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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Yearly Archives: 2008
Wednesday

Redemptorist Brother Francis Alfone, the "Brother with the tattoo" and a known soft-touch for a sad story, died Wednesday, Dec. 31, at St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs, NY. He was 80 years old.

A Wake Service was held in the chapel of St. John Neumann Residence, where he had spent so much time in prayer, and the Funeral Mass was offered there on Saturday, Jan. 3, with Father Edmund Faliskie as main celebrant and Father John McGowan as homilist.

The seventh of 14 children born to Francis and Marie Vizone Alfone, Brother Frank was raised in Newark, NJ. Mr. Alfone was a painter by profession and restored church interiors among other buildings. Economic times were very difficult, though, during the Great Depression and Mrs. Alfone was in poor health and trying to meet all the special needs of a young daughter. Six of the other younger children, including Frank, were entrusted to the care of Sisters at St. Mary’s Orphanage.

Franciscan Sister Dolores Alfone, a younger sister, recalled the holidays when the Sisters, seeing a maturity in Frank beyond his age, would trust him to take his siblings home, via two bus rides, to see their parents at Christmas. "He was nurturing us ever after," Sister Dolores said.

At the age of 16, during World War II, Brother Frank decided to take his future into his own hands and ran away to join the Merchant Marines. "I was off to war and to sea in a career that was to last for ten years, taking me over the face of the earth," he wrote shortly before his profession as a Redemptorist. After a shipboard injury prevented him from going to sea again, he was honorably discharged and found a temporary home with one of his brothers, Gerardo, in Newark. A parish mission, preached by a Dominican, set him on the path of discerning his vocation and a parish curate offered spiritual direction. It was his late mother’s devotion to St. Gerard Majella, which she developed in her native Italy, that eventually led him to apply to the Redemptorists. He was accepted as a candidate Brother at Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY, in 1955 and made his first profession of vows in 1957, after spending a novitiate year at St. Clement’s Mission House in Ephrata, PA. His second novitiate year was spent in Ilchester, MD, in 1961, and he made his final profession of vows in August of that year.

Brother Frank then served at Esopus as a cook, baker, chauffeur and barber. Brother Francis Robert described Brother Frank as "a masterful cook." None of his recipes started with "Open a jar …," he said, and everything was made from fresh ingredients. When the two first met, Brother Francis recalled, his confrere impressed him "as a very holy man, a very pious and spiritual man."

In 1973, Brother Frank began a ten-year assignment to the Redemptorist minor seminary in North East, PA. It was at this time that abortion became an issue of political debate, following the Supreme Court ruling, Roe vs. Wade, legalizing the practice throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy. Brother Frank, with his ever-growing devotion to St. Gerard, patron of mothers and childbirth, took on a radio apostolate to spread St. Alphonsus’s message that God ‘is crazy in love" with His people and that each human life, from the beginning, is a sacred gift from God.

Father John Lavin was pastor of St. Cecilia Church in East Harlem when Brother Frank was assigned there in 1983. "It was quite a shock to him being in the inner-city," Father Lavin said, "but as soon as he got there, he wanted to start doing something." St. Cecilia’s is a beautiful historical landmark building, but at the time the interior walls were dingy and dirty from years of burning votive candles. "First, he washed down all the walls, then he buffed the floors, next he wanted to paint the church," Father Lavin said. Since the Archdiocese of New York holds the deed to the church, permission had to be obtained from the chancery. "They didn’t know Brother Frank or what he could do, so at first they said he could just paint a side altar," Father Lavin recalled. "But Frank had done some work with his father in painting churches and when the officials saw what he did with the side altar, they said he can do the rest of the church." With some help from Brother Francis and the loan of a scaffold from the D’Ambrosio company, which does church restoration, Brother Frank completed the transformation of the entire interior. "He told me later that during the last few weeks he was having inner ear problems, which made him dizzy, but he never said anything because he was determined to finish the work."

When Father Francis Skelly returned as pastor of St. Cecilia’s, he found Brother Frank serving as sacristan and working with parish social services. "He was a lot of fun and a great person for telling stories from his time in the Merchant Marines," he said. "His work in parish services was outstanding. He looked tough, but he was gentle with people and a soft touch. People in trouble would come asking for the Brother with the tattoo. He was godfather for I don’t know how many children in the parish and just about everyone else thought of him as a grandfather."

One of Brother Frank’s stories that Father Skelly especially appreciated was of the time his parents arranged to have a statue of St. Gerard shipped from Italy for St. Lucy Church, their home parish in Newark. When they told the steward that had come to pick up Gerardo Majella, the poor man checked and checked and could not find him on the passenger manifest. The Alfones had not made it clear that they were there for a statue in a crate and not a man who would walk off the ship. Parishioners protested vehemently when they learned in 2001 that "their Brother" was going to St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs, Father Skelly said. What they didn’t know, because of Brother Frank’s kindness and good humor, was that he was suffering from heart problems and difficulties with his knees and many years of combat­ing bouts of clinical depression.

