Brooklyn auxiliary bishop embraces Pope Francis' challenge to simplify life

Bishop Raymond Chappetto

Bishop Raymond Chappetto
Who he is: Auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Lives in: Flushing, N.Y.

Sr. Camille: Ray, I first met you about 30 years ago, when you and Fr. George Cowan began a team ministry as co-pastors of Our Lady of Miracles parish in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. I believe that constituted a new venture for our local church. How long did that last?

Chappetto: We were together as a team for six years (1983-1989).

Was it productive?

Yes, I think it was very productive because we worked so well together and the people responded to our invitation to get involved in the life of the parish.

What did you learn from it?

I learned to work in a collaborative manner and I learned to recognize the gifts of so many people.

Please say something about your subsequent parochial experiences.

After six years of team ministry, Father Cowan became pastor of St. Rose of Lima, Brooklyn, and I stayed on as pastor of Our Lady of Miracles for six more years. From there, I was appointed episcopal vicar of the Brooklyn West area of the diocese of Brooklyn. Then I went to Our Lady of Snows in Floral Park, Queens, where I was pastor for 13 years and had the wonderful opportunity to oversee the building of a brand-new church. In April of 2012, I was appointed pastor of St. Kevin Parish in Flushing, Queens, and in May of 2012, I was appointed auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Brooklyn.

What led you to the priesthood?

It was a combination of a strong Catholic family and the influence of the priests and religious sisters in my parish.

Have you experienced many changes as you've continued in that ministry?

Yes. The world has changed, the church has changed, and hopefully, I have changed as well. Change is a sign of growth, and I have learned that I need to be flexible and adapt to new circumstances.

Can you share any of its satisfactions?

I love being a priest, and I love being a bishop. The main reason is because I have an opportunity to help people grow in their relationship with God. There is great satisfaction for me in celebrating the sacraments, ministering to the sick, teaching young people about the faith, and serving people's spiritual needs in any way I can.

Was there a particular time when you were grateful that you chose priesthood?

Every day.

What in our current church pleases or challenges you?

I am very pleased with the direction that Pope Francis is taking us, as he is unafraid to tackle issues and challenge us to lead a more simple life.

Is there some change that you'd like to see?

I would like to see a greater involvement of the youth in the church and a commitment to remain faithful after receiving the sacrament of confirmation. The energy, the enthusiasm, and the zeal that young people can bring to our church will help us proceed confidently into the future.

What are your current experiences as auxiliary bishop and local pastor?

I really try to balance my time. Most of my work is serving as vicar general and vicar for clergy. I love and take any opportunities I can to help in the parish where I am assigned as pastor.

How has this position changed or challenged you?

I have more responsibility now than I have ever had in my life. As vicar general, I assist in the governance of the diocese. As vicar for clergy, I work with the priests on every level, and as pastor, I am involved in the spiritual and sacramental life of the parish. Of course, as auxiliary bishop, I visit many parishes for various reasons. I really enjoy visiting the parishes and meeting the people. Many people ask for prayers, and I try to remember them all.

What do you see as parishioners' greatest spiritual needs?

Taking time from their extremely busy lives to make room for God and to attend the various offerings that the parish provides for their spiritual growth when they may be overwhelmed by the routine of life and God is lost in the shuffle.

What gifts of grace do you wish you could give them?

The gift of silence in the midst of so much noise, and the gift of peace in their anxieties and worries.

How and with whom do you pray?

I pray the Liturgy of the Hours every morning with Fr. John Costello, the administrator of St. Kevin Parish. I pray before the Blessed Sacrament, and I pray with the people of the parish as often as I can.

What is your image of God?

To me, God is everything. I know he is a loving father, the savior of the world, and the spirit of love that lives within me.

Do you have a favorite Scripture passage?

I have many favorite passages, but two that stand out are Matthew 25 (the last judgment) and Romans 8 ("nothing can separate us from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus").

How has our current pope influenced you?

Pope Francis has challenged me to simplify my life. I have often used his quotes in my talks, especially to young people.

Where and with whom did you spend your childhood?

I was born in Astoria, Queens, and spent my life there until I went to the seminary. My mother and father were devout Catholics, and I am the middle of five boys. Growing up, we had a very happy home and had the privilege of attending Catholic schools and being involved in the life of our parish, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria.

I know that you speak Italian. Was that spoken in your home?

My mother spoke Italian, but not to us. I learned Italian after I was ordained because I found myself living and working in parishes with Italian-speaking communities.

As a child, did you have role models?

Yes. The priests of my parish were my heroes.

Was there a priest or teacher who influenced you?

I had a religious sister and one of the priests in the parish in particular who knew I was thinking of becoming a priest. They encouraged me by their words and example.

Where were you educated?

  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria
  • Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Brooklyn
  • Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Albany
  • St. John's University in Jamaica, N.Y.

How do you relax?

I enjoying walking and reading, as well as getting together with priest friends.

What else would you like us to know?

Every day is an adventure, and there are no boring days for me. I am so grateful to God for the many blessings he has given me. My family and friends who have supported and encouraged me throughout the years will always be in my prayers.

[Mercy Sr. Camille D'Arienzo, broadcaster and author, narrates Stories of Forgiveness, a book about people whose experiences have caused them to consider the possibilities of extending or accepting forgiveness. The audiobook, renamed Forgiveness: Stories of Redemption, is available from Now You Know Media.]

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