The future of Catholic priests, at least on Long Island, may very well look like Father Eric Fasano.
Fasano’s full-time responsibility is serving on the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s tribunal — the church’s internal court — but he is also the resident priest of in Inwood.
The 36-year-old started in both positions after the diocese’s decision about a year ago to churches in the Five Towns are administered due to changing demographics. Instead of three full-time pastors for three churches, eventually, one priest — currently Father Tom Moriarty of in Hewlett — will be the administrator for all three buildings.
“This may end up being the model for other parts of the diocese,” Fasano said. “A lot of eyes are on it.”
This has been a grand experiment for the diocese, one that, according to the two priests, has been working well above expectations.
“It’s a great thing -- the two of us work together and get along so well,” Fasano said of Moriarty. “Neither of us knew what the other one was prepared to do, so to speak.”
Moriarty echoed the sentiment.
“We’re running around like two chickens without a head, but it’s going along great,” he said. “It’s one good thing after another.”
And contrary to popular belief, according to Fasano, Good Counsel has grown in the past year. The church has started a new children’s choir and several new programs, including some for Latinos. A new class of altar servers has also begun after an eight-year hiatus.
Another sign of success? Mass attendance and collections are up, both priests say.
“What has been accomplished in one year, I would never have thought possible,” Moriarty said. “Father Fasano has been a big huge part of that.”
Fasano, whose family was very involved with the Sacred Heart parish in North Merrick, said he felt the pull of the priesthood when he was around 5 or 6 years old.
“The more I prayed and studied, the more clear it became that this is what I was supposed to do,” he said. “The closer ordination came, the more at peace and more affirmed I felt that this was what God wanted me to do.”
His entire education came on Long Island, and his first assignment was as assistant pastor for six years at Saint William the Abbot in Seaford.
By 2008, the bishop called and told Fasano he would be studying canon law in Rome. There, he had the chance to travel through Europe and even meet the pope.
“It was incredible,” he said. “I’m glad to be home and finished with canon law school, but it’s definitely an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Now, as a member of the tribunal, Fasano hears cases of marriage disputes, disciplinary actions and issues such as property disputes within the church. His commute from Inwood isn’t too far from the diocese headquarters.
“So far, I’ve loved my time here,” Fasano said. “The neighborhood is great, the church is beautiful.”
The first few months after the consolidation proved challenging to the priests, as some in the community felt slighted at the decision and feared the closure of Good Counsel. But the growth of the church shows those feelings have mostly subsided, they said.
Fasano, who said that he recently found his foothold in the neighborhood, has requested to stay at Good Counsel.
“The Memorial Day parade experience gave me a real sense of belonging to the community,” he said. “To see people on the sidelines call out to me and to see kids that I’ve given communion to really made me feel like I belong.”
We mistakenly posted that Father Tom Moriarty was the pastor of St. Joachim's of Cedarhurst instead of Saint Joseph's of Hewlett. Thanks to reader James for pointing out that error.