Weekly Ministry Spotlight Archives

Funeral Servers

Ministry Profile:
Funeral Servers
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

Though there was a real risk for funeral servers to return to their ministry at Saint Peter’s, the faithful stewards always answered the call to serve. “I don’t even think about the risk,” says funeral server Gene Getter. “I can’t imagine what families went through. I can’t imagine not having a funeral for a loved one. I just figured that if the church feels that they can do this again, then I’m a part of that.”

The funeral servers are currently twelve parishioners that perform one of the Corporal Works of Mercy. “They assist in setting up the funeral liturgy and serve at the Mass or service,” explains Deacon Paul Kazanecki. “It is a beautiful ministry in that you are able to provide some comfort to a grieving family.”

The servers graciously help families to honor lives that have been lost while still respecting the restrictions of the quarantine. As those restrictions have lessened, more people have begun safely attending services. “There were a lot of people in the church at the funeral I served at two weeks ago,” shares funeral server Pat Christen. “They all had masks. More people are attending. Many more people.”

The funeral serves are hesitant to be the subject of a spotlight. They are more likely to gratefully share what they get from the experience, not what they bring to it. “I am humbled to be a part of it,” says Getter. “You are intimate in someone’s life. I learn so much about the person by listening. The homilies are incredible. You learn about a person’s impact on their family and their career.”

If you have the call to become an altar server at funeral liturgies, contact Deacon Paul Kazanecki at pkazanecki@saint-peter.org.

Respect Life Ministry

Ministry Profile:
Respect Life
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

The challenges of the past year have given us all a more acute perspective on the gift of life and the loved ones who share that gift with us. The Respect Life Ministry is especially aware of this.

“Hopefully the world has had to stop and think about what’s important,” reflects ministry leader Maria Brockmeier. “So many lives were lost during the pandemic. I hope that people are thinking more about the lives that matter and about the issues that matter.”

For The Respect Life Ministry, the issues that matter all come down to one certainty: “Every life is sacred,” says Brockmeier. “Made by God Himself and created in His own image and likeness.” With tremendous empathy and selflessness, the ministry has been actively supporting people facing both start of life and end of life challenges.

Meeting through Zoom, the ministry has worked to continue to be a resource to the community. The Ministry once again organized the annual St. Peter’s Mother’s Day Baby Shower collecting baby items, diapers, and monetary donations for local crisis pregnancy centers. Throughout the quarantine, many members of the Respect Life Committee have continued to volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers such as Birthright in Maywood and New Hope Pregnancy in Westwood. In addition, members have participated in the “40 Days for Life Campaign” praying the rosary while social distancing outside the abortion clinic in Hackensack and they have peacefully protested the Reproductive Freedom Act at various locations.

Unfortunately, the ministry had to postpone guest speaker Chris Bell, founder of Good Counsel Homes which houses and helps women in crisis pregnancies. They hope to reschedule Bell so that he may share his inspiring message. The ministry was also unable to screen the movie “Unplanned” during the “Lenten Afternoon at the Movies”. In place of the public screening, the ministry will make arrangements to drop off the DVD at any parishioner’s home.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, Jeremiah 1:5,” quotes Brockmeier modestly stating the values of the ministry. Though she speaks with great humility about the work of the Respect Life Ministry, the ministry’s actions reflect the enormity of the support offered by the members. “I do what I can. I volunteer and I do my part,” says Brockmeier. “The rest is up to God.”

The Respect Life Ministry’s next meeting will be Monday, Sept.13th at 7pm on Zoom. If anyone is interested in joining our Respect Life Ministry, please email Maria Brockmeier: brockmeier@verizon.net

Telephone Outreach (Care Calls)

Ministry Profile:
Telephone Outreach
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

“We live in an area that was hit very hard. I think it’s hard for people to understand. People were sick, getting sicker, and dying,” remembers Donna Grotheer. As COVID ravaged the country, assisted living and senior communities became dangerous breeding grounds for the deadly virus. In addition, homebound elderly were among the most at risk. “We had people leaving the residence and care facilities. Once they got home, they were in quarantine. The people who remained really remained isolated. People languished. Families really went through tough times. And for most of last year no one could visit.”

The Ministry for the Sick and Homebound found itself both urgently needed and at the same time forbidden from doing its job. They were both in danger of exposing at-risk parishioners and of becoming exposed themselves. It would be an impossible scenario for most, but ministry leader Donna Grotheer did not give up.

