Rockaway Remembers Msgr. Geraghty

 Rockaway Remembers Msgr. Geraghty

By Katie McFadden

For 18 years, he was there for some of St. Francis de Sales parishioners’ most memorable moments. From baptisms to weddings, Monsignor Martin Geraghty brought moments of joy to local families. He was also there through some of Rockaway’s darkest moments. From funeral and memorial services for many neighbors who were killed on 9/11, to helping Rockaway get through another tragedy, the crash of Flight 587, Msgr. Geraghty left a lasting impact on the peninsula, even after being transferred to another parish in 2006. On Easter Sunday, April 9, Msgr. Geraghty’s journey on this earth came to an end when he died at age 83. This week, his services are being held at the church he held near and dear to his heart.

After weeks of calling for prayers at various Masses at St. Francis de Sales, for an ill Msgr. Geraghty who had been on hospice at Calvary Hospice Center in Brooklyn, while surrounded by family, he was peacefully called home on one of the holiest days in the Catholic religion—Easter Sunday. Just after Easter services concluded, St. Francis de Sales shared the news on social media: “Please remember in your prayers, Msgr. Martin Geraghty, who died early this morning.”

According to this obituary, Reverend Monsignor Martin T. Geraghty was born in Brooklyn on March 6, 1940, to Martin and Alice Ruddy Geraghty. He attended St. Francis Xavier Grammar School, Cathedral Prep, Cathedral College, St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore and North American College in Rome.

Msgr. Geraghty knew for a long time that he wanted to dedicate his life to God. He was ordained on December 16, 1964, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. He was first assigned to St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights and then returned to Rome for advanced studies. After returning to the U.S., he was assigned to the faculty at Cathedral College, Douglaston where he taught Theology for 18 years.  He also served as Parochial Vicar of Saint Elizabeth in Ozone Park.

It was in 1988 when Rockaway was lucky enough to have Msgr. Geraghty join the parish of St. Francis de Sales when he was installed as pastor of the Belle Harbor church. It was there that he was elevated to monsignor in 1990.

In wake of the news of his passing, parishioners from Rockaway to other parts of Queens have been mourning and remembering the impact the monsignor left. From memories of him marrying local couples to baptizing local children, Msgr. Geraghty had a personal role in some parishioners’ biggest moments. He was also there to help the community through some of its most historic and trying times.

According to a 2002 “Irish America” article, Msgr. Geraghty had presided over 12 memorial services for neighbors who were killed on September 11, 2001. On that dark day, not knowing what to do, Msgr. Geraghty rang the church bells, as a signal for parishioners to come pray over the fallen. He thought maybe 50 people would show up. According to a 2011 “Wall Street Journal” article, more than 1,000 people came to the church to mourn and pray for the missing.

Every memorial Mass for 9/11 victims thereafter was packed. The last one was on November 9. Three days later, Msgr. Geraghty felt the rumbles and heard the boom while performing a Monday morning Mass in the church as Flight 587 came crashing down in Belle Harbor, just around the block, killing all 260 passengers aboard and five neighbors on the ground. He got as close as he could to the scene and said a prayer for the victims. In the weeks after, he continued to console Rockaway through yet another significant tragedy.

 “Everybody who has to confront a disaster or death has to ask why, but it is important to have faith to help us understand why,” Msgr. Geraghty told “Irish America” in 2002. “It is the reality that God will hold us all together and will bring us together that helps us get through it.”

Msgr. Geraghty served at SFDS until 2006, when he was transferred to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Bayside after the pastor there, Msgr. Lavin, had died. While most priests usually serve two six-year terms at a parish, Msgr. Geraghty had been at the end of his third term at St. Francis when he was asked to transfer. The news was met with pushback, with parishioners petitioning Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s decision, but ultimately Msgr. Geraghty wanted a peaceful transition, and he went on to share his gifts in Bayside. It was there where he celebrated his 50th year of priesthood in 2014.

Msgr. Geraghty had a knack for bringing people together. He had a deep interest in Jewish-Christian relations and was even appointed Chairman of the Diocesan Catholic-Jewish Relations Committee by Bishop Mugavero. He also served as Chaplain to the NYPD Emerald Society, and they named him Irishman of the Year in 2005. Then in 2015, he received the Fr. Mychal Judge award at The Great Irish Fair. Msgr. Geraghty held pride in his Irish roots, with family hailing from County Galway and County Mayo. 

Outside of the church, Msgr. Geraghty held a number of hobbies, from golf to even downhill skiing, which took him all over the world. He never shied away from a pick-up basketball game, and he was a diehard Brooklyn Dodgers and then NY Mets fan.

Msgr. Geraghty retired at the end of 2015 but remained with the Bayside parish as a senior priest afterwards. However, the sand never left his shoes. Msgr. Geraghty remained closely connected to the Rockaway peninsula and would return to perform weddings and other services for parishioners who requested him.

St. Francis de Sales was a parish that remained so near and dear to him that before his pasting, it is where Msgr. Geraghty requested that his funeral services be held. His wake began on Wednesday, April 12 at St. Francis de Sales and another wake will be held on Thursday, April 13 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., followed by a Mass of Transferal at 7:30 p.m. His funeral Mass will be held Friday, April 14 at 11 a.m. at St. Francis de Sales. He will be buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Staten Island.

May Msgr. Martin Geraghty rest in peace.

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