Yankee legend wishes Father Gelfant good luck
BATH BEACH — Father Michael Louis Gelfant, the outgoing pastor of St. Finbar Catholic Church, is a huge fan of the New York Yankees. As it turns out, Yankee legend Mariano Rivera is a big fan of Gelfant’s too.
Rivera, the retired relief pitcher considered by many experts and fans to be the greatest closer in baseball history, is featured in a short video in which he offers warm words of praise for Gelfant, who is leaving St. Finbar Church at 138 Bay 20th St. after serving as pastor there for 10 years.
The proud priest posted the video on his Twitter and Facebook pages.
The Brooklyn Catholic Diocese has assigned Gelfant to serve at the helm of Blessed Trinity Church in Breezy Point, Queens. The diocese oversees Catholic churches in both Brooklyn and Queens.
Gelfant, who served his final mass as pastor of St. Finbar on Jan. 26, was greeted by a crowd of 1,000 parishioners who came to say goodbye to their popular pastor. A reception took place following the mass in the parish center.
In the 45-second video, Rivera, a devout Christian who earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year for his numerous charitable endeavors, thanked Gelfant for being a Yankee fan and wished him well in his new assignment.
“Hi Father Michael, this is Mariano Rivera, the Sandman,” he said, referring to his famous nickname.
“I know that you are a fan of the New York Yankees and thank you for that. But I just want to say God bless you and may God continue blessing you in your new endeavors, going to a new church. May the Lord bless you and continue giving you knowledge, peace and understanding and the desire to proclaim his name,” Rivera said in the video.
Gelfant was thrilled that one of his baseball heroes took the time to send him a personal greeting.
“Thank you @MarianoRivera! Best closer in MLB,” he tweeted, using the initials for Major League Baseball.
Gelfant’s departure is likely to be felt not just at St. Finbar Church, but in the surrounding community of Bath Beach.
The pastor was an outspoken advocate for the neighborhood throughout his years at the local church, often calling city officials to task on social media whenever he felt they were neglecting the community’s problems with crime, traffic, tree plantings and other issues.
Gelfant spoke to the Home Reporter about the parish’s deep connection to the Bath Beach and Bensonhurst communities in an interview last year for an article on a dinner-dance celebrating the 139th anniversary of the founding St. Finbar Church.
“We do this every year. It’s one of our major fundraisers, but really it’s an opportunity for the parish to celebrate what we’ve accomplished over the year as a parish community and also to acknowledge that we don’t exist on our own,” he told the Home Reporter. “We also acknowledge the Bath Beach and Bensonhurst community and our interaction with other civic organizations and politicians. This is the night we try to bring everyone together and celebrate who we are as a parish and our people.”
Among the people attending the pastor’s farewell mass was Capt. Anthony Longobardi, the commanding officer of the 62nd Precinct. “Father Gelfant, on behalf of the 62nd Pct., we wish you the best of luck,” police officers tweeted.
While Gelfant is leaving St. Finbar Church, he may have started a tradition of pastors being fans of the Bronx Bombers. The new parish administrator coming in, Father Peter Penton, wrote on his Facebook page during the 2019 baseball playoffs that he believes in the New York Yankees.
To view Rivera’s video tribute to Gelfant, visit: https://twitter.com/frgelfant.