Father Francis Gargani, C.Ss.R., was honored June 4 with OneSpirit Learning Alliance’s Service to Humanity Award. Since 2005 Father Gargani has presented an annual seminar on Catholicism for the New York City-based organization’s interfaith seminary. He was ordained in 1971 and is rector of the provincial house in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Presenting the award during OneSpirit’s annual graduation ceremony, held at the historic Neo-Gothic Riverside Church in Manhattan, was founder and spiritual director Rev. Diane Berke. “His ministry has centered around the themes of peace and justice; celebration of the arts through liturgy and ritual; and the spirituality of hospitality and inclusiveness,” she said.
“His long career in social justice ministry has given him a chance to work with remarkable people, including the late Father Daniel Berrigan, with whom he led retreats for the homeless, and GreenFaith Fellow [Sister] Kathleen Deignan, with whom he co-presents programs on Thomas Merton and Thomas Berry.”
In his address to OneSpirit’s graduates and community, Father Gargani said, “Heaven has already begun for me as I cherish literally thousands who have mirrored divinity in their humanity to me, who have loved not only me to life, but have, through loving service, breathed overflowing life into their family and local community, as well as into the national and even international community.”
Receiving such recognition, he said, “makes no sense unless I can receive it in ‘holy communion’ with all of you,” citing his Redemptorist confreres, family and friends, OneSpirit staff and faculty, all those in society who are marginalized and discriminated against, and all those who serve and fight for them.
For the past few years Father Gargani has co-taught the seminar on Catholicism along with Father Michael Holleran of the Archdiocese of New York.
“We love coming among you because not only do we get to open up the richness of our tradition, but we bask in the depth of your insight, culled from your varied and amazing journeys of faith overflowing into service,” he said. Good teachers “always receive more than they give, listening to the ‘soundings’ of the heart of their students.”
He said that although OneSpirit’s students come from many different sacred traditions, “everything and everyone . . . is in utter and radical relationship. Both physics and biology now affirm this fundamental teaching: nothing exists in isolation.”
“We are the result of and can only really evolve in relationship. For the cosmos, including you and me, is the incarnation of the lovemaking of God. The early Greek mothers and fathers of the Christian Church named the ever-giving, ever-receiving lovemaking of God perichoresis, literally the ‘dance around,’ the origin of our word choreography.
“It was their brilliant insight that the cosmos is the overflow of that lovemaking, that love dance. This profound insight of theology, grounded in science, overflowing in the best of interfaith spirituality, makes all the difference.”
Father Gargani exhorted the new graduates to “found a new earth and a new heaven, where all God’s people and creatures live and celebrate our ‘holy communion’ within this sacred cosmos.”
“If I have learned anything over these almost 50 years of ministry, it is that ‘suffering for the sake of love’ molds us more and more into the image of the Creator Lover God, who cannot be anything but the One who suffers with us in every circumstance and in every condition and unleashes the power of redemption for our wounded and broken world.”
Such suffering lies ahead for each graduate, he said, but its effect will be to open him or her more fully to the love of God.
“You are our hope, our heroines and heroes, our life-giving sparks we now send out to this world.”