BISHOP GUY SANSARICQ was born in Jérémie, Haiti, and attended seminary in Canada, but has settled in Brooklyn since joining the local diocese in ’91. In truth, he has done much more than settle here and has achieved many firsts, most notably becoming the first Haitian, Caribbean and black bishop of Brooklyn and Queens — an inspiring and historic figure to the community surrounding St. Gregory the Great Church where he is pastor. On August 22 he will celebrate the second anniversary of his ordination.
On Tuesday, July 8, Father CALEB BUCHANAN, parish administrator of St. Gregory, led a special service at the church, sponsored by District Attorney CHARLES HYNES’ Unity Task Force, where religious leaders from around the borough contributed prayers and read from the scripture of their faith. The event was a celebration of unity and diversity, and the prayers asked for peace and harmony within Brooklyn, and especially Crown Heights.
As Buchanan explained, the organizers decided to not wait until inter-cultural violence occurs again — referring to recent incidents in Crown Heights — but to join in solidarity now. Dr. AHMAD JABER spoke from the Muslim faith, Rabbi MEIR APPEL spoke for Judaism, and Pastor AHADER EL-YATEEM represented Lutherans. Councilman MATHIEU EUGENE spoke, as well as Councilman ALEC BROOK-KRASNY.
“It makes it much easier to say what you have to say when there are 15 people in the room saying the same thing,” said Buchanan. “You are not just running a crusade alone.”
Buchanan was moved by the dozens of people who approached him after the service and made it clear that the message of unity was both welcomed and needed. One man moved Buchanan to tears with his appreciation, saying, among other things, “You have given me so much hope for my neighborhood. There is a spirit of divisiveness on the streets, but I found an antidote here.”
“It was historic for people in my parish to witness this event,” said Buchanan. “To look out over the church and see blacks, whites, Arabs, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Christians, Protestants and not see one sign of discomfort … it gave the neighborhood hope that day. People are hungry for it.”
The secondary goal of the service was to spread awareness of Hynes’ new field office at St. Gregory. There are many immigrants in the neighborhood, documented and otherwise, who might not seek needed help for fear of deportation, but Hynes wants them to know the office is a safe harbor to report crime. The neighborhood also has a high incidence of predatory lending that Hynes intends to combat. The service-sponsoring Unity Task Force was assembled after 9/11.
“Hats off to DA Hynes for knowing how to preserve the peace,” said Larry Morrish, a Bay Ridge resident and attendant at the service. “So suberb, so fantastic. Just fabulous.”
Buchanan and colleagues at the task force recently decided to organize an interfaith soccer tournament, which, if successful, may develop into a soccer league next year. The concept is still under development, but interested young athletes can contact Jack Malone at email@example.com and put “soccer” in the subject line.
Buchanan wanted to expressly thank the media outlets that help disseminate news about these events and activities, including the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and 620 AM, the large Bed-Stuy-based Caribbean radio station. Another service of this kind is planned for the fall, and it may be held in a different neighborhood.
* * *
IN OTHER NEWS:
LOCAL BUSINESS AND CIVIC LEADER ALEXANDER CONTI, a recent transplant from Bay Ridge to Williamsburg, has been named “Most Exceptional Volunteer” by his employer, Northwestern Mutual (NMFN), for his work co-founding and chairing the Worldwide Children’s Foundation of New York. As a result, NMFN will present a $25,000 grant in his name to the Children’s Foundation, which provides life-saving surgery to critically ill children.
“There is no greater feeling, as a co-founder, than watching this organization grow from its inception six years ago to today, providing life-saving and life-altering surgery to children throughout the world,” said Conti. “This organization is my greatest accomplishment — together we are helping make the world a better place.”
Bay Ridge must be sad to see him go. A busy leader and philanthropist, Conti is past president of the Bay Ridge Community Council, the Colonial Club of Bay Ridge and the Bay Ridge Lion’s Club. He sits on the advisory board of The Guild for Exceptional Children and the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults. He is also a recipient of numerous prestigious awards, and he is listed in Cambridge’s “Who’s Who among Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs 2008.”