Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Rare Bird Sighted at Robert Beddia's Funeral

As I was hanging over a strong cup of coffee and reading "The Metro" section of the New York Times this morning, the coverage of Robert Beddia's funeral, "A Second Day, a Second Massing of Grief for a Lost Firefighter" snagged my interest. Robert Beddia, one of the firefighters who lost his life in the Deutsche Bank fire, is one of those people that you encounter through their obituary and then regret never having met.

After emerging from that reverie, I looked at the lower left hand corner of the accompanying picture and thought that the back of the head, the jawline and the shoulders draped in vestments looked familiar. Father Eugene?

Further examination of the coverage confirmed the sighting. The New York Daily News article, The city stops to honor another lost firefighter features a link to an "audio gallery," a montage of still photos accompanied by audio. In one of these stills, as the celebrants of the Mass emerge from St. Patrick's Cathedral, Father Eugene is among them.

So what does this have to do with Our Lady of Vilnius?

The FDNY has been a substantial element of the parish culture. Father Eugene, having served the FDNY as a firefighter and dispatcher, could be seen wearing an "FDNY" T-shirt often enough, a fact remarked upon by Linda Stasi of The New York Post in her February, 2007, column, Street Preach. The parish office was sprinkled with firehouse bric-a-brac and memorabilia and the crackle of the scanner could sometimes be heard from above, in Father's living quarters. Most important, the best of the FDNY had become a part of Father Eugene's outlook, manifesting itself in the heart and humor that expressed itself in casual exchanges, in homilies and in compassion for the failings of the average man and woman.

We are proud to have a pastor that had been numbered among New York's Bravest and happy to benefit from every good thing that he carried from that experience into the priesthood.

This is one of the things that makes Our Lady of Vilnius unique and irreplacible.

It would be great if that recently-rare bird, Father Sawicki in vestments, could be once again sighted at Mass, at least weekly.

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