Eventually I came across a beautiful article, written a few years ago by of all places the New York Times, praising the work of then Msgr. Libasci. Libasci was the pastor of a small, parish hopeless divided over a construction project that became helplessly mired. Libasci was able to rally the people, build consensus and lead a parish from worshiping in the basement of the parish school to build a new church. Before arriving the parish church had been condemned and the parish was forced to gather each week for fifteen years in the basement of the school. Central to Libasci’s response to this inherited challenge was the aim of uniting the people, rallying them around a hope filled plan for the future and an insistence on incorporating as much of the old church as possible. The people united behind his leadership and they enthusiastically embraced the 3.5 million dollar building plan. Soon after they faced a major disaster when the new foundation failed and needed to be rebuilt, to the tune of an additional two million dollars. Libasci persisted and led the small parish of 600 to build their new Church, become united in faith, and together they rebuilt their parish literally from the foundation up. What a beautiful image and what a hope filled understanding of our faith.
However, the most beautiful story of Peter Libasci the man, pastor and bishop is one that you will not find in any newspaper or press release. It is one I stumbled upon on in a small blog maintained by a New York family, for their closest family and friends. On it a woman shares a beautiful encounter she had with Bishop Libasci at a very painful time in her life. She writes:
I wanted to share something that happened at Ryan's wake last night.
(Ryan had tragically died on a father/son camping trip_
I looked up at the doorway and saw our newest bishop on Long Island, Bishop Peter Libasci walking in. Now, by marriage, Mary Ellen is related to a pretty high ranking monsignor in our diocese, so I figured he must have called for the Bishop to pay a visit. I went over to greet the Bishop, since I felt somewhat of a connection... as a young priest he was assigned to the parish I grew up in and his first funeral there was my mother's. He also confirmed my niece, while still a priest, with a special dispensation. Last year, this time as a bishop, he confirmed my daughter with this same niece as a sponsor. Full circle!
The Bishop spent quite a lot of time with the Barretts and at the end of the evening, after he had left, I spoke with the Monsignor and thanked him for arranging this visit. He looked at me puzzled and said "I had nothing to do with that. The Bishop said he had read in the paper that Ryan had wanted to be a priest. All priests are entitled to a visit from the Bishop at their wake!"
When I met Bishop Libasci at the door he said to me "I just had to come and see the little priest."
What else is there to say but welcome home Pastor and Bishop. We have been praying for you and we look with joy to the future we will share together.