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.”
Friday, 18 April 2014 00:00
The Levittown Board of Education unanimously adopted a $198.7 million spending plan for the 2014-2015 school year, which comes with a proposed tax levy increase of 1.62 percent. This represents a $2.1 million increase from last year, for a proposed levy of $133.2 million.
The Levittown school district will receive $49,163,299 in state aid for the 2014-2015 school year, which increased by $690,049 from last year’s budget. The other revenues also show an increase of $684,250 from last year.
In the past seven years, the district received its largest percentage of state aid in 2008-2009 with 30 percent. According to Assistant Superintendent Bill Pastore, state aid has decreased since then, leveling off for the past few years and coming in at slightly below 25 percent for 2014-15.
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
On April 8, members of the Levittown Property Owners Association invited all seven candidates in the running for Island Trees School District Board of Education to a “Meet the Candidates” forum. Of the seven only four attended, and only three spoke on the dais.
According to Levittown Property Owners President Diane Kirk, members of the Island Trees School District were invited to attend the forum, but declined stating that they were going to attend their own forum on May 12.
Challenger Brian Fielding, a 1995 Island Trees High School graduate, opened the forum with the promise of more transparency.
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its first tournament on Thursday April 4. Twenty golfers came out on on a crisp but sunny morning. Charlie Hong was the only man to score under a 40, with a 38 and won for low overall score. Jim O’ Brien scored a 41, and won low overall net in a tie-breaker with Mike Guerriero.
Competition on the nine-hole course is divided into two divisions. Flight A is for players with a handicap of 13 or lower. Flight B is for players with a handicap of 14 or more. The league is a 100 percent handicap league. Any man 55 years or older is eligible for membership. We have many openings for this year, and you can sign up anytime throughout the the season.
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00
Trevor Williams 166,101
Keith Kyte 137,119,115
Anthony Baio 111,73
Alyssa Williams 141,133,120
Lauren Walpole 114,105,96
Kaitlyn Insinna 106,68,67
Robert Brooler 107,97
Frank Pietraniello 94
Matthew Banfich 140,95
Nicky Barrera 115,99
Jake Mauro 107
Anthony Barrera 97,79
Michael Pietraniello 97,87
Ty Peranzo 95
Steven Tiemer 92
Nick Bevinetto 90,82
Ava Banfich 103,101
Julianna Mauro 103,87
Gianna Centonze 102,91
Victoria Gray 91,87
Mike Rosen 87,86
Steven Brauer 85,83
Stephan Mandola 83
Joey Mohaudt 81
Pantelis Siriodis 80
Kelsey Casperson 85,73
Stephanie Tiemer 71,67
Kathleen Hoffman 68,65
Jason Tiemer 191,169,138
Max Benson 179
Andrew Scarpaci 168,162,148
Avery Benson 151,149,135
Matthew Brezinski 143,110
Ted Fiber 128,115,114
Paul Klein 126,107
Nicholas Pisano 123,115
Billy Walsh 108
Levittown Island trees
Michael Beck 117,89
Zach Pilser 114,110
Sophia Bloom 93,90
Olivia Bloom 81,79
Christian Tucci 88,85
Louis Bonaventura 84,79
Ava Tucci 74,65
— Submitted by the South Levittown Lanes