Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P., Brooklyn native and former pastor of Visitation BVM Church, has returned to the Diocese of Brooklyn. Following his term as pastor of Visitation from 1998 to 2005, Father Tiedemann was ordained a bishop in 2008 and named Bishop of Mandeville in Jamaica, W.I. by Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Tiedemann resided in Mandeville until last year when Pope Francis named him Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn – which meant he was returning home.
And so on Saturday, January 7th, Bishop Tiedemann came back to Visitation Church to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany at the Vigil Mass. Visitation was the church of the bishop’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who all lived in Red Hook and his own home parish for the seven years he served as pastor.
Before his arrival, which occurred in the midst of a snowstorm, the current pastor, Father Claudio Antecini and the brothers and sisters of the Community of Koinonia John the Baptist all helped in shoveling snow off the sidewalks around the church.
Bishop Tiedemann was greeted by them as well as parishioners, current and former, who braved the weather and were thrilled to see him again. According to Sister Máire Clark, “the parishioners reacted with delight when Bishop Tiedemann commented during his homily that he often had to shovel snow himself at 6 am prior to the early Sunday Mass, recognizing that little changes in daily life from generation to generation when it snows in Brooklyn.”
Among those on hand was sacristan Robert Berrios who expressed the happiness of the church community when he said “It was great to have Bishop Neil at Visitation Church and to see former parishioners. Even with the snow coming down it felt great, he lifted up our spirits.” And Sylvia Dobles, Visitation office assistant, coordinator of religious education, and a parishioner for thirty years, euphorically commented “It was wonderful, it was great, it was like old times again.”
During his years as pastor, then “Father Neil” presided over the 150th anniversary of the parish in 2004 and was known to be a much loved man of the people, someone who walked the streets of Red Hook and who was very close to his flock. Parishioners could count on seeing him not just in church but in the neighborhood and even visiting their homes.
Following the Mass, a reception was held in St. Mary’s Hall which allowed Bishop Tiedemann to catch up with a number of his former parishioners and they with him. “The atmosphere was filled with a true joy at the return of a ‘son’ of the parish” noted Sister Máire.
On the next Sunday, January 15th, Bishop Tiedemann returned to the area again and was the main celebrant at a Mass honoring the Feast of St. Stephen at Sacred Hearts/St. Stephen Church. During the homily, the bishop wove a fitting connection between the faith of Detective Steven McDonald (who had been laid to rest two days earlier) and the faith of St. Stephen, the first Catholic martyr, and then further made a poignant connection between the devotion of his own parents to each other and the devotion between God and his faithful.
With Bishop Tiedemann currently residing at St. Matthias Church in Ridgewood, Queens, the Red Hook community will undoubtedly be looking forward to future visits from their beloved Bishop Neil.