Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary His Most Holy Mother! At this time of my installation as the sixth pastor of St. Paul, my heart and soul are filled with a spirit of thanksgiving to Almighty God and His Most Holy Mother that in spite of my unworthiness, I now take on the office of Pastor in a formal way. I am not ashamed to come to you as a beggar, asking for the gift of your prayers so that I may ever be a priest after the Heart of Christ. Please pray for me that I may always serve you in a spirit of joy and simplicity. Pray that I may be a loyal son of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, in spite of my sins, help all to come to know the great and abundant mercy and love of God and the never failing intercession of Our Lady.
By now you certainly realize that I have neither the energy nor dynamism of Monsignor Clerkin. I have neither the refinement, culture, nor kindness of Monsignor Costa. I have neither the holiness nor learning of Father Anderson. I thank them all for their dedicated service to St. Paul. But nevertheless, I am sure we will come to love each other and help one another find the way to Heaven.
Last month three generations of our parishioners performed a delightful production of the famous musical play, Fiddler on the Roof. One of the more amusing themes of the play is the custom of the so called arranged marriage and the role of the matchmaker.
In a certain sense, we may say that you and I have entered into an arranged marriage (a custom quite common until relatively recent times). On Tuesday April 16, 2013, at 4.40 in the afternoon the telephone on my desk in the Judicial Vicar’s Office in Rockville Centre rang. Since the office closes at 4.30 and all the secretaries were gone for the day I answered the telephone myself. It was the Bishop calling to ask if I would go to St. Paul as the new pastor. I had never once been to St. Paul and knew next to nothing about the parish. But realizing the beautiful phrase of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Obey the Bishop for in Him is the Will of God, I immediately said yes I would be most grateful to become the pastor of St. Paul. On the weekend of April 20-21 you were told that I would be the new pastor. And I arrived here on June 26, 2013. You did not know me and I did not know you. But like the married couple of the play (Golda and Tevye), whose own marriage had been arranged, we have already come to love one another and will grow in that love.
As together we go forward, we rely on God’s grace and Our Lady’s intercession. A parish is a family where we all work together to do God’ Holy Will. Today at the Mass of Installation I give thanks to my parents from whom I received the greatest gifts, the gift of life and the faith. I give thanks to my sister and brother in law, my four nephews and their wives and children. I thank my brother priests for their friendship and beautiful example.
May I thank all of my brother priests and deacons who are here today. We welcome Very Reverend Father Robert Romeo, the Dean of the Oyster Bay Deanery, who will install me today. I thank the two priests who will be presenting me today, Monsignor James M. McDonald, Pastor of St. Aidan’s Parish in Williston Park and Father James Williams, S.M. Monsignor McDonald has been a long time friend, advisor and model to me in the priesthood. Father James Williams has selflessly served St. Paul’s Parish for many years and was particularly devoted to Monsignor Costa, particularly during the time of his illness before being called home to God. We welcome today Rev. Mr. David Atanasio who was ordained a Deacon just last Sunday, September 1st and who will, please God, be ordained a priest next June. As a seminarian Deacon David served at St. Paul’s and his presence adds to our joy. We welcome Mr. John Crozier, a seminarian of our diocese who served here at St. Paul during the summer and who is the Master of Ceremonies today. We pray John will always find a home here. We welcome all of the dear altar servers of our own parish and the guest altar servers from parishes where I have previously served. The Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Orders of both the Holy Sepulcher and Malta honor us by their presence.
But may I most of all thank all of you, the dear parishioners of St. Paul, for welcoming me into your midst. Your welcome shows your deep faith for you realize a priest comes not of himself but of Christ. He comes to praise and bless, to heal and comfort, to console and rejoice, to teach and guide, but, above all to serve. He comes to offer sacrifice for the living and the dead and to absolve us of our sins. Pray that I may be like our Patron and Father St. Paul, and pour myself out as a libation and to say, along with him, Scio quem credidi! I have known Him in Whom I have believed.
In closing may I turn to St. Philip Neri, my favorite saint. He said, “The years pass and the time grows short, but it always time to love God. When shall we begin to do Good?”
Affectionately in Jesus and Mary,
Monsignor James F. Pereda