Parishioners Known by Name at St. Sylvester, Staten Island


St. Sylvester is a small parish in the Concord section of Staten Island where parishioners know each other by name.

About 300 people attended a 100th anniversary Mass and reception with Cardinal Dolan June 5, and 150 parishioners attended a centennial dinner dance at Li Greci's Staaten on Staten Island June 25.

“We have a warm, welcoming parish for parishioners,” said Janet Samuel, a parishioner who has served as parish business manager for 12 years. “We know each parishioner by name. It’s important. Being personable with them brings them in.

“The love and support we receive from every parishioner, the relationships built and making a difference in their lives—knowing you made a difference makes it worthwhile.”

St. Sylvester, with more than 500 registered parish families, averages between 500 and 550 people at weekend Masses. The parish offers numerous ministries such as a teen youth activities group, and a funeral ministry to reach out to parishioners who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Since Father Jacob Thumma was named pastor in 2009, the parish has added Bible study, Eucharistic holy hour and re-established its Cub/Boy Scout troop.

Father Deogratias Lingao is the weekend associate, and Neale Steiniger is coordinator of religious education.

Weekend Masses are offered Saturday at 4 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 am., 10 a.m. and noon. Daily Mass is celebrated at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.

A gathering for parishioners with a continental breakfast is hosted by the parish every other Sunday following 10 a.m. Mass.

“They come together to celebrate and they love coming together and mingling,” said Father Jacob Thumma, who was ordained in 1993 in India and incardinated into the archdiocese in 2008.

“They’re committed Catholics. They’re family. That’s what I get. This is my family. It’s a beautiful thing about the parish. I have a connection to everybody in the parish. I know them by name. If someone is missing at Mass, I can see it. It’s what I enjoy most here, being with the people.

Father Thumma added, “People evangelize. They talk to their friends and neighbors. They come and visit. People feel welcomed. They belong here and a sense of belonging is very strong here. They can convince others who are not here or have left in the past.”

St. Sylvester served as a mission church to St. Ann before being established as a parish in 1921. A parish school, which opened in 1930, closed in 2011 with low enrollment and just a handful of students from the parish.

In 1972, Cardinal Terence Cooke celebrated Mass at St. Sylvester for the parish’s 50th anniversary. On Sept. 11, 2001, 11 of the 12 members of the nearby Fire House Rescue 5 and two school alumni were killed in the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

“There are many longtime parishioners and we are all family and have been for as long as I can remember,” said Patricia Mulligan De Respino, who is a lifelong parishioner. “We’ve had a series of good pastors who kept us together spiritually.

“We have a magnificent pastor now. We work together. I credit Father Jacob with a unifying influence.”

Eileen and John Kavanagh, parishioners for 52 years, raised their six children in the parish.

“It was just very welcoming to everybody. It was a great atmosphere,” Eileen said.

“Father Jacob is welcoming to everybody. He refers to us as a parish family. He just reaches out to everyone and gets them involved in the different activities. People are so willing to help him do things because he’s so welcoming to everybody. It’s a small parish but everyone knows each other. If there is a need, people reach out and help.”