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St. James R.C. Church Setauket

The rain this past weekend didn’t stop a certain rabbit from dropping off goodies at Benner’s Farm for Three Village and neighboring children.

The farm hosted egg hunt events April 20 and 21, where children found plastic eggs filled with treats and stuffed animals.

Families also were able to visit with the farm’s baby animals, check out crafts from vendors, play on the big swing, walk the trails and take pictures with the Easter Bunny!

St. James R. C. Church in Setauket also hosted its egg hunt April 21 after Easter Sunday morning service.

Photo by Donna Newman

St. James R.C. Church, 429 Route 25A, Setauket invites the community to experience the beauty and wonder of its traditional Neopolitan Nativity scenes, courtesy of Rev. Gerald Cestare, every day through Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (except Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve). 

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, this year’s display, located once again in the Parish Center, contains thousands of figures, buildings and miniatures; even if you have seen this display in the past, there is always something new! Fr. Jerry invites everyone to share in this wonderful depiction of the true gift of Christmas, a tradition handed down to him from his grandfather. Free event. Call 631-941-4141.

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Bridget McCormick, above, recently retired as business manager from St. James R.C. Church. Photo from Bill McCormick

When Bridget McCormick recently retired from her position as business manager at St. James R.C. Church in Setauket, she wanted to keep things low key. But her family felt after 31 years of service, the news was worth spreading.

Bridget McCormick, right, with her daughter, Kenzie, and granddaughter, Addy. Photo from Bill McCormick

McCormick and her husband, Bill, moved to Stony Brook in 1975 and a few years later to Setauket. Her husband said after he was laid off from a job, his wife took on the business manager position at the church. Even though they would have been OK financially, McCormick’s husband said his wife stepped up to the plate, something he said she always does when anything needs to be done.

The Rev. Robert Smith, who worked with Bridget McCormick for 12 years until 2015, said the business manager took on a wide variety of tasks in addition to being in charge of the church’s financial matters. Smith said she taught religious education for a few years, helped to create the church’s annual 5K run and was always willing to help whenever it was needed. The reverend said McCormick’s attentiveness helped the church to be in a healthy financial state, and she is a warm, generous person with a good sense of humor.

“She was quite skilled in her area of expertise,” he said. “I trusted her completely and had no worries about the financial goings-on of the parish because they were in her good and capable hands.”

Bill McCormick said his wife always was appreciative of her job, and he said he feels in some ways God put her there.

“That may sound a little silly, but I really believe that, because she’s so passionate,” he said. “Every day she enjoyed going to work. Even when there were problems, she loved going to work and helping that church.”

The parish celebrated McCormick’s retirement in October with a gathering in the church’s community center. McCormick’s son, Ryan, said her retirement party was emotional with many of her present and former co-workers in attendance.

The McCormicks currently live in Port Jefferson Station. Bill McCormick said his wife plans to travel and visit family and friends more often, including their daughter, Kenzie, and granddaughter, Addy, in Maryland.

Smith was unable to attend McCormick’s send-off but wishes her well.

“I hope she enjoys that well-deserved family time and well-deserved rest and relaxation after so many years of service to St. James,” he said. “I believe very strongly that the parish will always be in her debt, and the parish’s well-being is greatly due to her service there over the years.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Kerri Farrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eric Stewart

Eric Stewart will raise the baton on Saturday, May 13 when the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association (LISCA) presents its annual spring concert, Masterworks by French Composers of the 19th and 20th Century at 8 p.m. at St. James Roman Catholic Church, located at 429 Route 25A in Setauket.

Stewart took over the role of conductor in January after Thomas Schmidt, the previous conductor of the venerable, nearly 50-year old community chorus retired after serving for 11 years.

Eric Stewart

Expressing his whole-hearted enthusiasm for the selected works of the upcoming program, Stewart said, “This wonderful, all-French program features delightful variety, despite the fact that all three pieces were written within one hundred years of one another (1865-1959). Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine is a beloved staple of the choral repertoire. It is short, sweet and features melodies and harmonies prototypical of French Romanticism.”

He continues, “Poulenc’s Gloria mixes light and playful moments with some deep and brooding passages. It is full of wit and beautiful contrast. The highlight of the program, Durufle’s Requiem, re-imagines Gregorian Chant, combining it with 20th century impressionistic sensibilities. Chant-like melodies and Renaissance inspired counterpoint are imbued with lush harmonies and sweeping orchestral gestures. I could not think of a more exciting program with which to make my debut with LISCA.”

