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Lavin, St. Robert’s pastor, dies at age 67

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Parishioners, friends and family members remembered Lavin as a friendly and humble man who was wholly dedicated to his parish and his community."I always remember him as a very gentle man," said one parishioner, who asked that her name not be used, following Lavin's example of humility. "If you go back to the good shepherd stories, he really struck me as the good shepherd."When Lavin came to St. Robert's in 1995, he found the parish's growing population of Korean, Filipino and other non-English-speaking worshipers somewhat disconnected from the rest of the parish."Some of it initially was kind of like a separate parish within a parish," said Sam Romanzo, a member of the parish council. "He wanted more that the Korean community would be an integral part of the parish." Under Lavin's leadership, St. Robert's began bilingual masses and other activities intended to unite the community."He was a peacemaker in that way," Romanzo said.Born in Brooklyn on June 18, 1938, Lavin attended local Catholic schools and went on to Cathedral College, at the time located in Brooklyn. He later went to the seminary in Huntington, L.I. and was ordained in 1964. For eight years he served at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills and later spent 20 years as secretary to Bishop Francis Mugavero and Bishop Thomas Daily when they led the diocese. Before coming to St. Robert's, Lavin worked for three years as rector of St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn, the seat of the diocese.Romanzo said that when he was younger, Lavin loved to ride motorcycles. Children at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills would be surprised when a man pulled up to the church on a motorcycle-only to pull off his helmet and goggles to reveal their parish priest, Romanzo said.During his 10 years at St. Robert's, Lavin oversaw two fund-raising campaigns to finance renovations and improvements to the church and expand parish programs, according to St. Robert's Web site. He also bolstered the church's programs for children, young adults and lay leaders.Community members said Lavin was a constant presence at civic events in the neighborhood, including many hosted by the Bayside Hills Civic Association. He presided over ceremonies for Memorial Day, Sept. 11 commemorations and tree lightings."He participated in virtually everything," said Jerry Iannece, a member of the parish and past president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association. "He was there each and every time."Lavin's sister, Brenda Goldstein, described him as a "very smart and vital man.""He was a wonderful man, loved by people, very smart, very kind," she said. "He lived for that church."Parishioners said Lavin appeared to be healthy and celebrated Christmas Eve Mass. He was also present at a December tree lighting sponsored by the Bayside Hills Civic Association.Lavin's funeral was held Dec. 31 at St. Robert's. His family is asking that donations be made to the parish in his memory. Checks can be made out to St. Robert's and sent to St. Robert Bellarmine Roman Catholic Church, Attn: John Lavin Memorial, 56-15 213th Street, Bayside, NY 11364.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.

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