Calvary-St. George’s gets a not-quite-new rector

Expansion of programs at St. George’s and beautification of church planned

Rev. Jacob Smith

Rev. Jacob Smith

By Sabina Mollot

As far as any of the parishioners are concerned, Reverend Jacob Smith, who’s been the priest-in-charge at Calvary-St. George’s for the past three years, has been the church’s leader for all that time.

However, due to certain formalities within the structure of the Episcopal Church, it wasn’t until last month that Smith, who’s been serving the double parish for the past decade, was called as its new rector. Normally, he explained, someone who began as a pastoral assistant, as he did at Calvary, wouldn’t get to become a rector at the same church, so his situation was an exception.

The city’s 199-Episcopal Church network also took the unusual step in seeking the counsel of the Diocese in calling Smith, and he’ll be assisting in the leadership of St. Ann’s, a church for the deaf. The date of his institution has not yet been set.

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Pro-life rally at Epiphany

Protesters got met with a few middle fingers hanging out of passing car windows. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Protesters got met with a few middle fingers hanging out of passing car windows. (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

On the heels of a near government shutdown in Washington over funding of Planned Parenthood, a pro-life rally was held locally in front of Epiphany Church on Sunday. This particular rally, with around 40 protesters participating, was in support of a national pro-life movement called Life Chain that holds rallies every October.

Beth Mumm, a resident of Peter Cooper Village and the organizer of the event in front of the Gramercy Catholic church, said that Life Chain has been organizing these rallies for longer but she has organized this event in Manhattan for the last three years. The website for National Life Chain says that the organization has been holding rallies since 1987, when the first event was held in two small California towns.

Mumm said that most of the people who usually come to participate are parishioners at Epiphany, but this year there was also a group that traveled from Hicksville on Long Island, as well as a handful of people from St. Brigid’s on Avenue B and churches in Brooklyn. Representatives from the religious community also participated, including sisters from Sisters of Life and friars from Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.

While the original Life Chain rally that started almost 30 years ago consisted of an actual chain, one of people linking arms and standing in prayer, the current incarnation involves participants standing on the sidewalk and displaying signs that say “Abortion kills children,” “Adoption: the loving option” and “Jesus forgives and heals.”

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Dr. Phyllis Block, wife of Brotherhood’s founding rabbi

Rabbi Dr. Irving Block, founder of the Brotherhood Synagogue, with Dr. Phyllis Robinove Block

Rabbi Dr. Irving Block, founder of the Brotherhood Synagogue, with Dr. Phyllis Robinove Block

By Wally Dobelis

We have lost another cornerstone of the Gramercy Park neighborhood, Dr. Phyllis Robinove Block, wife of the late rabbi, Dr. Irving J. Block, who was the founder of the Brotherhood Synagogue. Phyllis, as she liked to be called, the mother of Herbert Block and grandmother of Joseph, Isaac and Tamar, peacefully passed away in the early morning of Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel hospital. The contribution of this this scholar of French literature was significant to the culture of our city life – she was the rabbi’s chief volunteer in publishing a bulletin, year after year, compiling memorial books and, particularly, helping  foster his mission of the brotherhood of religions. This was acknowledged by the presence of two mayors of NYC at the services, one in the sanctuary and the other at the first shiva – David Dinkins and Bill de Blasio, respectively.

The funeral was January 14, 11 a.m., at the synagogue, with Rabbi Daniel Alder officiating, with Cantor Michael Weis, Rabbi Samuel Greenberg of Young Israel of White Plains and Rabbi Michael Miller of Jewish Community Relations Council offering readings. Son Herbert and grandson Joseph reminisced about their mother. The interment was at the Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus, N.J.

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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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