Tags Posts tagged with "Fr. Francis Pizzarelli"

Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

By Melissa Arnold

Drug addiction can rob a person of everything they once held dear. Relationships with loved ones, a safe place to live and the ability to work can all become jeopardized or lost.

When you have nothing left, finding stability and sobriety can seem like an impossible task. But support and education can make all the difference.

For more than 40 years, Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson has offered a wide variety of services to those struggling with addiction or other hardships, from free counseling and support groups to residential programs and spiritual guidance.

Tucked on the quiet grounds of Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai is a modest bakery called Brother’s Bread, which provides sweet and savory treats to visitors and job skills for hard-working men in recovery.

The Little Portion Friary campus, now called Hope Academy, was purchased by Hope House in 2016 when the Franciscan brothers who lived there fell on hard times. Since then, the size of the program has doubled, and more than 60 young men live in the family-style residential facility. 

The acquisition was a full-circle moment for Hope House.

“The brothers helped out in local churches but also did a lot of baking. At the beginning of each weekend, people would be able to come in and see what was there and make a donation,” explained Father Francis Pizzarelli, director of Hope House Ministries, “When we acquired the friary, we wanted to maintain the bakery, and maintain that same spirit to honor and celebrate the brothers.”

But with the brothers gone, who would run the bakery? Pizzarelli saw it as an opportunity for the young men in addiction recovery at Hope Academy.  

With support and donations from the community, Brother’s Bread received a modern makeover, including new ovens. While Pizzarelli oversees the administrative side of things, daily operations are a work of “shared responsibility” for a small group of Hope Academy residents.

“It’s a source of income [for the Academy], but it’s also therapeutic. It gives these men a new set of skills, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of giving back,” said Pizzarelli, who is also a social worker and addiction counselor. “I’m committed to the holistic approach of mind, body and spirit for recovery and the bakery feeds into that ideal nicely.”

Some of the residents arrive at Hope Academy with previous cooking or baking knowledge, but there are also opportunities for those who want to learn. Current bakers are always looking to share their skills with other residents, especially as the ultimate goal is graduation from the program. A few local retired bakers volunteer their time to teach as well.

The result is the tempting aroma of fresh bread heavy in the air each weekend. While the bakery is best known for their breads, especially cinnamon raisin and whole wheat, with time the menu has expanded to include other goodies. Brownies, scones, cookies and fruit pies are often available, along with seasonal favorites like Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day and cheese pizzas during Lent.

The Irish soda bread in particular has been the source of a lot of laughter at the bakery and among those who attend weekend Mass at the friary. 

Pizzarelli explained that one of the current bakers is from Ireland and was eager to share a bite of home with bakery patrons. People rave over it – well, most people. Pizzarelli has never been fond of Irish soda bread and is regularly teased for it. 

Another unique facet of Brother’s Bread is the focus on generosity. The bakery door is always open on the weekends, even if no one is there. Each item has a suggested price, and visitors are encouraged to pay what they can.

“We certainly appreciate all the support we get, and the profits help cover the cost of ingredients and food for the residential program,” Pizzarelli said. “But we also know that there are hungry people out there, so we run on the honor system.”  

As with all of Hope House’s programs, the bakery depends on the kindness of others. Financial gifts, volunteer support or donations of ingredients are always welcome. 

Pizzarelli never imagined 40 years ago that his ministry would unfold as it has, and while there are many difficulties, he continues to offer a place of welcome to as many as he can. “The friary and Hope Academy have been a source of strength for people that are carrying shame and stigma. People focus on the negative stories, and I am always reminded of the people that we’ve lost, but I also see miracles every day,” he said.

Brother’s Bread and Hope Academy at Little Portion Friary are located at 48 Old Post Road, Mount Sinai. The bakery is open 24 hours a day or until sellout. For more information, call 631-473-0553 or visit www.hhm.org.