At Saratoga Springs, Brother Frank became a great favorite of the nurses, according to Benedictine Sister Serafina Samouska, who directs the nursing staff. "He was a man of peace, of good sense, or humor, a man of prayer," she said. A whole wall of his room was decorated with pictures of babies and their mothers whom he had helped with prayers, advice, his stipend, or whatever he had to share with them. Sister Serafina also noted that Brother Frank had served as guardian for a sister who needed institutional care after the death of their mother. It was only in his last weeks that he arranged to relinquish this responsibility to his other surviving sister, Sister Dolores.

"Frankie was a wonderful big brother," Sister Dolores said. "I remember at his 50th jubilee he had a lot of people coming up from St. Cecilia’s to celebrate with him." She recalled blessed times when she and her brother were able to get some vacation days at the same time, he at San Alfonso Retreat House in West End, NJ, and she at her community’s summer house a short distance away. "We would get together and sit on a bench and talk about how good God is," she said.

Sister Dolores was expecting to see Brother Frank on New Year’s Eve, but the secretary at St. John Neumann’s, who had offered to pick her up and drive her to upstate New York, called and insisted on getting her a day earlier, due to a forecasted snowstorm. "I was able to visit him Tuesday night and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Rosary with him and Father Gerard (Szmkowiak) and Father Jim (Dowds). A staff menber waked her in the early hours of Wednesday morning and she was able to be at her brother’s side as he died. "I was so fortunate to be there when he died," she said. "I reminded him that the Blessed Mother was coming for him."

 

Br. Francis Alfone C.Ss.R.

  • Born: January 26, 1928
  • Professed: October 16, 1957
  • Died: December 31, 2008

 

Services

Monday

Fr. Eugene Grohe, C.Ss.R.
with his nephew, Gere Grohe.

On Thursday, November 13, 2008, Fr. Eugene Grohe, C.Ss.R., received the Judge Roscoe V. Elsworth Community Service Award from the Town of Esopus Library. The award ceremony was part of the 15th Annual Community Awards Dinner at LaMirage Restaurant in Port Ewen, NY.

Friday

Redemptorist Father Alfred Sieradski, described by one confrere as "a top sirloin cut of a parish priest," died Friday, Nov. 14, at St. John Neumann Residence in Saratoga Springs, NY. He was 86 years old and had been suffering from cancer.

A native of Rochester, NY, Father Sieradski had spent most of his priestly ministry in the Virgin Islands and the Vice-Province of Richmond.

A Wake Service was held on Sunday, Nov. 16, at St. John Neumann Residence and the Funeral Mass was offered there the following morning. Burial was in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Saratoga Springs.

Father Sieradski was the son of the late Carl and Veronica Janas Sieradski and was born on Oct. 12, 1922. He first came in contact with the Redemptorists at St. Joseph Church in Rochester and entered their minor seminary at North East, PA. He made his novitiate in Ilchester, MD, and first professed his vows in 1943. He earned his Master’s degree from Mount St. Alphonsus in Esopus, NY. A classmate, Father Sylvester Feeley, recalled that he, Father Edward McDonough and Father Sieradski "brought back the Legion of Mary to Esopus, taking care of the altars and, in October and May, posting daily meditations on Mary."

Father Sieradski, or Father Sears as he was often called, made his final profession of vows in 1946 and was ordained to the priesthood on Feb. 6,1949.

His first assignment was to Rome, where he earned an S.T.D. at the Angelicum in 1952. After a year of pastoral experience at Sacred Heart Church in Baltimore, Father Sieradski taught theology at Mount St. Alphonsus for eight years, until 1961. Although he was "a model theologian," Father Feeley said, his confrere had no gift for teaching and was delighted to be sent to Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. After serving there for three years, Father Sieradski was named rector of Holy Cross Church in Christiansted, St. Croix, from 1964-69.

"He was quite a foreign missionary," said Father Carlyle Blake, a native of St. Thomas. "He was always for the downtrodden and the poor." The Virgin Islands were then part of the Vice-Province of San Juan and Father Feeley, who served as Vice-Provincial, said he recalled only one time when he gave a "formal obedience" to his classmate: "The confreres at Holy Cross were worried about him because he worked so hard. They asked me to get him off the island for a few days of rest." Father Sieradski so threw himself into serving the community that he broke out in hives from the stress, Father Feeley added.

When Father Sieradski’s second term as rector came to and end, Virgin Islanders gave him a farewell dinner, complete with a message of thanks for all his work from Gov. Melvin Evans. Bishop Edward J. Harper, whom he had served as diocesan Vicar General, said, "It is fitting that we try to express our appreciation of all that Father Sears has done – for the civic community, for the growth of the spirit of ecumenism and the spirit of charity and cooperation among the churches of the Islands, for Christian education, for the Redemptorist Fathers, for the parishes in St. Thomas and St. Croix, for the People of God in the Virgin Islands."

