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Change coming to local R.C. parishes as one priest retires, others find new homes

Father Richard Hoerning arrived at St. Agnes R.C. Church in Greenport six years ago, and on Sunday, Aug. 23, his congregation will say goodbye to him in the way people say goodbye in these COVID-19 days — with a “drive by” of the Front Street church.

“I came here from St. Anthony of Padua in Rocky Point, and I have found Greenport to be a wonderful parish,” he said. “It’s been a very good six years. I will miss Greenport very much.”

Father Hoerning, 72, is officially retiring 47 years after he was ordained at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. He will live at the Immaculate Conception Parish rectory in Westhampton Beach and will fill in there, and anywhere needed.

The last five months have been difficult and challenging, he said, as in-person services were shut down during the pandemic. “I hope something like this never happens again,” he said, adding that he remained busy on parish business while also keeping in touch with parishioners and offering prayers for those suffering from the coronavirus and its impact on their families.

Father Hoerning’s retirement is part of a redeployment of priests on the North Fork, a sort of clerical musical chairs. Once he moves to Westhampton Beach, Father Piotr Narkiewicz will move to St. Agnes from St. Isidore R.C. Church in Riverhead. Meanwhile, Father Robert Wolosik, who had been the priest at Our Lady of Ostrabrama on Depot Lane in Cutchogue, has been stuck in Poland since March because of the pandemic, and has been unable to return.

When he does, he will move from Cutchogue to St. Isidore in Riverhead to replace Father Narkiewicz. Serving now at Our Lady of Ostrabrama is Father Richard Ficek, who came from a parish farther west on the island.

“I am very grateful for the close-knit community in Greenport,” said Father Hoerning. “They have been very welcoming.”

Father Piotr Narkiewicz with a cardboard figure of Pope Francis at St. Isidore’s Elementary School. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Father Narkiewicz, 50, said in an interview that he’s looking forward to moving to St. Agnes and finding that same welcoming community. St. Agnes will be only his second parish since arriving on Long Island from Poland in 2012. He grew up there when the country was still behind the Iron Curtain. He studied history in the university and taught it in a high school. Only when he was 30 did he decide to enter the seminary. “I felt in my heart God wanted me to be a priest,” he said. “I knew it was the right thing to do, even though I had fought it for years before that.

“I was working in a parish in Poland and a call came to my priest from Rockville Centre that they were looking for a Polish-speaking priest who spoke some English,” he said. 

“My priest said, ‘You are going to America. How’s your English?’” He arrived at St. Isidore’s a week before superstorm Sandy struck in October 2012. “I found the community very supportive from the beginning,” he said. “They treated me like family, even during those very difficult days.”

Now he will move 20 miles east to St. Agnes. 

“I feel good about the change,” he said. “I know the North Fork. It’s a good place.”

He said he will remain active in helping manage St. John Paul 11 Regional School in Riverhead, even as he will serve as administrator at St. Agnes. 

“I love working with kids, to show them what is important in life,” he said. “I want to help show them right from wrong. I want to do the same in Greenport. That is my goal.”