Inspired by telephone outreach ministries she researched, Grotheer committed to making an outreach work for Saint Peter’s. The goal is simple and profound: reconnect. Grotheer states the volunteer callers’ clear message, “We want to know how you are doing. We miss you. You are not forgotten. If you want to talk, we’ll listen. If you want to pray, we’ll pray. And If you need any kind of resources, we can get people to do that.”

The new telephone outreach has lived up to that promise. Since the ministry began this spring, the 20+ volunteer callers have reached more than 260 parishioners who are aged 80 and older. Callers have made arrangements for the delivery of groceries and essentials. Callers have arranged for eucharistic visits. Volunteer Michele Piserchia has been remarkably successful at booking vaccination appointments for parishioners. Eddie McMahon took care of one senior’s lawn and yardwork. The outreach volunteers are doing everything they can to be there for our Parish. “There was one woman who recently passed away,” shares Grotheer, “The Care Caller was there for the family and helped connect Father Mike to the family.”

Talk with Grotheer or any of the Care Callers and you will hear amazing stories about each of the parishioners they reached. Though the times may be filled with tragedy and despair, the stories are not. Grotheer and her ministers share each story with awe and respect, gratitude and hope. They are overwhelmed by the grace and courage with which parishioners survive the challenges of the pandemic. To hear the Care Callers talk, you would think they were the ones who were being ministered to.

“Care Callers have found the experience to be so gratifying,” says Grotheer. “The experience is so helpful to the people they are calling and to the ministers. You could tell healing is going on. It’s creating a bond. People need this. God bless these people.”

With the help of volunteers, the telephone outreach hopes to expand and start to connect with the parishioners aged 70 and older. If you are able and willing to volunteer by making phone calls to parishioners, you can complete an online sign-up form on our parish website.

Youth Ministry

Ministry Profile:
Youth Ministry
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

Katie Mascari, a Texas native who has joined the Parish last year through the Echo Graduate Service Program at the University of Notre Dame, took over the Youth Ministry during the most isolated of times. “It has been an interesting year stepping into youth ministry and not being able to even meet a lot of the teens I am supposed to be ministering to,” shares Mascari. “Thankfully we have our youth ministry team.”

Mascari meets weekly with a dedicated core team: Lauren Cardone, Sarah Gilmour, Katie Golden, Alison Guinta, Aidan McElroy, Aidan Mitchell, and Sofia Ruiz. The group has met in person for most of their meetings—obeying the health guidelines—and through these meetings, Mascari has come to know them and our community. “That has been really helpful,” she says, “To get to know them and to hear from them about what they miss about regular youth ministry and what they love about it. “

Together they continue to work to reach and provide for high schools wherever they are on their faith journeys—especially during these difficult times. On March 6th, the Youth Ministry hosted the annual Confirmation Retreat with an in-person and a virtual option for candidates. The seven teen leaders wrote talks to share with the candidates and lead small group activities. Mascari reflects, “It was really beautiful to see the leaders take responsibility for that. They took the lead and took the initiative to invite the candidates into this community.”

In late March, a year since the quarantine began, the Youth Ministry held its first in-person event—a movie night in the gym. It was a chance for teens to have a space where they meet and connect safely The Youth Ministry is now actively planning its annual Journey Retreat which typically would have happened in March and now will happen in May.

The Youth Ministry is determined to give something to the teens of the community who have been asked to sacrifice so much during these times. Mascari says, “In order to reach as many high schoolers as possible it is so important to push to do whatever we can to see them face to face, within the boundaries of what is safe and appropriate.”

Teens interested in being a part of the Saint Peter’s Youth Group you can reach out to them on Instagram at @stpeters.yg or by email at YouthGroup@saint-peter.org.

Evenings of Peace and Friendship

Ministry Profile:
Evenings of Peace and Friendship
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

“So many of us have been excused from having to physically practice our faith,” reflects ministry leader David Ashley. “This loss of our Parish community is a tragedy of this pandemic.” But the Evenings of Peace and Friendship that Ashley, Vinny Gagliostro and the members of the Small Christian Community CORE committee host through Zoom each month have continued to give parishioners the opportunity to put their faith into practice.

