From Allentown to Levittown


Fr. Kevin Dillon

Fr. Kevin Dillon is the Pastor of St. Boniface Martyr Parish, Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY.

On January 31, 2017, John Oliver Barres became the Fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre.  Amid much pomp, pageantry and solemnity Bishop Barres was escorted to the Cathedra (Bishop’s chair) in St. Agnes Cathedral by His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Metropolitan/Archbishop of New York and Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America to succeed Most Rev. William F. Murphy, Fourth Bishop of Rockville Centre.  The ceremony was very impressive and over fifty Bishops and three Cardinals were present as well as hundreds of priests and deacons from the Dioceses of Allentown, PA, Wilmington, DE and Rockville Centre NY.  A number of Religious Sisters and Brothers were also present as well as a myriad of lay people from all backgrounds and ages.

In an interview before the Mass of Installation, Bishop Barres joked that he is the only United States Prelate that has something in common with Billy Joel.  Billy Joel wrote a song about Allentown (Bishop Barres’ former Diocese) and Joel hails from Long Island (Bishop Barres’ new Diocese).  Bishop Barres was then asked if he was familiarizing himself with all the little towns, hamlets and villages of Nassau and Suffolk Counties and he replied yes and that he knew where Levittown was.  He then went on to say “I guess I am going from living in Allentown to living near Levittown!”

I thought it might be of value to write a little bit about Bishop Barres’ predecessors here in our Diocese.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre was established on April 16, 1957 by Pope Pius XII, prior to that we were a part of the Brooklyn Diocese.  The First Bishop of Rockville Centre was Walter P. Kellenberg who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New York on June 2, 1928.  In 1954, Bishop Kellenberg was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensberg, NY where he served until 1957 when he was consecrated Bishop of the newly formed Rockville Centre Diocese.  Bishop Kellenberg served at a time when church attendance was high, the reforms of Vatican II were being implemented and new Catholic High Schools like Holy Trinity and St. Pius X were being opened.  His episcopal moto was Queen, Guide Me by Thy Light.  He retired in June 1976 when John R. McGann succeeded him.

Bishop McGann, the Second Bishop of Rockville Centre was consecrated a Bishop on June 24, 1976.  He is the only Bishop in the history of our Diocese to be consecrated in a place other than our Diocesan Cathedral.  Bishop McGann’s installation took place at the Nassau Coliseum because he wanted as many people as possible to be able to attend.  I was privileged to be in attendance at the ceremony because I was a freshman at the high school seminary St. Pius X.  Bishop McGann was loved by laity, priests and religious.  His easy going and friendly down to earth personality made him approachable.  He encouraged lay participation in the Church and continued the teachings of Vatican II.  Bishop McGann’s episcopal moto was Serve the Lord with Gladness, and that he did in his 25 years as Bishop.  He retired in January 2000, when James T. McHugh succeeded him.

Bishop McHugh, the Third Bishop of Rockville Centre served only for 11 months and was victim to an untimely death.  In his brief tenure as Bishop here in Rockville Centre, Bishop McHugh is best remembered as being a champion and defender of life in all its forms from the womb to the tomb.  He was a man of profound humility, who even though was a successor to the Apostles was not afraid to do his own dishes, cook for himself and even take out his own garbage.  His episcopal motto was What Shall I Return to the Lord?  In December of 2000, Bishop James McHugh succumbed to cancer and died.  William F. Murphy of Boston succeeded him in September 2001.

Bishop Murphy, the Fourth Bishop of Rockville Centre was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston and was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Boston on December 27, 1995.  On September 5, 2001 Bishop Murphy was installed as Bishop of Rockville Centre at St. Agnes Cathedral.  He has served on numerous committees with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic University of America. Less than a week after his installation, Bishop Murphy led us through the tragic and uncertain times following the 9/11 attacks, reminding us that mercy, forgiveness and trust in God will eventually led to healing.  He celebrated a hope filled and uplifting mass at the Nassau Coliseum a month after the attack in honor of all the First Responders, both living and deceased.  Bishop Murphy is fluent in four languages, French, Spanish, English and Italian. His episcopal motto is No Other Name.  He retired on January 31, 2017 when he was succeeded by John Oliver Barres.

Bishop Barres brings a love for the youth of our Church and is encouraging them to be proud of their Catholicity.  He has a love of sports, particularly basketball and played J.V. Basketball for Princeton University.  He can even be seen on You Tube videos conducting basketball practices with the young people of his former Diocese, Allentown.  His episcopal motto is Holiness and Mission.  As a priest of this Diocese I look forward to working with and supporting Bishop Barres and welcoming him here to St. Boniface Martyr in the not too distant future.  Ad Multos Anos, Bishop Barres.

– Fr. Kevin

Fr. Kevin Dillon’s letter appears online here weekly and in the St. Boniface Martyr Parish Bulletin

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