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Re: Grace Church's Janet Broderick, actress-turned-preacher, finds a new home: St. Peter's in Morristown
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the article mentions the recent death of a beloved parishioner, Leni Muscarella. he was the cousin of a friend of mine, and beloved doesn't even begin to cover it...

standing ovation at funeral

best of luck to Janet in her new home.

Posted on: 2009/6/12 16:33

Grace Church's Janet Broderick, actress-turned-preacher, finds a new home: St. Peter's in Morristown
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Janet Broderick, actress-turned-preacher, finds a new home at St. Peter's in Morristown

Morristown Green
Friday June 12, 2009

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Portrait of Janet Broderick, new rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, hangs with portraits of the prior 16 rectors

Janet Broderick was preparing last week for her first sermon as rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown, and she was nervous.

Which seemed kind of surprising for a veteran preacher from a famous acting family, who had her own NBC program as a teen.

"I'm always terrified!" confessed Janet, a 53-year-old single mom.

She knew she could count on daughter Hannah, 13, and their dogs, Barney and Slippers, for moral support. Her B-team's not bad, either: Brother Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Producers) and sister-in-law Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex in the City).

Janet actually married the actors. She might be sharing film credits with them instead, if Sen. Sam Ervin hadn't steered her to the Lord.

As a teenager, driving cross-country to a summer job in an old green Triumph TR-4 she bought at the University of Michigan, she heard the chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee cite the Sermon on the Mount over the radio.

Janet found a motel Bible and read the Sermon.

"It spoke to me very deeply," she said. "I felt God was saying it's not just what you do, but what you feel inside that matters... I just decided I wanted to know more about Christianity."


Her ministerial skills were tested last week. Just days after becoming the first female rector in St. Peter's 182-year-history, she had to console a congregation grieving the sudden death of a beloved parishioner, Leni Muscarella.

Janet's neighborly funeral sermon mixed humorous and somber reflections in a way that was comforting and uplifting.

Her compassionate performance throughout the tragedy suggested parishioners had made an inspired decision in choosing her from nearly 100 candidates, who applied from places as far off as Alaska and England.

"She ministered not only to the family, but to all those who knew and loved Len," said Kay Failla, a St. Peter's parishioner for 24 years. "The great thing about Janet is there's no pretense, no taboos. The family felt free to say what they needed to say, without worrying about how it would be received."

Nick Lannon, assistant rector at Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City, where Janet was rector for the past eight years, said she embodies ideals from Henri Nouwen's book, The Wounded Healer. The book emphasizes the healing power counselors can summon from their own "woundedness."

"She has the recognition that most people are going through tough times most of the time," Nick said of Janet's tenure in Jersey City. "Knowing the Gospel as she does, she was able to connect people to the kind of peace that only God can give."
by George!Janet Broderick, the new rector at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, co-hosted a TV show on NBC as a teenager.


Though it's been decades since she appeared with her father, actor James Broderick, in the TV series Family, Janet Broderick said certain tricks of the acting trade--specifically, keen observation and the ability to focus-- still prove handy.

Actors "watch people. They notice what you wear, how you sit, and what you're doing...I do it, too," said Janet, who grew up around masters like "Bobby" Duvall, Dustin Hoffman and Meredith Baxter-Birney.

By the time she heard Sam Ervin on the radio, she already had performed at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, appeared in Alice's Restaurant with her father, and been a teen host of Talking With a Giant, an NBC show in which she interviewed celebrities like Tony Randall and Richard Boone.

(Doc Severinsen, longtime Tonight Show bandleader, was her toughest interview. "He sort of changed the subject...and I didn't know how to change the subject. He made me really mad!")

But Janet preferred working with her hands to emoting. After college she opened a pottery shop in New York...and kept sampling different religious denominations. She also volunteered at a soup kitchen. The experience was deeply satisfying, and when friends coaxed her to try the ministry, she cast her lot with the Episcopalians.

"Episcopalians deeply believe that along with having passionate faith, we have intelligent minds. That mixture of using your head and heart at the same time really excited me. It wasn't mindless Christianity, and it wasn't soulless Christianity," said Janet, whose father was an Irish Catholic and whose mother, scriptwriter and artist Patricia Broderick, was Jewish.

Her father's death from cancer in 1982 also influenced her choice of vocation.

"I really started to think that life was serious," she said, "and I wanted to do something good, and important."


At St. Peter's, parishioners are hoping Janet brings stability to an 800-member congregation that has churned through three rectors (including interims) in less than a decade, amidst declining Sunday attendance and bumpy internal politics.

"Our hope is that Janet is going to stay with us for a long time," said Kathy Seabrook, who chaired the search committee. Janet wowed the panel with a Bible study session.

"She is someone who is going to come and nurture us, help us to be our best spiritual beings, to look inwardly and outwardly," Kathy said.

Janet almost turned down St. Peter's. After strolling around the historic Morristown Green, her daughter suggested this change of scenery might be pretty cool. (Janet also has a son who works in finance in New York.)

While Janet was aware of St. Peter's internal struggles, she liked what she saw during her courtship by the church.
by George!St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown, founded in 1827.

"St. Peter's looks very imposing from the outside," she said. "But the point of that was never to keep people away. It was to say, 'This is how great God is.'"

As magnificent as the Gothic architecture is, she said she is more impressed by St. Peter's music and youth programs, and its missionary work.

Sitting in the cavernous rectory, surrounded by mover's boxes and the echoing barks of a Beagle-Shepherd named Slippers, Janet said she won't be the star of this show. "The star of this television show is the people in this church, and God."

Already, she has shared great sorrows with her new family at St. Peter's. She looks forward to bright occasions, too, maybe even some time for pinball, horses and biking.

"I hope the people of Morristown will know this is a place where they can come for a safe haven. And that they can come here when they are incredibly happy, when they want to relax, and when they want to make friends, and when they have children, and when they want to have a partner, and rejoice in that partner, and when they're suffering. And that it will be open to all people," she said.

"If you were sick or hurting, or had something wonderful happen, you would want to be with someone who cared about you...Your heart has to be in the right place."

Janet Broderick is pretty sure that place is St. Peter's.

Posted on: 2009/6/12 13:59

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