Written by Pete Sheehan Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00
When Msgr. Ralph Sommer was growing up he found inspiration from the example of his uncle, Father Ralph Besendorfer. “He was a Brooklyn priest,” said Msgr. Sommer, who is known to parishioners as “Father Sommer” or “Father Ralph.”
“My uncle was a most powerful and delightful influence, happy, caring, and helpful,” said Father Sommer, outgoing pastor of St. Brigid’s Church, in Westbury. “I would look at him and say, ‘I could do that.’”
For a number of years, Father Besendorfer would come out to St. Bernard’s in Levittown on weekends to assist.
Now, Father Sommer finds himself about to become pastor of St. Bernard’s on June 26, succeeding Msgr. Gerard Ringenback, pastor of St. Bernard’s since 2001.
He doesn’t know if anyone at St. Bernard’s will remember his uncle, Father Sommer said, but “if I meet people who remember him from that time, it will be a nice thing.”
Born in Flushing, Queens, Father Sommer grew up in Garden City, attending St. Anne’s School. He advanced to St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary, a high school for young men considering the priesthood.
“It was a caring community,” with priest-instructors and students who shared an interest in exploring the priesthood.
For college, he left the seminary system for Adelphi University near his home. “I walked every day. We didn’t have another car.”
Adelphi offered an opportunity to test his vocation. He majored in psychology, “which I thought would help me if I became a priest.”
After Adelphi, he returned to priestly studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington. Upon graduation, he was ordained a priest in 1983.
Since ordination, he has served in various assignments, including associate pastor of Our Holy Redeemer, Freeport, and St. Thomas More, Hauppauge.
For several years, he chaired a diocesan evangelization committee, which promoted the idea that ordinary Catholics as well as clergy and Church staff could share their faith and promote the Gospel in the course of their everyday lives and ministries.
He also headed a diocesan effort, Renew 2000, which fostered development of small faith-sharing groups in the individual parishes to help parishioners deepen their faith and draw more people into active involvement in the Church.
In 2001, Father Sommer came to St. Brigid’s, his first pastorate, a marked contrast from his experience in the larger, more homogeneous St. Thomas in Hauppauge.
"At St. Brigid’s we have Masses in four languages — Spanish, Creole, Italian, and English,” Father Sommer said. In addition, there are parishioners of African-American, Philippine, Indian, and other Asian birth or ancestry.
Though it was different, “I felt like I belonged here,” he said. “I learned more about God by learning how other people experience God in their lives.”
He was also impressed by the generosity and graciousness of the people and the staff of the parish, which supports a range of services and ministries for the people of the parish and beyond.
Shortly after his arrival came the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. “It was devastating for us. We had eight funerals” for victims of the attack for which the body could not even be present for the funeral. “In addition, many of the parishioners lost other family and friends in the attack.”
Yet the parish came together and drew support from each other, Father Sommer said. The news of sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church was also shocking, yet the parish dealt with that together as well.
One difficulty he has found as pastor, as opposed to his years as an associate pastor, is the additional responsibilities the pastor has for administering the finances, facilities, and staff of the parish.
“I find that it is more difficult to ‘pastor’ the people, to serve as shepherd of the parish,” Father Sommer said, when he has less time to be with the people.
Though he has been happy as pastor at St. Brigid’s, Father Sommer said that he looks forward to going to St. Bernard’s. St. Brigid’s and St. Bernard’s each have a transition team to help the respective pastors, staff, and parishioners know what to expect.
One constant he has found throughout his parishes, Father Sommer said, “is the ability to celebrate Mass everyday and be with people in the joys and struggles of their lives.”
Saturday, 30 August 2014 00:00
In response to the county’s fly-by-night decision to remove 176 old oak trees along Seaman’s Neck Road, earlier this month, New York State Sen. Kemp Hannon has issued a letter to Nassau County Department of Public Works Commissioner Shila Shah-Gavnoudias regarding constituents’ concerns with the appearance of the roadway.
In his letter, Hannon asks Commissioner Shah-Gavnoudias if the removal of the trees were under the jurisdiction of LIPA or PSEG.
“If not, I would like to know who made the decision to remove these trees and why,” Hannon states. “I request you review this case and take whatever course of action necessary.”
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 00:00
U.S. Navy Veteran Richard Meyerowitz of Levittown joined the military in 1962, enlisting straight out of high school. While he would never see combat, Meyerowitz served as a boilerman aboard the U.S.S. Dewey amid the United States’ blockade of Cuba.
“They gave us our orders,” Meyerowitz said, “turn any vessels away. If not, blow ‘em out of the water.”
During the blockade, Meyerowitz said he only encountered one ship, which they warned to turn back. Just a kid at the time, Meyerowitz said it didn’t occur to him at the time, how the country could have been on the verge of nuclear war.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
Christopher Joseph of Levittown was recently selected to play on the United States world university hockey team in Italy this year. A 2009 MacArthur High School graduate, Joseph was captain of his high school team for two seasons, leading them to two championships. Joseph would later go on to play junior hockey for New York Apple Core and the New Jersey Rockets junior ‘A’ team.
Joseph’s parents, Hal and Theresa, along with his brother Robert and sister Kristin said they are very proud of Christopher’s accomplishments and are cheering him on as he heads off to Italy.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
Farmingdale State College had four players named to the 2014 D3baseball.com All-New York Team. Senior outfielder Edward Bergmann of East Meadow, earned First Team honors, while junior shortstop Anthony Alvino of Lindenhurst was named to the Second Team. Junior outfielder Michael Marino of Franklin Square and sophomore pitcher Alex Weingarten of East Rockaway also earned Third Team honors this year.
Bergmann batted a team-leading .421 this season and also led the Rams in hits (53), runs scored (42), doubles (8), on-base percentage (.503), stolen bases (30) and held a perfect fielding percentage. Nationally, Bergmann ranks 4th for stolen bases per game (0.88), 10th in stolen bases, 23rd in both on-base percentage and batting average and 29th in runs scored per game (1.21).