COVER STORY: New year brings new beginnings

Ana Ferrone holds her daughter Stassi as Father Jim baptizes her as dad Rich looks on. “It was amazing having Stassi baptized at Mount Carmel by Father Cesta,” the couple acknowledge. “It is so special knowing all three of us have made that sacrament in the same place.”

A new year — always filled with anticipation and renewed hope.

And new beginnings.

In our parish in the coming year, many couples will celebrate their new beginnings by pledging themselves in marriage before God, and others will be welcoming children and baptizing them into the faith.

Those sacraments are just the beginning.

“From the vantage point of faith, there are wondrous chances for new beginnings,” Father Jim Cesta said. “There are folks of various ages who have already chosen to begin again practicing our Catholic faith with being present at weekend Mass and wider involvement in parish life.

“Baptism for an infant or adult is always a new beginning,” he said. “It’s called the Sacrament of Initiation, the first day we get the nickname ‘Christian.’ Blessed marriage in the church, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Holy Orders (ordination) all have the blessings of a new beginning about them. Even making a good confession, trying to avoid an old and harmful sin, is a new beginning. That’s why a person feels better about a new start upon walking from the Sacrament of Penance to a new day.”

Two couples who celebrated new beginnings in the span of just over a year are Richard and Anastasia Ferrone and Matt and Angela Pastor.

Richard, 29, and Anastasia 23, began a new life together when they were married by Father Jim on Aug. 5, 2017.

Nearly 14 months later, another new beginning for the couple — their daughter Stassi Grace was born Sept. 25, 2018.

Quite a year for the couple.

“I knew that I wanted to spend forever with Rich,” Ana said. “We got married, and shortly after I became pregnant with our daughter and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Since we were friends for a while and also engaged for two years, I was more than ready. I knew Rich would make a great dad as he already is an amazing husband.”

Rich described the year as “rewarding, challenging and so exciting.”

“We made some pretty major life changes in a short period of time, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way,” he said. “I knew Ana was the one for me and marriage is something we both strongly believe in. We also both knew we wanted to be parents and feel so blessed to have had Stassi so early in our marriage.

Rich and Ana said becoming parents is one of the best things that have happened to them. They say they have grown closer just by talking about how they will raise their children in the Catholic community and making other decisions that will affect their lives.

“I really think about every decision I make now since it will affect not only me, but my husband and my daughter,” Ana said. “Maybe before I was a little more rash with decisions.”

Matt and Angela Pastor and their daughters Emily, 7, and Adalina, 7 months. “We’ve learned that no family is perfect, and even non-traditional families are still a family,” Angela said.

Matt Pastor and Angela Pastor also had a year of new beginnings in 2018. They were married and also had a baby — daughter Adalina, 7 months old. She joined big sister Emily, age 7.

Their path to the altar was a bit different than the Ferrones.

Angela already was a mother to Emily when she and Matt started dating. For him, Angela having a child “didn’t change how I felt about her.”

Angela, however, was more cautious.

“(Dating) was difficult because I knew I had to find the right person for not only me, but my daughter as well,” she said.

 The couple became engaged on Christmas Day 2016.

“I felt like it was time,” Matt said. “I was excited, nervous and ready for it. I was excited to make the family bigger and official. 

Angela said she “was initially nervous, because I wanted to make sure this was the right decision for all of us.”

“I knew that Matt was the right choice though, so I was excited,” she said.

Matt describes the new beginnings in 2018 as “emotional, joyful and indescribable.” Angela said “2018 was a year that completed our family. It’s almost surreal how far we have come and I’m excited for the future.”

Both couples said faith has played a role in their relationships.

“In fact, our first ‘date’ was a Mount Carmel function at Tiny’s Bar and Grill,” the Ferrones said. “It is important to both of us that we are both Catholic, both grew up in Catholic homes and continue to practice our faith at Mount Carmel.”

Rich and Ana said it was special having their child baptized at Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament — the parish in which they grew up.

“It was amazing having Stassi baptized at Mount Carmel by Father Cesta. It is so special knowing all three of us have made that sacrament in the same place.

“We have been parishioners of Mount Carmel our whole lives. We were both baptized, received first Holy Communion, Confirmation and marriage. We were both also altar servers when we were younger. We regularly attended religion, weekly Mass and received all of our sacraments here, so having our daughter baptized in the church was a definite.”

Faith also is important for the Pastors.

Angela, 29, always has been a member of Mount Carmel. Her parents were married here and they attended 8 a.m. Mass every Sunday. 

Matt, 27, was raised Catholic. He was born in Rochester and attended St. Theodore’s Church, and then St. Mark’s Church once he moved here. He started attending Mount Carmel / Blessed Sacrament once he and Angela started dating.

“We try and go to church every Sunday morning with the girls. We always feel better after leaving church.”

As their lives progress in the coming year, both couples are looking forward to their new families and the blessings and challenges it brings.

“There are definitely struggles, especially when it’s not possible to see eye to eye on every single subject; however, with a lot of communication, anything is possible,” the Ferrones agreed. “There will be disagreements and you will not agree on everything, but that’s fine. You don’t have to agree on everything as long as you continue to grow together and express love for each other.”

The Pastors also have advice to share. 

“We’ve learned that no family is perfect, and even non-traditional families are still a family,” Angela said. “At the end of the day, we do what we think is best for our family and we are all one unit. Don’t worry so much about what others think. If you are happy, and have a happy family, that’s all that matters.”

Father Jim said starting anew can be good for everyone.

“Sometimes we sing or pray that our God is a God of second chances — another opportunity to start over,” he said. “Reflecting on this idea of a new beginning leads us to realize the whole church and our individual lives are always in need of starting again because we fall flat on our face, we take two steps backward rather than forward. It’s part of life and learning.

“Happy New Year is what happens when renewal, reform and new direction open the door to a new beginning.”

By FRAN PERRITANO