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Bayside church welcomes Korean-speaking priest

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Rev. Thomas Brosnan began his new term at Sacred Heart of Jesus at 215-35 38th Ave. in Bayside at the beginning of February, replacing Monsignor Thomas Donovan, who retired after 13 years of service."People are very nice," Brosnan said of the warm welcome from Sacred Heart. "There's a lot of stuff going on, a lot of things to adjust to."A native New Yorker, Brosnan grew up in Brooklyn, where he attended Xaverian High School in Bay Ridge and went on to get his bachelor's degree in history from Brooklyn College. He then attended Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, L.I. During his previous assignment, Brosnan spent seven years at the Brooklyn church Blessed Sacrament in Cypress Hills, where he said it was not unusual to see 4,000 worshipers on Sundays."The Brooklyn church was a bigger parish," he said. "There was a substantial Hispanic community." Brosnan has an international resume. After he was ordained, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which covers Queens, sent him to Seoul, South Korea for several years to study and learn Korean. Upon his return he served as the coordinator of the Korean apostolate for the diocese from 1993 to 1996, acting as a liaison between the Korean community and the diocese administration. Though there are many Korean churches in the borough, most Korean Christians are Protestant, Brosnan said, citing a statistic that of an estimated 85 percent of Korean immigrants who are Christian, only 10 percent of those are Catholic.But Brosnan has had a role in launching two local Korean Catholic programs. He helped establish St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang Roman Catholic Chapel and Center in Flushing, which he said is the largest Korean Catholic church in the United States.He was also instrumental in starting a Korean-language mass at St. Robert's Bellarmine in Bayside."St. Paul's had gotten so big with so many people coming from this area that we decided to start a mass" in Bayside, he said.St. Roberts is in the same cluster of parishes as Sacred Heart, which also includes Bayside churches Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Josaphats, and St. Anastasia's in Little Neck.Sacred Heart is known for its good primary school, and despite the recent controversy over the diocese's decision to close nine schools in the borough due to a lack of enrollment, Brosnan said the Bayside school with 500 students enrolled is in good shape."Sacred Heart is unusually healthy," he said. "We're certainly not in danger as some of those schools were."But the school still is not immune to the shake-ups within the Catholic education programs directed by the diocese as the Catholic administrators work to revamp the entire system. Each school is slated to become part of an overall educational region, much like the city's public school system with its regional superintendents. "We just had a meeting with the bishop, who wants to reorganize the system," he said. "He wants to regionalize the schools, and each area would be responsible for the governance with its own board of governors." The impact on Sacred Heart from these changes is yet to be seen, Brosnan said.As he orients himself to his new station, Brosnan said he welcomes input from parishioners and church administrators as well as the community."It's going to take a while to get used to everything here," he said. "Maybe they'll steer me."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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