Monthly Archives: April 2009

Reflections on the shootings

A colleague at WNBF radio told me about the shooting at the American Civic Association minutes after the first police radio reports were transmitted. I’ve covered a lot of news stories over the years and yet my first reaction was, “Are you kidding?” But the brutal truth came out quite quickly. Many dead and several injured, at a place that’s offered help for immigrants and held ethnic festivals for decades. We listened to the radio reports as we prepared for a Lenten Fish dinner at Holy Family Parish. Having no answers…yet lots of speculation on everything…I offered the only advice I could. Pray. Pray for everyone. The victims, the shooter, the first responders. Pray. Deacon Ed Blaine of St. James Church in Johnson City, was on retreat with other members of the Council of Churches staff in Windsor. He soon found himself at the Catholic Charities of Broome County office, just blocks away from the shooting scene.

The Chaplain’s Corps had been activated and he was one of four who helped thethought families waiting for word on their loved ones. “It was not an easy task. Catholic Charities did a great job. The city did a great job of handling the families,” he said. “They were about as compassionate as they could be. “We grieve our own community being attacked because it was an attack on the community,” Blaine said. “And we grieve for the loss of certain types of innocence, because such tragedies never happen here.” Mary Pat Hyland, a member of St. Ambrose Church in Endicott, found out about the shootings on the internet. She has taught Irish classes and performed with Irish dance groups at the Civic Association. “The Civic Association not only has helped immigrants in terms of preparing them to become citizens here, but it has also also been a place where we’ve celebrated our ethnicity.”

Hyland narrated the Passion reading at her parish on Palm Sunday. “At the same time there were images in my mind flashing of what these people were going through. It just really got to me,” she said. “But at the same time, because of the Gospel, it brought me peace. Even though it’s a dramatic, horrible story, at the same time it brings me peace because you know God’s love is always with us.” Jesus taught us to love our neighbors. In Broome County this week, our neighbors were everyone in the community. Shocked, confused and hurting neighbors of different faiths who came together in prayer on Sunday night. Now the healing will begin.

Deacon Tom Picciano


NOTE: A Version of this article was published in the April 9-15, 2009 edition of The Catholic Sun, the weekly newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., under the headline \”Binghamton Memorial Service\” by Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer.

About a mile from where 14 people died in a shooting on Friday, April 3, more than 1,000 gathered Sunday night in their memory.

Police said 41-year old Jiverly A. Wong entered the American Civic Association office on Front Street where he killed 13 people and wounded four others before taking his own life. Most of the victims were killed in the classroom where they were learning English as they were preparing to become citizens.

The memorial service, held at West Middle School, just across the streetimage024 from St. Thomas Aquinas Church, was planned by Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy. “We are broken, O God. We are broken,” said the Rev. Douglas Taylor, of the Unitarian Univeralist Church. “Death and violence is the reason that brought us together in sorrow, in anger, anxious grief and in loss. Each of us has been touched. Some in a small way, others in overwhelming way.” Rev. Taylor continued in prayer: “Oh God grant us the courage to reject vengeance, the courage to choose to heal what is broken and to redeem what cannot be healed, to rebuild ourselves as a community of strength and hope that we will be known not by our loss or by the violence of a moment, but rather by our loving response.” The killings that made world news shocked Broome County and the City of Binghamton, where there was just one murder in all of last year.

“It‚ has affected us all in one or another. But all of us felt the pain and suffering,” said Mohammed Hassim. “Surely us coming together this evening is a manifestation of the unity of mankind.” Hassim noted that the memorial service set an example.” All the community coming together never before in the history of Binghamton it must not end today.” “The Earth has no pain that heaven cannot heal,” prayed Rev. Arthur Jones. “We need you in a real and desperate way. Lord we need healing. Heal us, touch us, and love us” Southern Region Vicar, Father John Putano offered one of the concluding prayers. Father Putano said, “Good and gracious God, we gather this evening a people of faith struggling to understand this senseless killing of innocent people. We look to you for courage and strength so we can support one another, to show our love for all those affected by this tragedy.

“Relieve the suffering of the wounded, of the families and friends of victims who died and those who survive. Grant them peace of mind and a renewed faith and your protection. “Protect us from the violence of others. Keep us safe from the weapons of hate and restore to us tranquility and peace.” Names of the victims were flashed on a screen during the service. They had come from seven different countries to begin a new life in the U.S. Fourteen pink and white flower arrangements stood in their memory. There was music at the service as well, including “Amazing Grace” sung by everyone present. A community choir, which practiced just an hour before the service, sang “Draw the Circle Wide”, written by Gordon Light. “Draw it wider still. Let this be our song. No one stands alone. “Standing side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.”

That circle had to draw wide hundreds of people gathered in front of the school with candles. When all had left the building, each flame was lifted high and no one stood alone.

What a difference a year makes …


Bishop Robert J. Cunningham (2007)

At this time last year I was both looking forward to my ordination with great anticipation… and wondering just what the future as an ordained member of the clergy would hold.  This morning at 6:08AM when my iPod popped up a message from Danielle E. Cummings, Diocesan Director of Communications, announcing the appointment of the Most Reverend Robert J. Cunningham as the next bishop of our diocese , effective May 26, 2009, I wondered once again about that future.  My first thought:  where do Permanent Deacons fit into Bishop Cunningham’s vision of the future for the Diocese of Syracuse? Our present bishop, James Moynihan, has been a solid supporter of the diaconate.  But what of the new leader of the diocese?

A bit of research yielded some indications.  According to the Summer 2005 Region II  Permanent Deacon News, “After the spring of 2004 and the installation of Bishop Robert J. Cunningham, the diocese developed and began to implement a new program.” of diaconate formation. The diocese had just come off a two year hiatus without a program after the closure of the Wadhams Hall Seminary College in Ogdensburg. The new program, heavily invested in on-line instruction through Notre Dame’s STEP program (Satellite Theological Education Program), has prepared over a dozen men for ordination.

The diocesan efforts have paid off, with 13 men to be ordained to the (deaconformationrequest_march2009) permanent diaconate on September 19, 2009, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ogdensburg, New York.  A bright future for the diaconate in this north country diocese…  and a sign of support from the new bishop designate.

Indeed, what a difference a year makes!
LIKE TO KNOW MORE? Press Release, Diocese of Syracuse