[Editor’s Note: Post originally appeared on SILive.com, where I was a breaking news intern from January to August 2016.]
The message was “this isn’t the last you’ve seen of us ” at Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church in Tompkinsville when hundreds filled the building to say goodbye with smiles, embraces, standing ovations and tears to 118 years of The Order of St. Augustine.
At the Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell, Augustinian friars who have served as pastors and assistant pastors over the the past few decades were in attendance, along with Bishop John O’Hara, Episcopal Vicar of both Staten Island and southern Manhattan.
The day of official transition for the parish is July 1. That’s the date when the administration of the Archdiocese of New York is set to turn the church over the Rev. Ambrose Madu.
“What has been going on here is going to continue,” Bishop O’Hara said of Father Madu’s arrival. “Obviously when things change not everything is the same. But what’s important is if the spirit remains, and this priest has spirit.”
When the announcement was first made in April of the Augustinian’s departure, Rev. Liam O’Doherty, pastor for six years, said people from the parish felt very sad and angry. But within about 15 minutes they were looking to help make the transition as smooth as possible, which made Rev. O’Doherty proud.
“Since then we’ve had a lot of emotions of sadness, saying goodbye and recalling the many things that have happened here,” he said. “It’s been an emotional roller-coaster, that’s a cliche, but certainly it is what has been going on the past week or so.”
Rev. O’Doherty said he was originally assigned to be the assistant to Rev. Jack Denny at Our Mother of Good Counsel in Byrn Mawr, Pa. But Rev. O’Doherty was immediately made his replacement once Rev. Denny was diagnosed with cancer. He died on June 20.
“When he walks into a room, he lights it up,” Rev. O’Doherty said. “He changed the lives of literally hundreds of people where he had served.”
“Nobody could ever replace Jack,” he remembers telling Rev. Denny’s mother at his funeral June 24. “But I’m going to try to continue his work.”