Bringing ‘strong pastoral leadership’ to Ozone Park

Father Paul Palmiotto, who served for over a decade as pastor to two Jamaica churches, was recently reassigned to lead two Ozone Park churches - with three times the number of members.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I always say that if God wants us here, He’ll keep us here,” Palmiotto said of his new position at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church and Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr of Ozone Park. “The biggest challenges will be healing past hurts that have occurred in the parish, as well as trying to peacefully consolidate services because of fewer priests.”
Many Catholic churches across New York City and its surrounding areas — as well as in other major cities across the country — have been shutting down or combining with other churches due to changing demographics, Palmiotto said.
“At this moment in time the church is handling it by giving priests more than one parish,” he said. “They call it ‘reconfiguring parishes.’”
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church and Saint Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr are one example of reconfigured parishes, and Palmiotto was chosen by the Diocese of Brooklyn to be their new leader.
He will be officially installed in September
“A pastor can expect to be assigned to another church after two six-year-terms,” said Frank DeRosa, a spokesperson for the Diocese. “Now, [Father Palmiotto] is ready to bring his strong pastoral leadership to another parish.”
The 56-year-old pastor, who has light eyes and a white beard, spoke softly but with intent. Palmiotto had just finished his first week with the church after moving in on June 29, and he knows the challenges that await him.
“The parishes have gone through some stressful experiences: financial problems, the closing and merging of schools,” Palmiotto said. “The changing of a priest is difficult. [Members] get attached to priests, then they’re transferred, it’s like a member of your family moving.”
Palmiotto, a lifelong Queens resident, will approach the 1,500 combined members — his largest congregation by himself — with 26 years of experience in the church, which includes a stint as a co-pastor of a 5,000-member congregation, as well as his college education in business at Queensborough Community College and sociology at Baruch College.
“Unknowingly, it was a very good decision,” he said about his studies helping him with his work, which aid him in “dealing with people and understanding their needs, feelings and experiences and trying to meet them.”
It was during Palmiotto’s studies at Baruch that he felt the calling and switched to Cathedral College.
“I felt God calling me,” he said. “I had been working in my parish and had thought about it. I spoke to a priest and he said, ‘If you think that’s where your life is leading you, pursue it.’ That’s what I did, I pursued it and 26 years later, I’m still pursuing it.”
Palmiotto hopes that others will join the church to alleviate the shortage of priests.
But besides being a man of the cloth, the pastor likes to travel during his spare time. He has journeyed across the country, to Canada and to many countries in Europe. On a sabbatical earlier this year, Palmiotto joined two pastors, ages 62 and 70, in a spur-of-the moment paraglide off the Alps in Switzerland.
“The parachute is laying on the ground and you shake the strings to get air into it,” he said. “Then you run towards the cliff. The parachute fills up and you’re off the ground before you’re at the cliff. You’re over a mile high and you float down for 20 minutes. It’s great.”
He added, “People were surprised I did it; they didn’t think I was such a daredevil.”

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