OP-ED: The legacy of Mario Cuomo

In November, 1993, Governor Mario Cuomo signed a bill into law that created a new $210M  program for mental health services by redirecting savings from psychiatric hospitals that were closing and creating a network of local programs. (Pictured with Cuomo are Sanders, the bill’s author, and State Senator Nick Spano.)

In November, 1993, Governor Mario Cuomo signed a bill into law that created a new $210M program for mental health services by redirecting savings from psychiatric hospitals that were closing and creating a network of local programs. (Pictured with Cuomo are Sanders, the bill’s author, and State Senator Nick Spano.)

By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Much has been written about Mario Cuomo since his passing a week ago. I had the honor to serve in government as a member of the New York State Assembly during his 12 years in office as governor. During that time I got to know him on a personal and political basis.

Mario Cuomo was a fiercely loyal man. Loyal to his family, loyal to his convictions and loyal to the state that he governed from 1983 through 1994. He was a man of high intellect and unquestioned integrity. These traits seem desperately wanting in today’s generation of politicians… with notable exceptions of course. Mario Cuomo did not need a press advisor to distill what he said on a given issue. He was clear and articulate, and he was unequivocal. Reason, logic and eloquent speaking were his stock in trade in government. And unlike most, he led by example.

He was his generation’s spokesperson for the virtues of government as a force for good. When President Ronald Reagan declared that government itself was the problem, Mario Cuomo advocated the view that government is an equalizing and essential instrument for social progress when entrusted in the right hands. And like Lincoln he sought out “the better angels” of people’s nature.

When the public and politicians were clamoring and pandering for the death penalty as a way to respond to rising crime rates, Cuomo stood apart at great political risk and prevented its use in New York. Although a devout Catholic, and contrary to the importunes of the Church hierarchy, Cuomo made the legal and moral case for a woman’s right to choose. Before a national audience in 1984 Cuomo warned against the growing inequality in America and the schism of “haves” and “have nots” that was leading to “a tale of two cities” 30 years before Bill de Blasio co-opted that theme. Like the Kennedys of the 1960s, Mario Cuomo inspired a new generation of young people to join public service through his intellect and charismatic eloquence.

When given an opportunity to run for president in 1988 and 1992 he demurred and put any national aspirations aside because he felt that his promised work in New York State was still unfinished. That decision came from his heart as well as his head. Logic, loyalty and commitment overruled what may have been his political passions and ambitions.

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From Vietnam refugee to NY clergy

Immaculate Conception Church celebrates a parochial vicar there nearly 40 years

Father Francis Buu (center) surrounded by other parish clergy at a December 28 mass celebrating his 40th anniversary of priestly ordination. (Photos by Kim Ramsay)

Father Francis Buu (center) surrounded by other parish clergy at a December 28 mass celebrating his 40th anniversary of priestly ordination. (Photos by Lisa Ramsay)

By Sabina Mollot

When Francis Xavier Buu was a child growing up in South Vietnam, he knew he wanted to become a priest, and against all odds, including his country’s economy collapsing in 1975, and his becoming a refugee not long after he’d become ordained, he still had his dream of working in the Catholic church come true.

On December 28, 2014, Buu, now a parochial vicar, celebrated his 40th anniversary of priestly ordination, 39 of those years at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

Over 100 people, mainly friends and family, were in attendance at a dinner, held that day while a crowd of over 400 people, mainly parishioners, attended a celebratory mass, also that Sunday, in his honor.

In a twist of irony, Reverend Buu, whose heavily accented English can still be tough to understand to those who don’t know him well, is well known throughout the parish community for the personal service he offers, usually through one-on-one communion or counsel.

Immaculate Conception’s pastor, Reverend Monsignor Kevin Nelan, noted that Buu comprehends English as well as anyone born in the United States. However, he’s always had trouble speaking it.

“It was a great challenge,” said Nelan, of finding the best way to put Buu’s skills to use since, despite his intelligence, the language barrier just made certain services expected of a vicar impossible. “He can’t teach a class or give a homily.” But, Nelan added, “For most people who know Father Buu, it’s not so much about what he communicates verbally, but what he communicates emotionally.”

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