Photo by David Ackerman

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Maybe it sounds like I’m tooting our horn too much, but I have to say how proud I am of the columnists who write for our papers and website. They are clearly bright and offer the reader information and knowledge that aren’t usually found even in a big metro daily or a glossy magazine. They are, collectively and individually, one of the main reasons our hometown newspapers have managed to survive while so many of our colleagues, 25% of them in the nation, have had to shut their doors.

Readers want to learn from our regular columnists, who, by the way, are local residents. That’s not surprising, though, because the population we serve is exceptional, accomplished in their own right, and can be expected to harbor such talent. Let me explain.

The columnists are found in the second section of the newspaper, called Arts & Lifestyles. In the interest of full disclosure and without false modesty, I point out and salute my youngest son, Dr. David Dunaief. He is a physician totally committed to helping his patients, and the high regard is returned by them in equal measure, as testimonials about him confirm. In addition, he writes every week about current medical problems and brings readers up to date with the latest research and thinking regarding common ailments. I know him to be a voracious reader of medical journals and he footnotes his sources of expertise at the end of every “Medical Compass” column. 

Dr. Matthew Kearns is a longtime popular veterinarian who writes “Ask the Vet,” keeping our beloved pets healthy. Michael E. Russell is a successful, retired financial professional who cannot cut the cord with Wall Street, and  shares his thoughts on the economy and suggesting current buys on the stock market. He will also throw in something irreverent, or even askance, to keep you tuned in. 

Also writing knowledgeably on the contemporary scene about finance and the economy is Michael Christodoulou, who is also an active financial advisor. Ever try to read your auto insurance policies? If I had trouble falling asleep, they would knock me out by the second paragraph. Enter A. Craig Purcell, a partner in a long-established local law firm, who is attempting to explain auto insurance coverage, a merciful endeavor, with his column. His words do not put me to sleep. Shannon Malone will alternate the writing for us. Michael Ardolino, a well-known realtor, somehow manages to make both ends of a real estate transaction, for buyers and sellers, sound promising at this time. 

Our lead movie and book reviewer is the highly talented Jeffrey Sanzel. In addition to being a terrific actor, he is a gifted writer and almost always feels the same way about what he is reviewing as I do. No wonder I think he is brilliant.  Father Frank has been writing for the papers for many years and always with great integrity and compassion. 

John Turner, famous naturalist and noted author and lecturer, keeps us apprised of challenges to nature. This is a niche for all residents near the shorelines of Long Island. He also writes “Living Lightly,” about being a responsible earth dweller. Bob Lipinski is the wine connoisseur who travels the world and keeps us aware of best wines and cheeses.

Lisa Scott and Nancy Marr of the Suffolk County League of Women Voters, keep us informed about upcoming elections, new laws and important propositions. Elder law attorney Nancy Burner tells us about Medicare, estate planning, wills gifting, trustees, trusts and other critical issues as we age.

The last columnist I will mention is Daniel Dunaief, who, like bookends for my salute, is also my son. Among several other articles, he writes “The Power of Three,” explaining some of the research that is performed at Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Labs and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He makes a deep dive into the science in such a way that layman readers can understand what is happening in the labs. He has been paid the ultimate compliment by the scientists for a journalist: they pick up the phone and willingly talk to him, unafraid that he will get the story wrong or misquote them. In fact, he has been told a rewarding number of times by the researchers that his questions for the articles have helped them further direct their work.

When my sons began writing for TBR News Media, a few readers accused me of nepotism. I haven’t heard that charge now in years.

P.S. Of course, we can’t forget Beverly C. Tyler and Kenneth Brady, stellar historians both.

Photo by Heidi Sutton/TBR News Media

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The holiday season is quickly coming to a close. The Village of Port Jefferson and our larger community are especially beautiful with lights, wreaths and a wide range of holiday decorations. I also feel there is a different energy in the air. There seems to be a more positive spirit this year than in the years past. I actually saw people who didn’t know each other greeting one another and holding the door as they walked into a store. It was really amazing.

There is a part of me that wants to bottle that positive energy and release it when things start to inch back towards the darkness. However, I realize each one of us has the power to keep that positive energy going one person at a time utilizing random acts of kindness and just mutual words of encouragement and welcome.

