Deacon Peter Reynolds knew this day would come and was thrilled to be part of it at the ordination Mass for Auxiliary Bishop John Bonnici at St. Patrick’s Cathedral March 1.
“I told him over the years, you’re going to be a bishop. They need someone like you,” Deacon Reynolds, who has known Bishop Bonnicci for 30 years, told CNY.
“It makes me very happy. Not only did I follow him (to all the parishes), I knew his family. He was very involved with my family. He’s like a brother to me.”
Deacon Reynolds, 77, was assigned at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Elmsford when Bishop Bonnici served there as parochial vicar, 1992-1994. It was the bishop’s first parish appointment following his 1991 ordination. He also served at St. Philip Neri, the Bronx, 2002-2008, and St. Columba, Chester, 2009-2021, when Bishop Bonnici was assigned there, and assists when needed in Larchmont at SS. John and Paul and St. Augustine parishes, where the bishop is now pastor.
“The reason I’ve stayed with him is he’s a little like Pope Francis,” Deacon Reynolds said. “He’s ahead of his time. He’s for the people and what the people need. He’s the real thing.”
“It’s the way he communicates with his parishioners. He’s willing to be open and help them in any way. He’s done some really good things over the years. He goes the extra mile.”
Monica Franco-Tejeda, 42, is the adviser to the parish finance committee at SS. John and Paul and director of finance at SS. John and Paul School.
“I couldn’t think of anyone better for the role (as bishop),” she said. “He’s someone who can bring people together even in difficult times. He’ll do an amazing job. I know that he will.”
Ms. Franco-Tejeda, who also attended the ordination Mass, said she first met Bishop Bonnici when he was at St. Philip Neri and she was an independent accountant.
“I’ve always thought that he had his heart in the right place and a good head over his shoulders and I think it’s the ideal combination to serve the people, serve his parishioners and also manage the parish life in general,” she said.
“He’s able to connect with people. You feel comfortable talking to him. He’s open, friendly and approachable.”
Deacon Reynolds said Bishop Bonnici has a great sense of humor and gives excellent homilies.
“The best gift he has is his homilies,” he said. “He could talk about any subject you tell him five minutes before Mass, give him any subject, and he’ll do it for 10 minutes at Mass. It's so good. He’s very gifted that way.”
Deacon Reynolds added Bishop Bonnici had a beagle named Ginger while serving at St. Columba.
“He just loves dogs, and he had a dog for many years,” he said. “Now as a bishop, it’ll be impossible to have dogs. The dog was like a mascot in Chester. Now, I’m not a dog lover and I loved Ginger.
Glenn Pellino, a parishioner of St. Columba since 2008, has memories of parishioners enjoying time with Ginger and said Bishop Bonnici united St. Columba parishioners as the parish was going through a difficult time when he arrived.
“He’s a deeply caring man who really connects with people in a rather extraordinary way. He just pulled the parish together again,” he said.
“The level of enthusiasm went up to a great degree while he was the pastor.”
Pellino, 72, said Bishop Bonnici called him with the news of his appointment.
“I don’t know whether I was more thrilled for him as a person or more thrilled for the Church,” he said. “This is a difficult time we’re going through as a Church. I think he can provide a kind of leadership which is embracing not only of the Gospel message but of each other within the Church.”
Pellino recently had dinner with Bishop Bonnici to celebrate the bishop’s birthday.
“He’s at peace and excited and enthusiastic about the appointment,” he said. “He’s a man who’s responded to invitations to take leadership in the past. So I have a sense when he was presented with the offer of the pope’s appointment, he embraced it. He’s eager to be of service.”
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