St. Finbar celebrates 139 years with annual dinner dance

April 10, 2019 Jaime DeJesus
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To celebrate its 139th year, Saint Finbar Catholic Church held its annual dinner dance, this year at Rex Manor, 1100 60th Street, on April 6.

At the event, which also serves as a fundraiser for the church, individuals who have made a significant impact on the parish were honored as attendees dined  and danced.

St. Finbar’s Father Michael Gelfant called the day a success.

“We do this every year. It’s one of our major fundraisers, but really it’s an opportunity for the parish to celebrate what we’ve accomplished over the year as a parish community and also to acknowledge that we don’t exist on our own,” he explained. “We also acknowledge the Bath Beach and Bensonhurst community and our interaction with other civic organizations and politicians. This is the night we try to bring everyone together and celebrate who we are as a parish and our people.”

About 200 people attended, Gelfant said.

Honorees included Geraldine Lippman, who received the Richard G. Catarelli Award. The other honorees were Lazaro and Julia Bulux, Yvonne Maida and Sharon Toledo, director of the HeartShare School, who received the Caritas award.

Lippman, said Gelfant, taught religious education at St. Finbar for nearly 27 years, and also served on the Catholic school board.  “So she has given a lot of her time,” he stressed.

Lippman was thrilled to receive the award, which she noted, was named after a parishioner who had died on 9/11.

“It was a great honor,” she said. “The award was presented to me by his wife. I knew Richard. He was an extraordinary man who was dedicated to the life of the parish. It meant very much to me to be honored in that way in front of my parish family, and in front of my home family and friends.”

Toledo, Gelfant said, had helped the parish “Learn about autism and now develop programs to help parents and children with autism,” he said. Maida, he went on, has taught children in the neighborhood how to dance for over 20 years. “She was the only act in town at one time,” he added.

As for the Buluxes, Gelfant identified them as “Leaders in our Hispanic community.

“St Finbar was the first Hispanic community in South Brooklyn,” he went on. “It was the first place they were welcomed. When you talk about leaders trying to welcome the stranger, our undocumented community is 25 years old.”

The dinner dance helped with the parish’s finances.

“The church never shies away from any fundraising,” Gelfant said. “We don’t get  government money. Everything we have is given to us by people, 100 percent locals. These fundraisers are a special opportunity to fund special projects. St Finbar is 109 years old  and is ready to be air-conditioned for the first time because of the efforts of the people.”

Indeed, noted, Lippman, “St. Finbar is the mother church of Bensonhurst and Bath Beach. We still have a strong parish,” she said. “Our people are active in the community. When you come to Mass on Sunday, the pews are filled, the parishioners are involved in the parish.

“Accolades must be given to Father Gelfant to all the work he has done for the parish of St. Finbar and the restoration of the church,” she went on. “He inspired everyone to work. We love being a part of St. Finbar and he’s been a blessing to us.”

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