December 8th


A panel with Msgr. Donald Beckmann, D. Min., Diocese of Rockville Centre; Sr. Teresa Fitzgerald CSJ, M.A., President, Sisters of Saint Joseph; Kenneth Tompkins, M.A.,Special Education Teacher, Brooklyn, NY; Diane Vella, M.A., Pastoral Associate, St. Bernard’s Parish, Levittown. Baudillo Guzmán Mercado, SJ, Spiritual Director, Academia María Reina, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Hosted by: Rev. Patrick Griffin, C.M., PhD

Msgr. Donald Beckmann received a graduate degree in theology from Catholic University, Washington DC and a Doctorate in Ministry from Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, NY. He was ordained a presbyter of the Diocese of Rockville Centre in 1970. After serving in parishes, he was appointed spiritual director of St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary. Later he was Catholic Chaplain at Hofstra University and Diocesan Director of Campus Ministry. While working at Hofstra he was also appointed Diocesan Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, a position in which he served for over 30 years. In that role he served on the national Orthodox Christian – Roman Catholic dialogue, the national Muslim – Catholic dialogue and the national Orthodox Jewish – Catholic dialogue. For eight years he was ecumenical representative from the Catholic Church in the US to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was also involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland in the 80’s and 90’s. Msgr. Beckmann represented Rockville Centre Diocese on the Board of Governors of the Long Island Council of Churches. He is now Director Emeritus of the diocesan ecumenical and interfaith office. For sixteen years, until his retirement, he was pastor of Saint Ignatius Martyr Parish. In retirement he remains co-chair of the Long Island Lutheran/Anglican/Roman Catholic Dialogue and continues to celebrate Mass and preach at barrier island parishes and at Saint Edward the Confessor Church in Syosset, N.Y. Just recently, he was seated as an honorary canon of the Cathedral of the Incarnation of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

Sr. Teresa Fitzgerald, CSJ, born in Hewlett, Long Island, is the President of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Brentwood, NY. Before her election to this office in April 2021, Sister Tesa, as she is known, was the founder and Executive Director of Hour Children. In 1986, she helped develop a home in Long Island City, Queens for children whose mothers were incarcerated. Sister Tesa got to know the mothers when she brought their children to visit, and quickly realized that the women would need additional support if they were to successfully reunite with their children after their release. Incorporated in 1992, Hour Children has since become a leading provider of prison- and community-based family services to support women and children as they reunite, stabilize, and transform their lives. Through supportive housing, mental health services, prison programming, the Hour Working Women Program, children and teen programming, the Hour Community Food Pantry, and thrift stores, the organization supports women during every stage of their incarceration — from separation to reunification. In recognition of her dedicated service, she has been the recipient of over thirty-five prestigious awards including The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice bestowed by Pope Francis, the Ozanam Award, the New York Public Library, Public Service Award. She was also honored at the White House, as a “Champion of Change.”

Ken Tompkins, M.A., is a Special Education teacher for the NYC Department of Education. He earned his BA in Philosophy and Theology from St. John’s University, his MA in Catholic Theology from Fordham University, and is currently working towards his MS degree for teachers at Pace University. At St. John’s, Ken was a member of the Catholic Scholars, a four-year scholarship program for students seeking to put their faith into action and serve as leaders for the Christian community. After graduating, he spent three years in formation in the Society of Jesus, studying Ignatian Spirituality and participating in various ministries. He credits Rev. Dr. Bryan Massingale for presenting him with the invitation for believers, “What is now does not have to be. Therein lies the hope. And the challenge.” Prior to working as a Special Ed teacher, Ken taught Theology at Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead, NY, and was an adjunct professor of Theology & Religious Studies at St. John’s University.

Diane Vella, M.A., has served as a Lay Ecclesial Minister in the Diocese of Rockville Centre for almost 40 years.  She holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Molloy College and an M.A. in Theology from Boston College. On the parish level, she has served as a Catechetical Leader, Pastoral Associate, and Liturgy Director; on the diocesan level she has served as Director of Adult Catechesis, and Coordinator of Curriculum for the diocesan Pastoral Formation Institute.  She has served on numerous diocesan and ecumenical committees, given retreats and workshops throughout the NY metro area, and until recently, moonlighted as an Adjunct Instructor in Theology at Molloy College.

Father Baudilio Guzmán Mercado is a puertorrican Jesuit, from Arecibo. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1980 and was ordained a priest in 991. He did an undergraduate and graduate degree in Economy at the University of Puerto Rico. Father completed a License in Spiritual Theology
at in Madrid. He was Director of the Centro Universitario Católico de Puerto Rico, UPR (University of Puerto Rico) and after that served as pastor of San Ignacio de Loyola Parish in San Juan and Director of Academia San Ignacio de Loyola. Currently, he serves as the Spiritual Director at Academia María Reina, the Spiritual Director at Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola, National Counselor CVX (Christian Life Communities) of PR and as an Assistant Vicar of San Ignacio de Loyola Parish.

Rev. Patrick Griffin, CM, Ph.D., a Brooklyn, NY native, was ordained a Vincentian priest in 1979. He completed a doctorate in Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America and taught at various universities and seminaries where he was a popular teacher and mentor to his students. From 1993 through 1999, he served as the Treasurer General of the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentians). He moved to Paris from 2010 through 2014 and served as the Director General of the Daughters of Charity. In March of 2014, Fr. Griffin returned to St. John’s University in Queens, NY, where he assumed his current position as the Executive Director for the Vincentian Center for Church and Society.