When Fr. Patrick Riegger addressed the congregation at the Oct. 2 noon Mass at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Center Moriches, he told those in attendance that he felt like he was “coming home.” Fr. Patrick made the comment during his official installation, which also kicked off the parish’s months-long celebration being planned in anticipation of the church’s milestone 125th anniversary, in summer 2023.
In a church filled with family, friends, and well-wishing parishioners, Fr. Patrick was named pastor of one of the largest parishes on Long Island, replacing Fr. John Sureau, who after serving six years as pastor, was reassigned St. Brigid Catholic Church in Westbury.
“I want to thank you for accepting me as your new pastor and look forward to getting to know you,” said Fr. Patrick during his homily. “I want to thank you for being so good and patient with me and for allowing me to serve you.”
Fr. Patrick arrived at St. John’s in late June, from Infant Jesus in Port Jefferson, where he was pastor for 12 years. While he was new to the St. John’s parish, Fr. Patrick was no stranger to the area—his parents, George and Patricia, had been residents at the Waterways complex in nearby Moriches since 2004, where Fr. Patrick made frequent visits.
“I feel blessed to be assigned so close to my parents,” he told the congregation.
The news of his reassignment came as a bit of a shock, Fr. Patrick noted. He recalled that he had been praying at the beach while on vacation at his family’s Jersey Shore house last September when he received a phone call from the bishop.
“My first reaction was ‘Oh no’,” mused Fr. Patrick.
His fears were quickly quelled when the bishop told him not to worry. The bishop added, however, that there was a possibility that Fr. Patrick would be reassigned to St. John’s. Although he had come to consider Infant Jesus his home and had requested to extend his service there, Fr. Patrick said he had a sense of peace when he learned about the possible reassignment.
After months of speculation, the reassignment was confirmed in the spring, and that’s when reality began to set in, said Fr. Patrick.
“I started to say my goodbyes to my staff and parishioners and pack up my stuff—it was overwhelming; I have a lot of stuff,” he said. “I remember thinking, This time next year, I will be with my new parish family. Now I’ve been here almost three full months, and I can’t imagine not having been reassigned here.”
The last several months have been busy for Fr. Patrick, as he has made the change from one parish to another. He’s been familiarizing himself and meeting with the parish’s numerous ministries, as well as staff and students at Our Lady Queen of Apostles School. Describing St. John’s as a “unique” parish that is “active” and “alive,” Fr. Patrick’s plans moving forward include “keeping the legacy created by his predecessors,” building the relationship with the local Knights of Columbus, and growing enrollment in OLQA. But perhaps most important to Fr. Patrick is being present for church members, and to that end, he will continue a tradition of personally greeting folks outside of church after every Mass.
Fr. Patrick credits parish staff and fellow clergyman in helping to make his move such a smooth transition.
“I thank God for my staff and the volunteers. They have been positive and supportive, and I am truly humbled,” he added. And when asked what words of wisdom were given to him by Fr. John, Fr. Patrick said: “He told me to just be myself.”
ABOUT FR. PATRICK
Fr. Patrick was born in Port Jefferson, on April 21, 1971. He was raised in Farmingville, along with his three siblings and attended and graduated Sachem High School. Before receiving a bachelor’s degree in business from Stony Brook University, Fr. Patrick went to Suffolk Community College. He ran cross country and track in both high school and college. He came from a family with a strong Catholic faith. His father was a deacon at St. Sylvester’s in Medford, and he fondly remembers that going to church was an integral part of the family’s weekly routine. Fr. Patrick knew since he was a young boy that becoming a priest was a possibility. During his college years, he became more involved in the church, serving as a eucharistic minister and catechist. Upon graduation, he worked in the hotel industry, and it was during that time that he began to reflect more seriously on priesthood. He entered the Major Seminary in Huntington when he was 24 years old and was ordained on June 9, 2001. Since becoming a priest, Fr. Patrick has served at St. Anne’s in Garden City, St. Patrick’s in Smithtown, and at Infant Jesus. He’s especially proud of the work he did while at Infant Jesus, where his accomplishments include helping to build enrollment in the Knights of Columbus and Columbiettes. He also spearheaded efforts to restore the church’s steeple, roof, and sanctuary. But hands down, one of the greatest milestones was how the parish, in conjunction with the Knights of Columbus, continued to provide for the congregation during the challenging times of COVID. Personally, he is a family man who enjoys vacationing with his parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. He’s also a die-hard Mets fan and can often be seen walking around the St. John’s campus wearing Mets fan gear.
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