The world is profoundly paralyzed. Our government and other governments around the world have become disturbingly ineffective and disconnected from the real pulse of the people. No matter what one’s race, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, most people just want to get along; to live with mutual respect with one another.

At the end of the last semester at St. Joseph’s University where I have taught for more decades than I want to admit, I asked one of my freshmen that exact question. He paused for a moment and said, “we have to stop judging people by externals, stop judging a book by its cover. We must be more willing to pull the onion skin down to the core.”

His response was amazing. It sounds so simple but in reality, we make it so complicated. If we could only judge less and love more, how much better the world would be. Hopefully, the next generation will have the courage to do exactly that and not get sucked up into all the garbage and nonsense.

For more than a decade now, I’ve had the privilege of teaching graduate student social workers at Fordham’s graduate school of Social Service. I teach clinical practice and a human rights and social justice course. Most of my students are second year, chomping at the bit to graduate. Every week they inspire me to stay my course and strengthen my love for clinical social work and advocacy. Their passion for wanting to make a difference is inspirational. I pray that their positive energy and enthusiasm is not impaired by the crazy world that we live in.

 We need them because they really believe that change is possible. They really want to make a difference in the world and make it a better place. I hope their energy and enthusiasm becomes contagious. It genuinely has energized me to stay the course and to continue “to be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mohandas Gandhi

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

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The holiday season is in full bloom. Our beautiful villages with Christmas lights and wreaths reminds us what this time of year is supposed to be about. We celebrate the holiday season across a landscape that is polarized and profoundly divisive. 

Our recent midterm elections have made the powerful statement that Americans are tired of hearing about election steal lies. They are tired of conspiracy theories and rhetoric that is blatantly false and disgraceful.

The midterm elections have made a powerful statement that democracy is more powerful than autocracy; that we as a nation want to move forward and find new ways to collaborate with each other for the sake of all Americans.

As you prepare to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, I hope our faith leaders have the courage to stand up and speak for truth, for social justice and respect for all people no matter what their race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic class.

Our silence, when it comes to serious life issues that impact all of us, is a statement of complicity. Shame on those of us who hold positions of religious leadership and remain silent. Shame on those who hold positions of religious leadership and fuel the hate and polarization that is paralyzing our nation.

However, despite this chaotic landscape I continue to remain exceptionally hopeful because I am blessed to see miracles and human transformation every day. 

Every morning when I get up, I look out at our garden of remembrance. There are more than 120 crosses representing all the innocent lives that have been lost to overdose and addiction since the pandemic. They are from our community. They have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters that live among us. I know these days are hard for their families. We must never forget but always remember their gift of life.

Human kindness continues to live on in our midst. Hopefully during this holiday season, it will become contagious. Recently a retired schoolteacher told me a powerful story. She was on line at Taco Bell in her car and her eyes met the eyes of a man in a red truck in front of her. It was just a momentary glance. When she got to the window to pay, the cashier told her there was no charge. The man in the red truck had covered her meal. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed. 

The cashier gave her a note which I have permission to share with you: “To the person behind me in line, please accept this small act of kindness today as a reminder that all of us have bad days, but not all of us were fortunate enough to wake up this morning and have a day at all. No matter how hard it gets, keep going! You are stronger than your most difficult hour, and there are so many people supporting you even if you haven’t met them yet. Peace, love, tacos — a random stranger.”

As we celebrate the holiday season this year, let us reach out with random kindness to the strangers in our midst that could become our friends!

Father Francis 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

Have you ever stopped in the middle of Penn Station amongst the noise and human activity and just think?

Recently, I did exactly that. It was rush hour. I had just finished teaching at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Graduate School of Social Services. I took the one train to Penn Station. There was pandemonium like I have not seen since pre-pandemic days.

This was a different kind of energy. It was opening night for the New York Rangers. People’s excitement was contagious. I almost wished that I had a ticket so that I could go to the hockey game even though I hate hockey. 

