When his family moved to Rosedale, they went to St. Clare’s.
“There were a lot of great priests, especially Father Tom Haggerty.
He was very involved with young people.”
What sticks out most in his mind, Father Mason said, was “watching him standing on the steps of St. Clare’s talking to young men who had come back from World War II. Some of them were badly injured. He helped them find a
will to live.
“I used to think: ‘If I could do that, or at least help people find a will to be better, to have a will for God, that would be a great way to live,’”
Father Mason said.
‘Can’t do this alone’
On June 4, Father Mason will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a priest at
Our Lady of Lourdes’ regular Sunday Mass. An informal reception will
follow in the school..
As he looks back on his priesthood, he values the help he received from many
priests and lay people for his ministry. “You can’t do this alone.”
In addition to the priests of his parish while growing up, Father Mason credits
the faculty at Brooklyn Cathedral Preparatory School for fostering his vocation. Among the priests he noted were Father Charles (later Bishop) Mulrooney.
“They were great teachers and showed you what it meant to be a priest.”
At Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington, Father Mason said, he also found dedicated priests who served as role models, including Msgr. Henry Reel, Msgr. Francis Glimm and Father Charles Boyd, spiritual director.
“At the time there were more than 200 seminarians studying. Of course, we
were all one diocese then,” he recalled. “Our class stayed close, getting together
every year, both the guys who stayed in Brooklyn and the ones who came out here” when the Diocese of Rockville Centre was formed in 1957.
His class was ordained June 2, 1956. “When they split the diocese, all the priests who had been assigned out here stayed out here,” Father Mason said. His first assignment was St. Aloysius Church, Great Neck, where he served until 1966.
His time there was “a great experience,” he recalled. “The priests there were wonderful for someone who was just starting out. There was no generation gap.
You had Msgr. Vincent Baldwin, the pastor, who later became Bishop Baldwin. Father Jimmy Collins (later Msgr.) was the senior curate,” Father Mason said.
“There was also a chaplain, Father James McKenna, at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point,” he noted. “I learned a lot from him and his experiences.”
Father Mason enjoyed the parishioners as well.
“The people in Great Neck were very Church-oriented, very supportive of the parish. If you asked them to do something, they did it.”
From 1966 to 1976, he served at Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Roosevelt.
“The pastor there, Father John Bukey, also influenced me. It was a different kind of community,” racially mixed and less affluent, “but it was a very good community.
“We would offer Masses in people’s homes in those days and found the people very gracious. They might not have a lot of material things, but they had a lot
of heart and they would give you their heart and soul.”
During that time, he became director of the diocesan Nocturnal Adoration Society, a post he held almost 20 years. “It’s a great organization. You didn’t have to worry about finances. All anyone was asked to do was come to pray in the front of the Blessed Sacrament.”
First, only pastorate
Father Mason was assigned to his first and only pastorate, Our Lady of Lourdes here, in 1976. Founded in 1955, “It was a relatively new parish,” he said.
“When I got here, there was a convent, rectory, and a school,” but no church.
“In those days, the emphasis was on the school.
We used to have Mass in the school auditorium.”
The parish built a shrine to Mary, mother of Jesus, and also a church, which opened in 1985. Both the shrine and the church are frequently visited for
“We are big on Eucharistic Adoration and on Mary in this parish.
“We have Eucharistic Adoration twice a month, on the first Friday for the Nocturnal Adoration Society, and on the third Friday for Right to Life,” he explained. “We have daily Mass in the morning and also at 8 p.m. The people
want it. If they didn’t come, we wouldn’t have it.”
Father Mason also finds the parishioners here generous.
“If you can make a case for something, they will come through for you.”
Being a pastor has its difficulties, Father Mason said. “Finances are a big concern. I think of when I came here; tuition at the school was $200.
Now, it’s over $3,000. Everything costs more and there are more demands.
“And you have to convince people today of the value of a Catholic school.
Before, they all already believed in it.
“Part of the problem is that some people can’t afford it, but with others you have to tell them that it’s not important that your child gets to travel all
around the world before the age of 16, but it is important that your child learns the faith,” Father Mason said.
He also lamented the presence of so many distractions that hinder people’s involvement in the Church.
Nevertheless, he finds his priesthood satisfying. “I love saying Mass and
hearing confessions. Confession gives people so much peace. You can see it before your eyes.
“I also like to visit sick people, bring them Communion,” Father Mason said.
“Of course, I’m getting to the age where people are going to have to start
doing that for me.
“There is so much good you can do as a priest,” Father Mason said.
“If you can’t find happiness in that, you’re pretty far off the beam.”