young people are losing their way and becoming paralyzed by this lethal epidemic.

The rhetoric from people in power is circular. It is going nowhere. We don’t need to wait another six months, another week or another day. We need action now!

We need more detox beds, but they don’t make money for health care institutions. Our 28-day programs have long waiting lists and are not long enough for the opiate/heroin addicts, but unfortunately insurance companies won’t pay for longer treatment. They barely pay for 28 days. If the truth be told, usually that 28 days is cut in half.

Some insurance companies continue to tell parents “have your son or daughter try an intensive outpatient program first; if they fail we will pay for a 28-day residential program.”  Well, they are failing — they are dying, and no one seems to care!

We need more long-term residential programs to accommodate the tremendous need in our larger community. The recidivism rate in regards to this epidemic is off the page. Obviously, we are failing and not doing something right.

The level of denial among parents continues to be deeply disturbing. We live in a community where dealers will now deliver heroin to your house. The AA and NA fellowships, which are a vital lifeline and network in our community for those working on recovery and wellness, have to worry that drug dealers are now waiting outside these meetings to prey on men and women in early recovery.

NARCAN, which some say is a miracle drug because it has brought people who have overdosed back to life, is now being used by heroin addicts who want to continue to party but have a safety net to keep them alive. So more and more people are getting trained on how to use this life-saving antidote; it’s no longer being administered by needle but now is a nasal spray.

Some are legitimately concerned that this new resource, which is supposed to save lives, may be perversely used to continue reckless and dangerous behavior.

Sadly, we are distracted from the serious health crisis because it is an election year that seems more fixated on hateful, demeaning attacks on individuals rather than offering us a comprehensive blueprint for reclaiming America — an America that once stood for respect for everyone’s human rights and was committed to social justice for all.

When you think about it, all the money that is being painfully wasted on political propaganda that literally says nothing about our future could be better spent feeding the hungry and creating and funding long-term residential treatment centers across the country that could genuinely begin to arrest this horrific epidemic.

What has happened to the idealism of our young and the energy they once had to make a difference in our world? Recently in one of my sociology classes at Suffolk County Community College we were discussing the state of our nation. I was shocked at how little these bright college coeds knew about American social policy. I was even more disturbed when one articulate student stood up and said he would not waste his time on voting in the November election because he believed it would not make a difference!

Needless to say, I pointed out countless examples where one vote and one voice changed the course of American history for the better. We need to lead by example and demand that those who are in power do something now about the senseless loss of life that is occurring every day in Suffolk County because of this national health crisis we call heroin.

Fr. Pizzarelli is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

The primary season that will ultimately determine who the candidates are for the next presidential election is moving forward with great speed. The money being spent on political propaganda is out of control. It could probably feed and house the homeless for at least a year.

On many levels it is a tragic waste of money that could be better spent on social programs to help the poor and/or the growing number of drug addicts in our country.

So much of the political literature is a creative repackaging of the old rhetoric that has painfully put us in the position we are in today.

Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont is a breath of fresh air. His passion for the people of our nation is refreshing. His commitment to high ideals, to economic equity and to respect for the human rights of all is refreshing. His courage is shaping our national social agenda!

Sanders is urging us to debate ideas outside the box. Agree or respectfully disagree with the solutions — but allow these kinds of conversations to invigorate our civic life.

The Sanders’ candidacy has provoked young and old alike to get involved with the election of the next president, to take back our government and to let it once again be a government for the people and by the people. His challenging ideas are causing many of us to stop and think about what is really important to all Americans. He is urging us to dream again and genuinely believe that American dreams can come true.

Besides the profound waste of money on “ad hominem attacks,” the language and tone of this year’s presidential campaign is scandalous. It is outright disrespectful, and the attacks on a person’s character and the attacks on groups of people are reprehensible and embarrassing; and people wonder why so many of our youth are out of control.

Hopefully, once the candidates for the White House are determined, they will refocus the campaign and return to civility and respect and challenge the nation with ideas that will build a stronger America. Although the political landscape is pretty disturbing, people never stop amazing me and renewing and strengthening my hope that people really do care.

At the end of January there was a striking headline in the news that said “I forgive you!” A cardiologist from our larger community under the influence of alcohol in the early hours of the morning struck and killed an extraordinary woman. She was married with children and was a very active woman within our larger community.

At his sentencing the doctor, who also is an extraordinary person, expressed his profound remorse for what he had done to this family. The family stood before the court and the oldest son said, “You’re still a great doctor. You’re still a great man — I forgive you!”

That act of compassion and forgiveness is extraordinary. This remarkable family has profoundly reminded us that good people unfortunately make horrific mistakes but are still good people and deserve a second chance at redemption.

