Parishioners celebrate priest’s installation

November 23, 2011 Helen Klein
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Parishioners at St. Finbar’s crowded into the Bath Beach churchto celebrate the installation of Father Michael Gelfant aspastor.

The ceremony was performed in front of a standing-room-onlycrowd of about 550 by Bishop Octavio Cisneros on Sunday, November20 at the nearly century-old church at 138 Bay 20th Street.

Gelfant — who spent the last year and a half at St. Finbar’s asan administrator, performing the duties of pastor without the titlewhile the Diocese of Brooklyn considered consolidating St. Finbar’swith another parish because of low attendance — is the parish’s12th pastor, and his installation comes after he helped revitalizethe 131-year-old parish.

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I was moved to St. Finbar’s to see what could be done, Gelfantnoted. A year later, Mass attendance and money are up, and theDiocese decided not to close the parish. It makes me the youngestpastor in all of Brooklyn and Queens, and St. Finbar’s is theoldest parish in the area [of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach].

The 34-year-old Gelfant, who clearly relishes his post, stressedthat his installation, Ended the fear for people that the parishis going to close. I stimulated the community and got them to beproud of what was built before I got here. The response wasoverwhelming. People who maybe haven’t been I n church for a whilehave been coming back and the growth has sustained itself. When Igot here, mass attendance was about 650 to 700. It’s now about1,100 and offerings are up 32 percent.

He lets people know, he said, that going to church can be fun.You can believe in God and practice your faith well and have agood time, Gelfant explained. You can come in happy and leavehappy. The church is really a community. That’s what we arebuilding. We are building a family. Families have good times andbad times, but love is what holds everyone together.

Gelfant – who grew up in Canarsie where he attended Our Lady ofMiracles Church — was ordained in 2005, and spent the first fiveyears of his priesthood at St. Anselm’s Church in Bay Ridge, beforemoving over to St. Finbar’s in June, 2010.


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