SFDS Says Farewell to Fr. Jomar Legaspi

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After more than a year of faithful service at St. Francis de Sales Church, the parish will soon mourn the departure of Associate Pastor, Fr. Jomar Legaspi. Fr. Jomar’s role in the parish goes beyond serving mass and hearing confessions. He can be seen teaching fifth- and sixth-grade weekly religion classes and even taking photographs at local sporting events; including Rockaway Beach Volleyball and the Summer Classics. In his short time in Rockaway, Fr. Jomar has made an impact that will not be forgotten.

The Director of Religious Education at SFDS, Mrs. Anne Marie Greene, shared her sentiments with a heavy heart. Greene said, “Fr. Jomar’s cheerfulness and love of life has had such an impact on our parishioners, both old and young. He has willingly assisted in our Catechism program, the Bereavement Group, and has been a regular visitor to the Academy. Fr. Jomar’s connection to the community, whether through social media, meet-ups on the ferry into Manhattan, or preaching from the altar, have made him a well-loved and respected leader of our faith. He will truly be missed by all.”

Social media is definitely Fr. Jomar’s forte. He is currently unable to accept Facebook friend requests, since he has exceeded Facebook’s allotment of 5,000 “friends.” Fr. Jomar said, “I guess I should delete some of my former students. However, I don’t want to because I love to hear what they have to say!”

Some of these students are from Holy Rosary Parish in Staten Island, Touro College where he was an adjunct professor, and the Don Bosco Technical Institute where he served as the technical director and principal. It is his love of teaching that he enjoys discussing most. Fr. Jomar’s own academic accomplishments are many. He received an MA in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University in the year 2000 and completed his studies in Sacred Theology at The Don Bosco Center in 1989. He also utilizes his background in physics to inspire his students. Yet one of his most important lessons is that of respect. He believes that teachers best teach through example. As a principal, he encouraged his faculty to show respect for their students through preparedness, and the students in turn would show respect in the classroom.

Although Fr. Jomar has been serving here in the United States for the past decade, he is originally from the Philippines. It is the similarities between the Philippines and Rockaway that made this his favorite place in New York. He continuously compares the landscape of the Philippines to that of the Rockaway peninsula. From the minute Fr. Jomar arrived in Belle Harbor in September 2018, he found a thriving community that was relaxing and good for his spirit. The atmosphere of the beach, the emphasis on sports, and the tightknit community were reminiscent of his hometown. He was amazed how by how much the community focused around the Catholic church. For a photographer, there was absolutely no better background than this oceanfront town.

Serving in a community of peace came after enduring life-threatening challenges. In August 2009, it was found that bacteria in his heart had destroyed one of his mitral valves. Hence, at the age of 50, he underwent open heart surgery and his mitral valve was replaced with a bioprosthetic valve. After that successful surgery, he faced an additional challenge. On February 11, 2010, coincidentally on the 21st anniversary of his ordination into the priesthood, he underwent surgery for the second time on his left knee due to an excruciatingly painful pseudoaneurysm, a partial clot. Today, Fr. Jomar considers himself incredibly blessed to be healthy and in his words, “living to the fullest.”

Just last week, Fr. Jomar celebrated his 60th birthday throughout the parish. At the Harbor Light on Thursday, December 12, the Principal of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy (SFDSCA), Dr. Chris Scharbach Ed.D., and the faculty and parish staff enjoyed birthday cake and fellowship with Fr. Jomar. The following day, he was surprised by the sixth-grade students of SFDSCA with yet another celebration.

Fr. Jomar currently serves under the direction of Pastor, Reverend William F. Sweeney and with Associate Pastor, Reverend James Cunningham. These three fun-loving priests have truly embraced Belle Harbor and the greater Rockaway community. Some examples of their unique contributions include guest bartending at Jamesons Pub on August 1, 2019 during the First Annual “Holy Happy Hour,” dressing up as Toy Story best friends for the rectory’s trick-or-treaters, and modeling lederhosen at the parish Oktoberfest fundraiser. Fr. Jomar has enjoyed all aspects of service to the parish. He not only wears a collar but many hats through preaching, teaching, and promoting the parish through social media. When reflecting upon his time on the peninsula, he says, “This will always be home to me. With the sand in my feet, how can I leave?”

Fr. Jomar will be celebrating his final Mass at St. Francis de Sales Church on Sunday, December 29 at noon. All parishioners are invited to Mass and to the farewell reception immediately following in the Small Hall. Fr. Jomar’s service to the parish of SFDS truly embodies the immortal words of St. Francis de Sales, the parish patron himself—“Be who you are and be that well.”

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