In the midst of all of the noise and excitement, I stopped, took a breath and looked around. My eyes caught sight of a little girl with a Rangers jersey on that was bigger than her; she was on fire. I waved and caught her eye; she waved back with a big smile. As I was waiting for my train back to Ronkonkoma. I couldn’t help but think of her innocence, of her positive energy, of her genuine openness and that one day that beautiful little smile and abundant energy could be severely impaired because of the world we live in.

Soon enough she will move from the innocence of childhood into the chaos of adolescence and young adulthood. The world is a very negative place right now for the next generation to be nurtured in. We need to protect them from the garbage and hypocrisy that is everywhere. We need to attempt to change all of that negativity and make the world a place that is welcoming and inclusive, even if we disagree!

We need to work harder at building bigger bridges rather than stronger walls. We need to create a language grounded in respect and love for everyone, even when it’s hard, challenging and demanding.

No little girl should ever have her innocence and joy threatened or impaired because the world is filled with narcissism and selfishness.

Every day I see pain and suffering in the eyes of the mentally ill and the drug addicts that I live and work with; but I also see hope and potential for change and transformation. I see miracles every day which make me believe we can make the world better; make it more loving and caring for all the little ones who live in our midst.

Mental health is a major concern that is rapidly disarming and paralyzing a growing number of young people of every age and walk of life. We don’t have enough licensed mental health professionals that can cost-effectively meet the epidemic need before us. We must collaborate now to erase the stigma that painfully exists around mental health treatment. We must demand accountability from all our insurance providers who tend to play games with our mental health and access to comprehensive mental health treatment.

The government needs to stop talking the talk and begin walking the walk. Our faith leaders need to have the guts to stand up, be counted and lead us in the fight for protecting all life that is scarred by mental health disorders. This cannot wait for tomorrow.

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

Pixabay photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

What is happening to our nation? The violent rhetoric is at an all time high. It is out of control. The threats of violence against elected officials and public servants is reprehensible.

Many are disgusted with our elected officials. Why would any person of character and integrity want to put his or her family at risk due to this infectious rhetoric that is spreading like wildfire across the country?

Where are our elected leaders when we need them? Elected officials are making ridiculous statements without doing their homework and getting the facts. They are more dangerous than the extremists who are igniting this violence across the country.

Where are our religious leaders? Most  of our major faith traditions have been silent about the new threats of violence across the country, the gun safety issues and the growing number of heroin overdoses that are paralyzing parts of our nation.

Our elected leaders are failing to encourage respectful but comprehensive conversations about the sensitive issues facing all Americans. Instead some are publicly fueling this hateful rhetoric that is inciting violence and putting peoples lives at risk.

What has happened to our moral compass? Compassion, common sense and respect seem to be dead in America. Religion should never be used as a weapon – that is deplorable. Religious leaders who use their puppets to weaponize congregants are disgraceful.

We are a nation of diversity. That is one of the many excellent qualities we have that makes our nation great.

My hope is that our local and national religious leaders will have the courage to lead us, to build better bridges and not stronger walls, to be more inclusive not exclusive. Our religious leaders must lead us by way of example to transcend the hateful rhetoric that is infecting all of us and not contribute to it.

We must reclaim the narrative that incites violence and hatred and re-create the climate of respect and tolerance of all of our differences.

Where has objective truth gone? Why can’t we have intense conversations about important issues and genuinely leave a conversation agreeing to disagree, do it with respect and no hostility.

Disagreements should never lead to threats of violence or violence itself.

We have a very powerful opportunity for political and religious leaders to come together transcend all the hateful rhetoric and violence and have the courage to remind all Americans of the need for renewed respect for all people, even when we differ. 

The younger generation needs to see us come together. So many of them are still recovering from the two years of social isolation due to the pandemic. They need to concretely see each of us engage in difficult conversations that help us to come together and better understand each other.

Hope does not abandon us, we abandon hope. I hope not!

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

METRO photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

It is unfortunate that we tend to label and stigmatize people because of unfortunate circumstances in their lives. If someone has gone to jail and served their time, they are labeled by many as useless lowlifes. 

