by Sue Giustino
In early November, St. Therese of Lisieux Church welcomed their new pastor, Father Robert Joerger. After initially being asked to fill in as pastor for just a year, he requested three years. He explained that it’s hard to really invest in and make a difference for a community, or for a community to invest in him, when it would be so short lived. When he received a letter from the Bishop granting him a six year stay, he was thrilled.
Father Robert Joerger, C.P. is a native of Brooklyn and a member of the Passionist religious community of priests and brothers. According to their website, The Passionists are a Roman Catholic religious order of vowed priests and brothers, sisters and nuns operating with the full support and approval of the Vatican and the Holy Father. Our mission is the communication of the saving message of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Passionists are scholars, preachers, spiritual directors, retreat masters, teachers, chaplains, authors, musicians, artists, researchers, gardeners, poets and ministers to the suffering people of the world. For additional information see https://passionist.org/
The son of Harry Joerger, a boiler mechanic for Con Edison, and Catherine Ryan, a homemaker and typist for the Brooklyn TB and Health Association, Father Bob began his education at Saint Anselm’s Grammar School and Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge. He graduated from Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts after which he entered the Passionist Novitiate and professed his vows in 1973. He then attended Saint John’s University in Queens, New York where he received a Masters Degree in Theology and a Masters of Divinity before his ordination to the priesthood in 1977. Following ordination he attended the Jesuit’s Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska where he received a Masters Degree in Christian Spirituality and Certification as a Spiritual Director.
Father Bob was the Director of Saint Gabriel’s Youth Retreat House on Shelter Island for several years and a member of the Shelter Island Heights Fire Department. He served as Provincial Superior of the Saint Paul of the Cross Province of the Passionists which includes Canada, the Eastern United States, Jamaica, Haiti and Puerto Rico. He also served as Consultor to the Superior General of the Passionists in Rome. In recent years Father Bob has been a preacher of retreats and Parish Missions. He is an Affiliated Member of the De LaSalle Christian Brothers. Interestingly, he also attended the Peter Kump School of Culinary Arts In New York City.
Besides the stoop outside the Brooklyn apartment house where he grew up, his favorite place on earth is the East End of Long Island.
I had an opportunity to speak with Father Bob about his new role as pastor and his vision for the St. Therese community. Of course, in this time of covid, getting acquainted with parishioners has been challenging. “Between hats, sunglasses and the masks,” he commented, “it’s difficult to recognize or remember a face.”
With limitations on gatherings of 50%- 250 people- and no community singing during the service, celebrating mass, like everything else right now, is quite different. But he would like everyone to know that St. Therese continues to be a welcoming environment for all, both emotionally and physically.
Although this is his first parish, Father Bob is excited about this new direction in his life and bringing his extensive background and ministry experiences to this assignment. Among other things, he’s looking forward to expanding on; leadership ministry, significant outreach for the young people, and getting Wi-Fi for the church in order to live stream masses and other programs- enabling more inclusive and safe opportunities for all.
As the Christmas season quickly approaches, the theme for this year is Come Home for Christmas! Masses will be held on Christmas Eve- Family mass @ 4:30pm, Spanish mass @ 7pm, and the midnight mass celebration will be @10pm. On Christmas the masses will be @ 8:30 and 10:30 am.
It was a pleasure to meet and speak with Father Bob. I as well as the entire St. Therese Community welcome him and wish him all the best during his time here.