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.”
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.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 10:06
Last week, County Executive Ed Mangano declared amnesty for all speed camera tickets issued this summer.
Drivers across Nassau County were up in arms due to the recent implementation of the school zone cameras, which had issued numerous violations since they were installed just weeks ago. The source of residents anger with the county’s speed cameras stems from lack of warning and the cameras issuing speed violations even when school wasn’t in session.
According to Chris Mistron, director of Nassau County Traffic Safety, while some residents were taken by surprise, summer school hours were considered a violation period.
Thursday, 21 August 2014 00:00
Cantiague Park Senior Men’s Golf League had its fourth tournament on Thursday Aug. 7. We had 33 golfers and a record 8 who scored under 40. Low overall score was won by newcomer Ed Hyne with an impressive 33, his second low net in a row. Charlie Acerra scored a solid 35, and won low overall net with a 26; his best score in 4 years.
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 % 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. The league meets every Thursday at 7:30 a.m., but the formal tournament dates are only the first and third Thursday of the month through late October. We will have a final luncheon with prizes on our last meeting.
Thursday, 14 August 2014 00:00
Golfer Annie Park, 19, of Levittown came close at the U.S. Women’s Amateur tourney, but missed the cut, finishing at 149, 9 strokes over par and just one stroke away from the match-play cut-off.
“I couldn’t make any putts, so then I had more pressure into my shots to get it closer,” Park said, “but obviously that’s not going to work.”