Remembering Msgr. Richard Ahlemeyer

 Remembering Msgr. Richard Ahlemeyer

By Dan Guarino

Parishioners at St. Virgilius in Broad Channel and St. Camillus in Rockaway Park received sad news after their Masses on Sunday, May 12. Reverend Monsignor Richard J. Ahlemeyer, beloved pastor to their combined Roman Catholic parish, had passed away in early hours of that day. He was 73.

Most were left stunned and grieving upon learning that the man who had been part of their communities, spiritually guiding them for almost two decades, was gone.

“His homilies always brought us back to our community,” Channel resident Margaret Wagner noted. “His eulogies brought a smile to everyone’s face even while being in the saddest moment of our lives. He will truly be so missed at St. Virgilius Parish. It’s a terrible loss for our community.”

On Monday, Most Reverend Robert J. Brennan, Bishop of Brooklyn, issued a statement on Ahlemeyer’s passing and his commitment to the church. It noted wakes would be held at St. Virgilius on Tuesday, May 14 and at St. Camillus on Wednesday, May 15.

A vigil was also held at St. Camillus on Wednesday. The funeral Mass will be Thursday, May 16, at 11 a.m. at St. Camillus (99-15 Rockaway Beach Blvd.). Burial will follow at Saint John Cemetery in Middle Village.

Ahlemeyer, born on July 8, 1950, lived with his family on West 15th Road in Broad Channel and attended St. Virgilius School, graduating in 1964. In 1982, he received a master’s degree in Pastoral Counseling from Iona College.

He was ordained on March 12, 1977. He served as a Parochial Vicar at St. Mary Church, Long Island City, from 1977 to 1983, and at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica from 1983 to 1993.

He then became pastor of St. Pius V Church in Jamaica from 1995 to 2007, then St. Clement Pope Church, South Ozone Park, from 2005 to 2007. Affectionally known as “Father Richie,” in 2007, he became pastor of St. Camillus-St. Virgilius, coming home again to the communities he would serve for the next 17 years.

Along with his other duties, he took over as Temporary Administrator of Rockaway’s Saint Rose of Lima when that parish was struggling with clerical personnel shortages. The Diocese noted, “He was dean of the Queens 10 Deanery from 2013-2018. On a Diocesan administration level, he served on the Diocesan Building Committee and the Diocesan Cemetery Committee.”

“From 1985 to 1990, he served at the Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary, the diocesan high school seminary in Elmhurst, as an adjunct faculty member for counseling. In 1992, he was assigned as a faculty member of the Cathedral Prep.” Ahlemeyer also spoke Spanish, and he ministered as a chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, Long Island Chapter and was a member of the Priests’ Purgatorial Society. On December 19, 2019, “Monsignor Ahlemeyer was named Chaplain of His Holiness.”

In February 2020, he was elevated to Monsignor by Bishop DiMarzio, while also working hard to guide his flock through the beginnings of the Covid pandemic. It was one of many struggles where his humor, humanity, and determined yet gentle nature would uplift and inspire many, churchgoers and others alike. And it wasn’t the only instance. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, he whole heartedly took on the challenge of rebuilding St. Virgilius and St. Camillus, and communities all across the peninsula, giving people the gift of hope in a devastated time.

“He was a humorous, caring, generous, loving and approachable Servant of God and of God’s people,” recalled Donna Christine. “He will live on in the hearts and minds of those of us who knew and loved him. He was a blessing to the community and to those he served.”

Msgr. Ahlemeyer touched the local communities in different ways. He served as chaplain for the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department which posted on social media, “RIP Father and thank you for all that you have done for our department and our community.”

St. Camillus Special Olympics stated he was a longtime supporter who “worked hard to get us back into the gym after Hurricane Sandy. He loved helping our program and athletes, and he will be greatly missed.”

He was a regular at Broad Channel Athletic Club games, the BCAC Shamrocks posting, “We are eternally grateful to him for his support over the years. He was a regular at our events and truly loved the kids of this town.”

The 100th Precinct marked the loss of a guiding light, a true friend and partner.

Many people shared personal memories of this man who helped them through personal and family crises, loss of loved ones, recovery from illness, and also celebrated their joys. Catholic or not, he accepted them, took them under his wing, offered them encouragement and help, shared a joke or his ever-present smile.

They recalled his down-home homilies, often laced with humor, how especially he got the children to sing along in church, or giggle as he sprinkled holy water far and wide, even up into the choir loft.

Samar “Sammy” Awad spoke about how he had helped her through the death of both her brother and her mother, both during Covid.

She also recalled seeing him at a festive music event at Broad Channel’s American Legion the night before he died. “I was just chatting with him at the doo-wop show. He was in good spirits,” she said.

“I was so glad I invited him,” said organizer Carol Corbett, “He stayed a long time. He was enjoying the music. I still can’t believe it.”

Msgr. Ahlemeyer was there for good times as well as bad. In October 2015, he led celebrations for St. Virgilius’ 100th anniversary in Broad Channel. Invoking the close-knit sense of community of the place where he was born, he shared both happy and sad remembrances, and quite a bit of shared humor. “We are here,” he said, “to not only celebrate this building, but this parish and this community, of which this church is a symbol.

“The men and women who built this church, in ways large and small…have given it to us and which we now give to future generations. They built not just a church, but a faith community,” he said. “We became part of that rich history.”

Today, as all those whose lives he touched remember him with both smiles and tears, there is no doubt that Msgr. Richard Ahlemeyer will forever be a part of that rich history, too.

Godspeed, “Father Richie.”

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