Parishioners gather on the 2nd Tuesday of the month (and weekly during Lent and Advent) to read and reflect on the upcoming Sunday Scripture readings. The evenings start at 7:30pm with a time of open conversation, then the gathering commences with a couple of minutes of silent meditation as Natalie Dengler plays the harp. Afterwards, an opening prayer is offered and a volunteer then leads the gathered group through a reading of the scripture for the upcoming Sunday Mass. After a few moments of silence to reflect on the Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to speak, those present call out a word, a phrase or an image that has touched them. This begins a free-flowing discussion exploring the depth and relevance of the reading. And for the past year, all of this has continued to happen virtually.

“We’ve always had energetic, vibrant conversation in person—however on Zoom, there’s a sense of freedom, a palatable openness” says Ashley. “People say the internet isolates you from responsibility, yet we’ve experienced the opposite. There is a relaxed attitude being in your home on your comfy chair or couch which creates an even more spontaneous gathering. We are not sitting in rows in the chapel in a ‘lecture hall’ environment.”

“The discussion opens up a lot of doors,” comments Ashley who emphasizes that the Tuesday discussion doesn’t replace the Sunday worship; it enhances it. “There are insights that I had never envisioned that someone will bring to the conversation. So when we go, physically or virtually, to Church on Sunday, everyone is prepared and intent on listening to the priest’s Homily and discerning how the Gospel is relevant in our lives today.”

During the pandemic, an average of 20 parishioners have participated each month—including parishioners who have moved away and those who are not local on the scheduled evening. All are welcome.

If you’re not on the mailing list and would like to attend an Evening of Peace and Friendship, please email: SCC@saint-peter.org for the link to the Zoom gatherings.

Lectors

Ministry Profile:
Lectors
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

In the early weeks of the pandemic, the Masses that were broadcast into our homes were made possible by Saint Peter’s essential works. On screen were a priest, the Director of the Music Ministry Jim Gregory and a lector. Three courageous souls risked so much in those early days to bring the celebration of the Gospel to the Parish.

“It was very moving because we still had to deliver a Mass to our parishioners and our faith community,” remembers Lector Ministry Leader Barbara Gallagher. “It was just the three of us, but we did it. We kept the parish together.”

From March to June, the lector was either Barbara Gallagher or Fred Diedrich. As Masses opened up some, 20 of the 41 Parish Lectors have returned. Though many Lectors were understandably concerned about the health risk, they still signed up to share at each Mass. Says Gallagher, “Everybody was afraid, but I can definitely say they put their love for the parish above their fear.”

The Lectors are an incredibly dedicated group. The length of service for the Lectors currently ranges between 11 and 30 years. Gallagher has served for 31 years. Lectors are present and artfully sharing readings at every Mass. In addition, they lector at Communions, Confirmations, and First Reconciliations. For Lent, lectors recorded daily Little Black Book readings that were a hit with Parishioners because they connected people in a personal way.

“The Lectors are there all the time. And you can count on them,” Gallagher states proudly and gratefully. “They are a blessing to our parish.”

If you would like to become a Lector, you can sign-up here.

Harrison House

Ministry Profile:
Harrison House
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

For nearly 30 years, the Robert A. Harrison House in Paramus has been a safe resource for people living with a deadly virus—HIV/AIDS. The Saint Peter’s Harrison House Ministry worried that the threat of another deadly virus, COVID-19, might keep them from meeting their monthly commitment as one of many churches that provide a healthy evening meal to residents. Thanks to the brave and selfless efforts of its members, the Harrison House Ministry not only continued to supply it’s promised month dinners, but also eleven additional meals which helped fill some of the unsupported nights.

Ministry Coordinator Al Ruhlmann acknowledges that this has been accomplished by the efforts of many devoted parishioners. “People stepped up I was very grateful for that,” said Ruhlmann. A small group of loyal cooks has continued to answer the request for help by providing meals. Seven members participated by providing additional dinners; some providing multiple dinners. All worked safely by observing the clear COVID instructions provided by the Harrison House’s resident manager.

In May, ministry member Rose Flanagan requested that then Deacon Nick Sertich provide spiritual support to the Harrison House residents. Deacon Sertich hosted a safe prayer service which was enthusiastically received. After the service, residents requested holy oil to bless the house.

During the Christmas season, Harrison House forwarded a “wish list” from the residents. Parishioner Margie Doyle coordinated the ministry’s efforts soliciting $650.00 in cash and gift cards. Doyle used those funds to provide a small personal gift and a gift card to each resident with the balance given to the house in the form of gifts card and household supplies.