They try to get a job and live a normal productive life but the ex-con is marked and not oftentimes given the chance to redeem themselves. So, the ex-con who has been rehabilitated is going to fail because there are no resources to empower them to succeed and move beyond the destructive label we have created for them.

Illegal drug use is out of control within our country. Overdose deaths are at an epic high. Treatment resources are overburdened and unfortunately too often ineffective, if we look at the terrible relapse rates. The numbers are staggering!

There is most likely not a person reading this column who has not directly or indirectly been affected by out-of-control drug use. We are in the midst of a national health epidemic around the abuse of heroin and fentanyl. People of every age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and economic status are dying senselessly every day because of overdosing. Too many people stigmatize those battling addiction. We support people who are battling cancer, why don’t we support those afflicted with addiction?

Believe it or not there are a growing number of people with tremendous support who reclaim their lives and become productive members of our larger community. That road to wellness and freedom is not easy!

JB was born into a wonderful upper-middle-class family. He went to Catholic high school. He went on to college but failed out because of his drug use. His parents spent tens of thousands of dollars on various treatment programs that did nothing. He lived on the streets of Florida, underneath bridges and in shelters.

Finally, JB saw the light and went into a long-term residential treatment program for addictions. He went back to college, graduated at the top of his class and earned a scholarship to law school. A month ago, he graduated from law school as number one in his class. He was the valedictorian and gave his speech to a packed arena. His address was about his journey to recovery and wellness which led him to law school. Today he works for a big law firm in New York City, but also does pro bono work for those who are battling addiction and need law services.

The salutatorian at Five Towns College told his story of hope and transformation as a gay man in recovery. JM hopes to leave for Spain in September to teach children English in Madrid.

People do recover from addiction and do great things. These two men in the midst of all the darkness around us are clearly beacons of light and of hope among us!

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

Stock photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Recently Newsday carried a front-page story in its’ Sunday edition on the opioid epidemic and all of the Pharma money given to Suffolk County. It appropriately highlighted a number of exceptional professionals who are providing lifesaving support in the area of prevention and education for those who have been afflicted with addiction.

Education and prevention are vital services in reaching out to those who are struggling with this life-threatening affliction. We need to provide more funds in these areas and wider program opportunities for those in need.

Our county is sitting on millions of dollars due to the Pharma settlement. The County Executive has had access to millions of dollars due to the settlement for months. Unfortunately, no RFP (request for proposal) has been issued; no comprehensive task force has been announced that contains more than government bureaucrats. After 40 years of dealing with the government, I know their wheels regarding change in any kind of progressive action are slow. Unfortunately, we can no longer wait, we must act now!

How many families have to senselessly bury their children before we realize that we lack the important resources to save a life? Education and prevention are very important. However, right now in our county we do not have the necessary long-term residential treatment programs for those who need and seek them.

Chronic heroin relapse addicts are not going to get better in a 28-day program or a three-month program. Evidence-based research underscores that a year to 18 months is needed, if someone is genuinely going to learn the skills to sustain a life of recovery and wellness.

In our county, we have a desperate need for long-term residential treatment. The two programs that exist have endless waiting lists. Every day I get at least three or four desperate calls from parents who are afraid that their children are going to die and they have no place to turn. Every day I place another cross in our garden of remembrance for a young person who overdosed on heroin or fentanyl.

Our silence on this important life issue is deafening. We need to stand up, be counted and demand action before someone close to us dies senselessly — someone we might have been able to save if there was a place for him or her to go.

Insurance companies in our country set people up to fail and ultimately to die. The games they play with people’s lives is scandalous and reprehensible. We need to demand greater accountability for the money spent on healthcare; we need to create opportunities that will save people’s lives and empower them to wellness. Spring is a time for new beginnings, new life and renewed hope. Let’s be courageous and be that spring!

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

Pixabay photo

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

Recently, I had a powerful discussion around a very toxic social issue. It was in my Honors Sociology class at Suffolk County Community College, which is probably one of the best kept secrets in public higher education on Long Island.