Classical music was not Stewart’s first love. Dabbling with a variety of instruments as a child led to an intense focus in his teenage years on the guitar with a plan to pursue a music degree in performance of rock/jazz fusion style. An “aha moment” came at age 17 with the purchase of a CD of Mozart Piano Concerti.

“Struck so deeply by the music,” his focus changed completely. Piano studies followed, but a sense that it was too late to be pursuing a classical instrument for performance, his focus shifted to composition and conducting. A summer spent at Interlochen Arts Camp cemented his decision to pursue a career in classical music. Stewart studied composition and conducting at the Peabody Conservatory (B.M. and M.M.), going on to earn a doctorate in composition from the University of Toronto. His compositions have been performed throughout North America, Europe and Asia.

We look forward to introducing Stewart to our faithful audience of the past 49 years and extend a special invitation to those who haven’t experienced our concerts in the past as we anticipate our 50th anniversary next season. A reception with light refreshments will be held following the concert.

Tickets may be purchased through our website at www.lisca.org, from singers and at the door. General admission is $25, seniors, $20 and students are free. For further information, call 631-751-2743.

Submitted by LISCA member, Martina Matkovic

The LISCA singers take a photo break at the base of Kiek in de Kök, a 38-meter high cannon tower in Tallinn, Estonia. Built in 1470, it houses an extensive museum of the town’s weapons and medieval era life. Photo by Candice Foley

This past July, singers from the Long Island Symphonic Choral Association “took to the skies” for the ninth time in their illustrious, 50-year history as a community chorus, bound this time for an eight-day performing and sight-seeing tour of three Baltic countries.

LISCA’S conductor, Thomas Schmidt, shared his reflections and impressions of the trip. “LISCA’s tour of the Baltic states was filled with surprises. Most of us weren’t even clear on where Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were when we left from JFK. Was Lithuania the northernmost one? Well no, it’s the southernmost one, bordering Poland and Belarus, with Latvia to the north and Estonia even further north, across the Baltic Sea from Finland.

Lithuania is mostly Catholic, whereas Latvia and Estonia are mostly Lutheran, although few practice any religion. Russians are still a large percentage of the area’s population, as much as 40 percent, although even now few of them are citizens. For most of their histories these three little countries have been ruled by other countries, Germany, Sweden, Poland and Russia.

But one of the major ways that they retained their sense of identity was through their choral tradition. Every four to five years there are gigantic choral festivals in each country, with singers dressed in their traditional, regional costumes. We saw the outdoor festival theater in Tallinn which overlooks the Baltic Sea. The stage has room for a mass choir of 20,000 and the audiences number in the hundreds of thousands. The festivals were a major way these countries maintained their unique cultures, languages and civic pride during times of foreign occupation.

So, it was not a surprise that LISCA’s concerts, held in the old 1799 City Hall in Vilnius, the 12th century, Gothic St. Peter’s Church in Riga, and the equally ancient St. Nicholas Church in Tallinn were received enthusiastically by full houses of educated listeners.

Each concert was dedicated to the memory of LISCA’s founder, Gregg Smith, who died at the age of 84 after a long illness on the morning we departed for the tour. The audience was told about his long career as one of America’s leading composers and choral conductors. Each concert ended by singing his hauntingly beautiful canon, ‘Now I Walk in Beauty.’”

The overwhelming concensus of those singers who ventured to travel to this unique part of the globe was unqualified satisfaction and enthusiasm. The people were warm and welcoming, the medieval buildings stunning and beautifully preserved, vitality blossoming everywhere. Independent since the Soviets left in 1991, these countries are finding their paths to flourish in the global economy and yet retain their national pride and cultural heritage.

LISCA’s singers are presently preparing for their annual winter concert to be held on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. at the St. James Roman Catholic Church located at 429 Route 25A in Setauket. The program features Anton Bruckner’s “Mass in E Minor,” a beautiful but challenging and infrequently performed choral work accompanied by wind and brass instruments. It has been called “a work without parallel in either 19th or 20th century church music.” A Christmas Motet by Poulenc, two Gabrieli works with brass accompaniment and carols by Gregg Smith will complete the program.

Tickets are $25 for general admission, $20 for seniors and free for students. For further information please call 631-751-2743 or 631-941-9431.