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Saying Goodbye to Good Friends

Farewell and God bless to the Stigmatine Fathers, who are leaving Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in White Plains after more than 90 years of loving service and presence here.

by Susan McCarthy, RDC

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
            A time to be born and a time to die;
            A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted. . .”

These lines from the Book of Ecclesiastes were a fitting introduction to the "Mass of Farewell and Thanksgiving" held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Lexington Avenue on Saturday evening, Oct. 20.

Parishioners and good friends attended the Mass and Reception to honor the contribution of the Stigmatine Fathers to the spiritual life of White Plains for over ninety years!  Mayor Thomas Roach remarked on the wonderful goodness and generosity of this congregation of men not only to the parish of Mt. Carmel but also to the entire City of White Plains.

In their history (found on the website of the parish), there is a recollection of Mt. Carmel that many long-time White Plains citizens can relate to: “The late renowned author of The Greatest Story Ever Told, Fulton Oursler, wrote in 1952 that he always looked forward to passing through White Plains on the train for the pleasure of seeing the inspiring gold-crowned campanile of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, the bell tower of the Stigmatine Fathers' parish.”  Many of us remember the sounds from the bell tower, as well.

In recent years, two Stigmatine Fathers have been living and working here in Westchester County.  Father Albert Azrak, who has served as pastor at Mt. Carmel for the last nineteen years, was lauded for his pastoral care of the parish.  His motto of ‘heart over head,’ which implies loving and compassionate care of all parishioners, was passed on to all who served at Mt. Carmel.  Father Azrak will move to a parish in Massachusetts.  Father Joseph Henchey is a Theology teacher at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers.

We Sisters of Divine Compassion have been honored to work alongside these wonderful priests since their founding days in White Plains.  As they provided spiritual nourishment to us (Mass, weekly Confession, etc.), we served as catechists in the religious education programs of both Mt. Carmel and Our Lady of the Assumption Churches.

Today, though we know in our heads that there is a time for the Stigmatine Fathers to move on from this place, our hearts are sad that they will no longer be physically present among us.  As we bid them farewell, we pray (in the words of Joyce Rupp):  "Go, God be with you. [We] entrust you to God. The God of strength, courage, comfort, hope, love, is with you. The God who promises to wipe away all tears will hold you close and will fill your emptiness. Let go and be free to move on."

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Terry Young November 05, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Susan, Thank you for your words reminding me of the priests who served at Mt. Carmel for so many years. It brought back memories of the days of teaching at Assumption parish. Theresa Young
Marie Murphy November 08, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Those are lovely thoughts, particularly the closing prayer from Joyce Rupp. Marie Murphy
Pius Charles Murray March 07, 2014 at 04:21 PM
Between 2000 and 2004 I lived in residence at Mount Carmel while pursuing my doctorate in Old Testament Theology at Forham University, with Father Azrak. Dsspite the good intentions of heart over head, that motto does not exemplify the essence of St Gaspar Bertoni's charism which as the Mount Carmel parish website itself states Stigmatines at heart are involved in education. Father Azrak's greatest weakness is that he never to my knowledge exemplified this specialist ideal as evidenced in his own motto which to better or more integrally identify him as a Stigmatine should probably read "mind and heart together." While I am sad to see Stigmatines withdrawn from White Plains, it is nevertheless God's providential will that they withdraw from parishes and concentrate more on serving as Apostolic Missionaries in obedience to Bishops in specialized ministries as St Gaspar Bertoni and the Holy Spirit originally intended. Sincerely, Pius Murray, Stigmatine priest 1992-2006

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