Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Island churches looking out for senior citizens

BOB DeSTEFANO PHOTO Father Peter at the annaul Old Timers game last summer.
Father Peter DeSanctis at the annual Old Timers softball game last summer.

As I learn more about senior citizen affairs here on this Island, I see how big a role the different churches play in watching out for seniors’ welfare.

And it appears to be done in a very ecumenical spirit with good works being given to all Islanders regardless of religious affiliation. So I decided to speak with the rectors of the Island’s large churches to see what I could learn.  

I started with Father Peter A. DeSanctis, pastor of Our Lady of the Isle Roman Catholic Church in the Heights, mainly because I seem to run into him all the time at the post office, IGA, CYO basketball and parish-sponsored Little League games.

He seems to be everywhere.

I told him that when I first saw him, I thought he was just a friendly guy wearing a fire department jacket. I did not realize that he was a priest. When I asked him why he did not wear a collar, he said, “Everybody knows me, and the Lord wants us to approach people where they are.”

Father Peter (as he likes to be called) was born in New York City and started coming to the East End in the 1970’s. This is his ninth year at Our Lady of the Isle.

“I was here part time before that,” he noted.

A graduate of the diocesan seminary in Lloyd Harbor, he told me that he is now marrying individuals whom he baptized. He has a brother and many cousins living on the Island and his parents are buried here.

He explained to me that the church’s outreach program goes out to 50 percent of Islanders with annual cash disbursements as well as goods and services for those who need them.

He likes to say that the church’s motto is “We make house calls.” He explained that means he will go where he is needed. He also works closely with Shelter Island Senior Services including the nutrition program, Meals on Wheels and the town’s social worker.

Father Peter, who is 65, seems to have a good understanding of the needs of the Island’s elders, visiting them when they are ill in the hospital and when they are home.

He added that he will bring communion or just be a friendly visitor for others.

The church has 283 registered families here on the Island, he said, noting that the great part about this Island is that all the churches work together.

Father Peter also specializes in house blessings. And after our talk last Friday at my kitchen table (he said people are always more relaxed in the kitchen), he asked to bless my house.

I said “Fine.”

Meanwhile I learned that Artful Home Care of Water Mill is interested in reaching out to Island seniors and their families and caregivers.

Director Beth McNeil will be at the Senior Activity Center to meet with aides and caregivers who might be interested in joining their staff working on the Island. If you are interested in meeting with Beth, call the Senior Center at (631) 749-1059. The date is Tuesday, February 7 at 10 a.m.

And the Senior Center will mark Valentine’s Day with a celebration at the Silver Circle Social Club. Mollie Numark is the featured guest and she will describe the evolution of the customs and traditions associated with Valentine’s Day.