Fr. Pizzarelli is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson. The opinions of columnists are their own. They do not speak for the paper.

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It is only February of the new year and yet it is hard to believe that more than a dozen young people from our larger community have died prematurely from reckless decision-making and heroin overdoses.

Researchers in Suffolk County are saying that at least one person a day is dying of a heroin overdose. School districts are training their faculty and staff on how to use Narcan — that new nasal spray that is literally bringing people back to life. One local not-for-profit agency recently trained more than 60 members from the Port Jefferson community on how to use this miracle nasal spray.

Slowly, people seem to be finally recognizing the seriousness of this infectious epidemic. Parents are moving beyond their denial and painfully realizing that this affliction is threatening their children’s livelihood and is here to stay.

Awareness is rising but unfortunately at a snail’s pace; law enforcement and our criminal justice system are finally seeing this epidemic as it should be seen — as a serious health crisis, not as a crime.

Unfortunately, insurance companies continue to have the power over people’s lives with no accountability. They continue to determine, even though it’s supposed to be against the law, who lives and who dies, who gets access to residential drug and alcohol treatment and who doesn’t.

A few months ago, a desperate family sought my assistance for their 25-year-old son T.J. who was a hard-core heroin addict — and they didn’t have a clue! He almost died and finally was open to serious treatment. He said to his mom, “I will do whatever it takes to take back my life and live again!”

Unfortunately, I did not have a bed immediately available — our waiting list has 25 people on it and it is growing exponentially every day. I suggested a number of well-respected, short-term residential rehabilitation centers within our larger community.

Their insurance company would not pay for a short-term residential rehabilitation center until T.J. tried an intensive outpatient program. He did that; on the third day he failed. He overdosed on heroin and died.

Heroin is like no other drug on the street today. People trying it once are becoming hooked. It is destroying children, mothers and fathers and whole families. Bright kids, athletes, the rich and the poor — this drug knows no parameters or boundaries. Anyone who uses it is vulnerable for destruction.

This reprehensible policy is sentencing more and more heroin addicts to a premature death. T.J.’s insurance company should be held accountable and charged with his death!

As a community, we must stand up and say “No more!” What will it take? How many more bright, talented young people have to die before the people in power are ready to do something that really will make a difference?

Recently, at a local community meeting, Sen. Kenneth LaValle said that the State Senate was going to make the heroin epidemic a number-one priority on their agenda this year. Let’s storm the State Senate and the Governor’s office with letters and emails urging and demanding that they act now before another family buries a young person with a limitless possibility and promise.

Fr. Pizzarelli is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

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By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It’s hard to believe another new year is unfolding. The world has never been so close to another world war as we are right now. There is social unrest everywhere.

In our own country we have not seen such social outrage and protests since the civil rights days of the 1960s. Universal health care, racial harmony, respectful tolerance for social differences at every level, renewed respect for the courageous men and women in law enforcement and public service as well as aggressively investing energy on affordable housing for the poor and immigration reform that respects the human dignity of every human being; these are some of the issues that must be at the top of our social agenda for the New Year 2016.

As challenging as this incomplete social agenda might be, I have renewed hope that our present generation of young leaders who are working in the trenches at this present moment are aggressively working for peace and justice without war or violence. I believe they believe in respecting every human being no matter what his or her social, political, religious or human circumstance as valued human beings.

We are fortunate that we live in an extraordinary community. For more than three decades, I have seen firsthand the depth of people’s compassion and care for others especially for the poor and wounded among us. I have been privileged to see the miracles that change and transform people’s lives.

Everyday people in our community who are hurting are healed and supported because of local neighbors’ courage and bravery to reach out and touch their lives, even if it means moving out of one’s comfort zone. It’s easy to pay lip service to compassion and care and still justify doing nothing. So many people quietly do so much for so many in need. Their acts of kindness and compassion are inspirational.

Taking into account our present social landscape as we begin the New Year 2016, I would like to make the following recommendations for all of us to consider working on:

■ Let’s work harder on building bridges instead of walls in our human relationships. The world is overburdened with walls and has too few bridges.

■ Let’s try to eliminate judging others and putting people into sterile boxes. Rather, let’s work harder at empowering one another to be the best that we can be, accepting all people for who they are.

■ Let’s replace destructive criticism and cynicism with heartfelt random acts of kindness and caring.

■ Let’s try to revive dreaming; a single dream can launch the journey of a lifetime!

Finally let’s take the whole year to aggressively work on healing our fractured and/or estranged human relationships that need love — before it’s too late.

As the New Year unfolds, let us not forget that each and every one of us possess the profound ability to make a difference in our world that counts. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breath away!

Fr. Pizzarelli is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.