Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 05 November 2010 00:00
St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church has long been one of the great landmarks of the Village of Roslyn Harbor. And for the past 30 years, its Sunday services have been administered by Father Ronald Lauder, a longtime professor at St. John’s University. This is Father Lauder’s 30th anniversary at St. Mary’s; more significantly, he is celebrating his 50th anniversary in the priesthood.
“My experience of being a priest has been an incredibly happy experience,” Father Lauder told The Roslyn News on the occasion of his anniversary.
And most of that time as a priest has been in Roslyn, an experience that he calls “a great blessing,” adding that he has been “really grateful to administer to these people.” For his parishioners, the feeling is mutual. “He is a wonderful priest,” said Glen Head resident Marilyn Benson who has been attending St. Mary’s for up to 50 years. “He is very knowledgeable.”
Father Lauder has many fond memories of his time in Roslyn, among them are of Father Dan Fagan, who was the longtime parish priest at St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s is a pleasant, out-of-the way church located on Bryant Avenue just as drivers approach Cedarmere, the former William Cullen Bryant residence. In the late 1980s, it did make the national news. St. Mary’s most famous parishioner was William J. Casey, a World War II intelligence officer, an accomplished corporate lawyer, manager of Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 presidential campaign and Reagan’s first director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Casey died in 1987 just as the Iran-Contra controversy was in the news and his funeral, attended by both President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan became a national news story. However, Father Lauder did not officiate that funeral Mass.
A native of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Father Lauder was first ordained a priest in 1960. His first assignments were in his home borough, serving first at Our Lady of Good Council in Bedford-Stuyvesant and later, at St. Finbar’s in Bensonhurst. Father Lauder then went back to college for graduate studies, first at Catholic University in Washington and at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. From there, it was on to the teaching profession, which as with his duties at St. Mary’s, he still practices. From 1967-1985, he taught philosophy at Cathedral College and from 1985 to present, he teachers the same discipline at St. John’s University in Queens. Father Lauder has also taught at Brooklyn College, Queens College, New York University, and Princeton University’s renowned Theological Seminary.
All the time, Father Lauder has been a prolific author. He writes a regular column for The Tablet, the longtime journal of the Brooklyn-Queens diocese and Long Island Catholic. He has also contributed to Commonweal and the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times. Father Lauder is the author of 12 books, most recently, Love and Hope: Pope Benedict’s Spirituality of Communion (Resurrection Press, Totowa, NJ). Among his favorite publications is Magnetized by God: Religious Encounters In Theatre, Film, and Literature, a 2006 book that examines the presence (or absence) of God in various artistic expressions, including the work of such famous Catholic novelists as Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, filmmakers Frank Capra and Woody Allen, and playwrights Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill.
Father Lauder’s career, obviously, has been varied and wide-ranging. But each Sunday, he travels from his residence in Douglaston to the quiet church on Bryant Avenue. It is a trip he hopes to continue making for many years in the future.