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."