After giving of himself to the point of exhaustion, Father Sieradski applied for and was granted the status of limited exclaustration, remaining a Redemptorist priest but living outside the community and not assigned to a particular ministry. During this time, he served in the District Attorney’s Office in Dedham, MA, where he specialized in drug education and enforcement issues. Father Thomas Travers said, "He’d try to get first offenders into rehab instead of jail; he was into rescuing people." This work followed a path he had taken in Esopus, Father Travers explained: "There, he’d spend his evenings rounding up the drunks and the homeless on the streets of Kingston." He would take those with alcohol problems to AA meetings and hook up the homeless with shelter opportunities. During the early 1970s, he also became involved with Father McDonough’s healing and restoration ministry at Mission Church in Boston and joined prayer groups associated with the Charismatic Movement.

When Father Sieradski returned to full-time ministry, he was assigned to Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, NY, in 1976 and then to St. Wenceslaus Church in Baltimore. In 1978 he was assigned to St. Clement Church in Saratoga Springs and, three years later, to Sts. James and John Parish in Baltimore. Father James Geiger, who served with him in Baltimore, is the one who described Father Sieradski as "a top sirloin cut of a parish priest." "He was always on the go, always doing, always happy; a good community man and a good confrere."

In the summer of 1984, Father Sieradski was assigned to the Vice-Province of Richmond, and he served the next 15 years in pastoral ministry in Wachula, FL; Orangeburg, SC; and Jacksonville, FL. "He took care of the out-missions from Holy Trinity in Orangeburg," said Father Geiger. Father Michael Hopkins, who first met Father Sieradski when the former was a student at Esopus, recalled that when his confrere was in Jacksonville, "a whole bunch of people came from the VI for his anniversary celebration" because he was so warmly appreciated in the islands.

In 1999, the year he turned 77, Father Sieradski was transferred to St. Alphonsus Villa in New Smyrna Beach, FL. Although his health was not good and he was "all bent over like St. Alphonsus with arthritis," Father Blake said Father Sieradski was still helping out. He raked the leaves and tended the garden at the Villa and, on weekends, went up to Orange Park, FL, to celebrate Masses there. "He taught us about growing older with grace," Father Blake said. "He was a very beautiful man and he truly, truly lived a Redemptorist life." Father Michael Koncik, who knew Father Sieradski at the Villa, said he was a joyful confrere and a good storyteller who very much cared about people. "He was always lively and enthusiastic," said Father Edward Gray, a former Vice-Provincial. "I enjoyed conversations with him – and his emphatic language; you always knew how he felt and where he stood!"

When he needed nursing care, Father Sieradski was transferred in 2004 to St. John Neumann Residence. Benedictine Sister Serafina Samouska, director of nursing there, described him as "very charismatic, with a sense of humor and a concern for others to the end." In his last days, when he could barely move a hand, he still blessed her, she said. "He touched thousands of lives," she added.

 

Rev. Alfred A. Sieradski C.Ss.R.

  • Born: October 12, 1922
  • Professed: August 2, 1943
  • Ordained: February 6, 1949
  • Died: November 14, 2008

 

Services

Thursday

Click on the links below to read the media coverage.

Catholic New York

Praying for Preachers Click here for more

Staten Island Advance

NOVEMBER 3, 2008 Your Catholic Church wants you back! Click here for more
OCTOBER 25, 2008 Bring your neighbors! Bring your friends! Bring a date! Click here for more
Monday

Provided below are links to photos and three homilies from the week’s events.

Homilies

At the Convocation, the Province recognized the outstanding contributions of Fr. Edwin Foley, C.Ss.R. and Fr. Sylvester Feeley, C.Ss.R. in moving it to a deeper understanding of elder issues – "for their ministries and witness in teaching us to age gracefully in the Lord." The recipients received a standing ovation from their confreres.


Fr. Sylvester Feeley, C.Ss.R.

Fr. Edwin Foley, C.Ss.R.

Highlights of the Convocation included Father Anthony Gittins, CSSp, Professor of Mission and Culture at the Catholic Theological Union, who spoke about religious life and the challenge to continue to reshape it for the future from his book, A Presence That Disturbs and Mr. Alejandro Aguliera-Titus, Assistant Director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, presented ways to embrace and welcome new groups of people and their cultures, in particular Hispanic/Latino Catholics, into our parish communities.


Fr. Anthony Gittens, CSSp
Professor of Mission and Culture,
Catholic Theological Union

Mr. Alejandro Aguliera-Titus
Assistant Director of the Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

 

Fr. Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R., Provincial Superior, presents Fr. Edmund Faliskie, C.Ss.R., Provincial Consultor, with the Province’s Praesidium Accrediation for "achieving the highest standard in child abuse prevention." Fr. Faliskie coordinated this effort for the Province.