Written by Youseph Rasheed Friday, 07 February 2014 00:00
“I don’t have a job. I have a life.” These are the words of Father Ralph Sommer, 57, who has dedicated his rich and inspirational life as a Priest to making his community a better one.
Sommer was born in Flushing Hospital and lived in Valley Stream up until he was eight years old. Afterwards his parents and three younger siblings moved to Garden City where he spent most of his life growing up.
“My parents encouraged us to be creative. They always wanted us to be doing something. Sure we had a TV but my parents preferred us to be active. My family would put on puppet shows and we even had a little family newspaper we would put together by getting news from the neighborhood. My entire family was in the parish choir. It made road trips exciting because we could always sing songs in harmony,” Sommer said with a chuckle.
Sommer attended St. Pius X in Uniondale. “It was a Catholic High School for boys who were considering a vocation for the priesthood,” he explained. “My uncle Ralph Besendorfer was a priest for the Brooklyn Diocese. He was my inspiration. The folks loved him. He used to come out to St. Bernard’s to help once in a while and some of the parishioners still remember him. I used to look at my uncle and tell myself that I could be like that.”
After high school Sommer went on to study at Adelphi where he became the editor of the university’s newspaper.
After graduating in May of 1978 with a degree in psychology, he immediately enrolled at The Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington in the fall of 1978. Upon his graduation in May of 1983 he was ordained a priest. “Ever since I was little I knew this is what I wanted to do,” said Sommer. “I never looked back. This was the right thing for me and I never regretted it.”
“My first parish was at Our Holy Redeemer in Freeport where I spent five and a half years,” explained Sommer. “After that I was sent to St. Thomas More Parish in Hauppauge where I served two six-year terms. I then became a pastor at St. Brigid’s in Westbury where I spent another 12 years.”
St. Bernard’s welcomed Sommer as a pastor in June of 2013. During a convocation at St. Bernard’s on Saturday, Jan. 24, churchgoers democratically decided that instilling the Catholic faith into the next generation should be their number one priority. Sommer said
“I agree with the notion and I also have my own personal goal to help the current generation of adults deepen their relationship with the church. My theory is if the current generation doesn’t grow in their faith then how could they pass it on to the next generation?”
Reflecting on his new gig as pastor of St. Bernard’s in Levittown, Sommer said “I really feel at home here. The unique thing about Levittown is that it was built all at once while other towns were built little by little. A lot of memories go back to the very founding of this town. There is a real sense of loyalty and community in Levittown. I am really happy to be here. Every morning when I wake up, I just smile.”