The Deacon's Bench

From the In My Own Backyard Desk comes this heartening report about a novel fundraising event at a church in Brooklyn.

From the New York Daily News:

On Dec. 6 spotlights will crisscross the Brooklyn night sky.

Avenue T between Van Sicklen St. and Lake St. will be closed off by police from the 62nd Precinct.

Valet parkers will jockey the hundreds of cars into a church lot.

Carolers dressed in Dickensian costumes will greet 725 of the 1,025 paying guests of the annual St. Simon & Jude Doo-Wop Christmas Show on the steps of the historic church. Inside a mariachi band will play “Feliz Navidad,” as Santa Claus directs the guests to assigned tables.

Across the street in the auditorium of the sadly defunct Sts. Simon & Jude Elementary School, an additional spillover crowd of 300 concert goers will arrive at 7 p.m. to support their local church.

Thanks to Ronnie (Downtown) Califano yearend is always a Godsend in Gravesend.

Every season Califano “and my Christmas Crew” delivers this gift to Sts. Simon & Jude, his beloved neighborhood church, with a stellar oldies show that raises desperately needed money for the struggling parish in a time when the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens is closing schools and shutting churches.

“Last year the $20,000 we raised on the Christmas show alone went to remodel the basement of the church,” says Califano, a neighborhood guy who has sat in the same aisle seat of pew seven, right-hand side, at the 10:15 a.m. mass every Sunday for the past half-century since he received First Holy Communion.

“Last year, while the basement construction was going on, we had to pay a catering hall to have the event,” Califano says. “But this year, from the money we raised over the past several years, the basement is finished so we can have the gig here at the church and not have to pay a catering hall fee.”

The church basement is now so state-of-the-art – with a $36,000 stage, new sound system and acoustics, a new dance floor – that it can generate revenue for the parish.

“We’ve applied for all the licenses to actually rent out the new facility for concerts and catering,” says Califano. “You can get baptized or married upstairs in the church and have the reception downstairs. One-stop shopping. Plus we’ll do four fund-raisers of our own a year here with the goal to return the parish to its old glory. We envision a Bing Crosby, ‘Bells of St. Mary’s’ ending here. We want to reverse the trend, attract new parishioners, and young families, and reopen the shuttered school.”

There’s much more at the link. Check it out.

Photo: Ronnie (Downtown) Califano (center) and his ‘Christmas Committee Crew’

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