Ruhlmann reflected, “So even though the pandemic was a stumbling block, the spirit of Saint Peter’s charity was able to overcome the pandemic and shine through.” If you’d like to volunteer, the ministry would love to provide additional regular meals for the residents. Volunteer cooks can contact Al Ruhlmann at 201-967-9362.

 

Singles Support Group

Ministry Profile:
Singles Support Group
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

The past year has been an isolating time for everyone—a reality that has encouraged the Saint Peter’s Singles Support Group to be an ever-present resource for our Parish. When our community went into quarantine last spring, ministry leaders Colleen Haerle, Kathy Marshall, and Barbara Maier made a commitment to keep the Singles Support Group’s 145 current members connected. The three leaders divided up the lists of contacts and began making regular calls to every single member.

As the reality of the quarantine settled in, the Singles Support Group knew they needed to do more. “It has been a challenging year for everyone,” Colleen Hearle reflected. “Support comes in many forms for the members.” The group has begun hosting Zoom meetings once or twice a month. Haerle shared, “It’s been a great way to stay connected and seeing people’s faces.” The leaders have maintained additional regular contact including emails, cards, and birthday calls. The Singles Support Group produces a monthly newsletter sharing individual stories and news of the positive things happening in members’ lives. When the weather was warmer, groups met for walks at Van Saun Park and socially distant lunches at Memorial Park in River Edge. They hope to return to these events in the spring.

As the group continues to connect during the long winter, the Saint Peter’s Singles Support Group is looking past the quarantine to better days. This September will be the ministry’s 30th anniversary. Haerle said, “We are hoping to celebrate together in person.” For more information, visit www.StPeterSupport.com

Faith Formation

Ministry Profile:
Faith Formation
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

As massive staffs work to keep school districts functioning across the state, Eileen Hanrahan and the Faith Formation staff are single handedly rethinking every aspect of their program in order to continue the religious education of the children of our parish. Even though no students are able to enter the building, the Saint Peter’s Faith Formation program still reaches 500 students from 350 families.

The entire program—from registration to celebrating first sacraments—had to be approached from a new perspective. The program is built around 30 to 35 hours of instruction—including family GIFT (Generations In Faith Together) gatherings and corporal acts of mercy. Looking at the thoughtfulness and ambition of the curriculum, Hanrahan knew that, “just doing the chapters was not going to do it.” Hanrahan welcomed four volunteer catechists at each grade level to work together as a team developing lessons and sharing resources. “Everyone came together and we said, this is how are we going to do this.”

At the end of the year Maryann Zoppi retired after 24 years as an invaluable Administrative Assistant in the Faith Formation Office. However, Faith Formation gained a new asset this fall when Katie Mascari, a masters theology student in Notre Dame’s Echo Graduate Service Program, joined the staff. Working without a tech team or IT specialist, Mascari and Hanrahan developed a new online curriculum and platform. In addition to virtual lessons, families attend or stream mass and reflect on questions in a Google Form. Hanrahan stated, “I wanted to make sure families were still connected every Sunday to Saint Peter’s.”

Father Mike and Hanrahan even found a way to safely celebrate the sacraments that had been prohibited in the spring. Though attendance was restricted for the fall First Communions and Confirmations, families found the smaller celebrations to be especially meaningful. “The students had a real desire to receive the sacraments,” said Hanrahan, “It was so Holy Spirit filled.”

Hanrahan is deeply sympathetic to the challenges faced in every home at any time—but especially during this past year. “In this COVID world, you have to feel for the families. I don’t want to have this year to be wasted.” Hanrahan recognizes and honors the added work placed on families. “The first catechist of your child is the parent. I have to meet them wherever they are.”

A year later, this spring’s sacraments and the summer programs are just as uncertain. But The Faith Formation staff is grateful and ready. “We have so much to do,” Said Hanrahan. “Tomorrow I’m going to wake up, say my prayers, and put one foot in front of the other.”

Rosary Society

Ministry Profile:
Rosary Society
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

No matter how difficult and distant our lives have been during the pandemic, members of Saint Peter’s Rosary Society have continued to come together in prayer. In fact, it is their belief in prayer that transcends the isolation and the uncertainty of these challenging days.

The society, under the leadership of Andrea Schick and Patti Seco, meets every Monday evening through Zoom to continue to pray the Rosary together. They have made every effort to help all of the members of the ministry to manage the technology and to join in prayer. The group, which averages twenty participants each week, has included former Saint Peter’s parishioners who have moved to other states.

