May 30, 2012 | The Long Island Catholic Vol. 51, No. 9  | BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY

Memorial Day weekend has many meanings. We, of course, first of all remember the dead, our own families and friends, those we carry in our hearts while, as a nation, we remember with pride and gratitude those who gave their lives in the defense of freedom and in seeking a sound and secure peace. My two sisters called me to tell me they “had visited the graves” of our family and prayed there and left flowers. At Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury I had the privilege of offering Mass in the mausoleum chapel with several priests and with so many who spent part of their day there.

For many Memorial Day is also “the first day of summer.” The parkways are crowded. Jones Beach had its air show. The East End saw many coming to open summer homes, spend a day or two and enjoy the good weather. All these are signs of the many gifts God has given to us who are blessed to live here on Long Island.

Two other “blessings” marked my weekend here in the diocese. The first took place Saturday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Home on Cuba Hill Road in Huntington. There the Missionary Sisters of Saint Benedict celebrated the 50th anniversary of their home for the elderly which was blessed 50 years ago when permission was given by Bishop Kellenberg to establish their chapel as a semi-public oratory. The 22 sisters who live, pray and work at St. Joseph Home are an extraordinary group of women. Their history is a reflection of the hope that only faith can guarantee in the midst of darkness.

Founded in Ukraine after World War I by a courageous religious sister who took pity on the orphans roaming the streets of Kiev, this band of consecrated women moved to West Ukraine and brought new hope to those whose lives had been devastated by the ravages of war. From the beginning they received help from our country through the bishop of Green Bay who invited the sisters to raise money in his diocese to help support their orphanages and homes back in Poland. The tragedy of war was the occasion for the birth of a religious order that sowed the seeds of hope and love in a new generation.

War also occasioned the next momentous event in their history. Their Mother General and another sister came here to seek funds for their work and were stranded in Brooklyn when World War II broke out. At the end of that war and not without many ups and downs, the Sisters were able to establish their home on Cuba Hill Road with their beautiful chapel as the center and the heart of a place that cares for the elderly with great love and devotion. Saturday in the presence of their Mother General from Poland the Sisters celebrated their 50 years of offering their lives of prayer and service with a Mass that several of our priests and I were privileged to celebrate to thank God for this extraordinary gift to our diocese.  May this place of life and hope continue to flourish among us!

A very different kind of celebration took place Sunday morning in Southampton. The parishioners of the Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary under the leadership of their pastor, Msgr. Jeff Madley, welcomed me to their parish to establish it formally as a minor basilica.  This designation of a church as a basilica is given by the Holy Father, an act that unites that church more closely to the See of Peter and designates it as having a special relationship with the four major basilicas of Rome, St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

I believe that this basilica will not only continue to be a parish of great spiritual vibrancy and pastoral life. It will become a beacon of the Church attracting the faithful across the East End and the diocese and beyond. It will be a place of pilgrimage, a house of prayer welcoming all into the holy beauty of the basilica itself. Dedicated to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, it will encourage devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of God’s Mother.

This will be a place where the liturgy will be celebrated with particular care and fervor. The music will develop to become a complement to the sacredness of the place and the Eucharist will be ever more the source and summit of the life of the parish for the parishioners and for all those who will be welcomed by them who come from other places.

My thanks go to the outgoing pastor, Msgr. Jeff Madley, and my prayers accompany the new pastor, Father Michael Vetrano and all the people of the basilica who together will make this basilica a center for Catholic life and Catholic witness.

For these and so many other places of witness to all the richness of our Catholic Church on Long Island, I ask that we all may thank God and be ever more eager to proclaim Christ Jesus and witness His life and love to one and all.