My class is diverse on every level. Their commonality is they are all bright and from all over Suffolk County. The respect and critical thinking skills they employed was refreshing. I have been an adjunct professor of Sociology there for over 35 years and I have never had a class that disappointed me.

However, this class has truly raised the bar. They took this very complex opinion piece  and were able to dissect it, respond and not react to each other. They raised phenomenal questions and pursued them. They acknowledged that civil discourse was critical and ad hominem attacks were not acceptable. They agreed to disagree in an acceptable and respectful manner. They also demonstrated a quality that is sadly lacking in Washington —  empathy for each other. Their quest for vetted evidence-based research for some of the more complex questions was refreshing.

The initial issue raised some important life issues and important life questions in a free society. The student’s quest for knowledge and truth was impressive. At the end of our discussion they were amazed at how much they all learned from each other because they were open and responsive instead of reactive and confrontational. They represent a real hope for tomorrow. Some who are leading us would learn much from their wisdom if they took the time to listen!

Recently, the federal government released another disturbing report regarding the heroin epidemic. They spoke about how this unfortunate health issue is out of control and is exponentially taking life senselessly. Most of us already know that!

However, the programs they are recommending money be spent on once again are misguided and will ultimately be ineffective in confronting this national health crisis. We in the trenches are dealing with this painful epidemic every day. The number of young men and women around the country who are senselessly dying is out of control. The lack of resources to make a difference in addicts’ lives and our response, at best, is pathetic.

Education and prevention are important, but we have no long-term treatment beds and no money being allocated to develop them. Our present system of treatment is inadequate and shameful. Every day we are bearing a growing number of young people that need not die. Visit the grounds of Little Portion Friary at Hope Academy in Mount Sinai, go behind the grotto of Our Lady of Hope to the Garden of Remembrance and you will find more than 100 crosses and other symbols that mark the young people who have died senselessly during this pandemic. Every day two or three more crosses are added. When are we going to say no more?

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

Pixabay photo

By Father Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The pandemic has changed the world forever. It has profoundly reminded us that all life is sacred, but also very fragile. Many families have drawn closer together. More and more people have strengthened their human connections and value their time together.

Unfortunately, it has also further polarized our nation. The heart and soul of our country is wounded and bleeding profusely. Stress and anxiety are on the rise and we are all ill-equipped to meet the escalating need for competent mental health professionals.

Our schools are struggling with this new landscape that our children must travel. There is a great need for a stronger mental health support system to meet the growing number of students who are frightened and anxious.

The lack of quality childcare makes it even more stressful for single moms and moms whose working income is critical for survival.

The light at the end of the tunnel is blurred with mixed messages, conspiracy theories that are blatant lies and elected leaders who are not interested in the people that elected them but rather special interest groups.

Some of our religious leaders have been painfully silent when they should speak to social justice, human rights and doing what’s right for our communities. Our moral compass seems to be broken. How many more lives need to be senselessly lost before we stand up and work harder at building bridges and not walls? 

As a divided nation, we are giving power to divisive mean-spirited persons who do not care about the heart and soul of our country.

We are continuing to bury an epidemic number of young people who are dying from heroin because of our horrific insurance and healthcare system— one that is more focused on the bottom line financially than empowering a person to long term wellness and recovery.

Millions of dollars continue to sit in the Suffolk County Treasurer’s office while the bureaucrats decide who is going to get what. We are in the midst of a national health crisis. We need action now. We need more beds for long-term treatment. We need to support the few hospitals that provide limited treatment to expand their services.

As we bicker, an increasing number of families are burying their children senselessly. What will it take to force us to reclaim our humanity and restore the character and integrity of our great nation?

We the people — what does that mean in a country that is so divided? I have seen firsthand, in the midst of our diversity and difference, people come together to support each other in our times of need. We need to reclaim that spirit, transcend our differences and renew the hopeful spirit of our nation.Hope does not abandon us. We abandon hope.

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