Praying together virtually has all sorts of technical complications but member Jeannette Trinkleback has found a practical way to facilitate the meetings. Members logon early to have open conversations—connecting and sharing with one another. At 7:30, the members share their individual intentions for the prayers. Then, Trinkleback asks for volunteers to lead a decade. She moderates the Zoom chat, unmuting the decade leader and muting the others so that all might pray together even though they are all in distant homes.

The original plan was to meet once a month, but the time praying together has proven so valuable that the Society now meets every week. Even on the darkest days, the Rosary Society has drawn strength and hope from their collective prayer. “I have a strong belief in the power of prayer,” said Trinkleback. “Through the power of prayer, we are able to endure during the pandemic and whatever life throws at us.”

If you would like to join the Rosary Society, contact Andrea Schick at schickfam@yahoo.com for details.

Music Ministry

Ministry Profile:
Music Ministry
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

On the afternoon of March 15, 2020, the first Sunday that Saint Peter’s was unable to celebrate Mass due to the quarantine, Director of the Music Ministry Jim Gregory cantor Vincent McHale quickly recorded some psalms and some music for Lent and Holy Week. As we enter Lent a year later, the music ministry has persevered and stayed necessarily present during our worship in these trying times.

For those early weeks, Gregory and McHale worked virtually creating videos that could be inserted into the Mass live stream. As the reality of the pandemic set in, Gregory decided to explore other possibilities. Gregory reached out to members of the adult choir to see if they were willing to participate in a virtual choir. Their responses were inspiring. “They felt this need,” shared Gregory. “They love to sing. They love ministering.”

Choir members learned their parts individually at home and recorded tracks on their phones. Gregory then sound mixed and assembled all of the individual performances into a full choral recording. To accomplish all of this, Gregory learned new skills and software. But the technology wasn’t the lesson he has taken from this challenge. Said Gregory, “This has taught me so much about how much love people have for singing and for our Parish.”

The music ministry is doing everything it can to share that love. Gregory and McHale are back performing live at masses. They are joined by percussionist Dan O’Keefe, a volunteer who has been playing at St. Peter’s since he was a teenager. The musicians make sure to take all precautions such as keeping windows open, staying appropriately distant, and remaining masked. Lyrics are often included in the live streams and PDFs of sheet music are posted on the Saint Peter’s webpage.

With the support of Father Mike, Gregory wanted to once again bring something special to the Christmas masses. A dozen choir members performed in person, sitting distant in the first four pews. And three singers performed from the balcony. Gregory was especially moved by the children’s choir. Almost the entire children’s choir as well as some alumni worked together to create a virtual choir video presentation of their annual Christmas program. “When it came down to it, those kids were really excited to sing,” shared Gregory. “It makes me very hopeful for when we get back to normal.”

Gregory continues to bring vital music to each Sunday mass and he looks forward to finding ways to bring joy to our Easter celebration.

 

St. Peter’s Parish Food Pantry

Ministry Profile:
Saint Peter’s Parish Food Pantry
Faithful Stewards in the time of COVID

In March of 2020, the 10 plus members of the Saint Peter’s Food Pantry staff were working tirelessly to keep the shelves stocked with donations and to support the 20 to 25 families coming to the pantry each week. When our world went into quarantine in the middle of the month, that challenge for supplies grew—and so did the need from families.

Within weeks, ministry leader Joan Daly found a way to open the pantry back up. She began working alone to restock the shelves and devised a way to get necessities to customers. In those early months of the quarantine, while all families were worried about getting essential groceries in their homes, Daly was working especially hard to provide for those in need.

“Sometimes we are down to nothing on the shelves,” Daly shared. “But Father Mike always says everything will work out.” And it does. Thankfully, parishioners continue to donate generously. The Lions Club did a mailing on behalf of the pantry at Thanksgiving. And Volunteer Mary Pennotti has resumed helping Daly with the weekly work—though they are never in the pantry at the same time. Every Tuesday, Pennotti visits Trader Joe’s who donates whatever they have available, including some essentials. Daly said, “For some families, this allows them to have meat, vegetables, eggs…”

Families now make appointments with Daly to safely visit the pantry and pick-up bags that have already been prepared for them personally by Daly and Pennotti. “I take anyone that walks through our doors. We don’t ask for any information,” said Daly. “We just want to help people.”

If you would like to help, supplies can be left in the blue hampers located in the Gathering Space. The Food Pantry remains closed. Hours are by appointment. Please call Joan Daly at the rectory at 201-261-3366 to arrange a time.