The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced this week that Father Patrick Whitney, pastor of St. Peter of Alcantara in Port Washington, was named monsignor by Pope Francis.
“It took me by surprise when Bishop [John O.] Barres told me,” Whitney said. “It was a pleasant surprise and I said a Hail Mary and thanked God for the priesthood which I have so enjoyed.”
The title of monsignor is an honor bestowed by the pope on certain priests in recognition of their service to the Catholic Church. The bishop of a diocese — Barres in this case — nominates a list of candidates for the honor, from which the pope can choose.
“Monsignor Patrick Whitney is an inspiration to the parishioners he has served for decades and an inspiration to priests who value his wisdom, experience, generosity and fraternal charity,” Bishop Barres said in a statement.
This spring, Whitney celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Born in Ireland, Whitney told Blank Slate Media in May that he wanted to become a priest in part so that he could see the world.
“There were priests who were in Africa and America and it seemed like they were living an interesting life and had good stories to tell and seemed to enjoy what they did,” he said. “The area I came from, there wasn’t much to do, and I always wanted to work overseas.”
Shortly after his ordination in Dublin, Whitney set off for the United States. He has spent his career working for various churches on Long Island as part of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. He came to Port Washington in 2006, when he was named the 13th pastor of St. Peter’s, a position he has held ever since.
Despite five decades on the job, he continues to celebrate daily mass and frequently visits local hospitals and nursing homes.
Priests who are named monsignor and who work outside the Vatican are Chaplains to His Holiness. They are considered members of the papal household and listed in the papal yearbook, Annuario Pontifico.