Diocesan News

Bishop Brennan Leads Palm Sunday Procession During ‘Incredible Lent’

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Bishop Robert Brennan commenced Holy Week on April 2 with a Palm Sunday procession through the streets of Brooklyn, followed by Mass and a suggestion for Catholics everywhere.

“Let’s try to make Holy Week, this week, a little bit different,” he said. “We can keep on our busy schedules, and the pressures, and everything that keeps us running and running, or we can turn to the Lord.”

The bishop made his suggestion following Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, the terminus of the procession that began at 12:30 p.m. from Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights. Palm Sunday re-enacts Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.

In that scene, people greeted Jesus by waving palms and arraying them on His path. Palms are recognized as a symbol of victory and peace.

More than 150 people participated in the half-mile procession beneath a brilliant sunny sky. They included St. Teresa of Avila Parish members, whose home church is the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph.

A chilly wind buffeted the pilgrims as they gathered at Grand Army Plaza. Still, their joy was palpable as Bishop Brennan blessed their palm branches and prayed in Spanish. Next, the procession began with songs and chants.

Diego Cervantes, a parishioner, completed his first Palm Sunday procession. His wife, Juana, and young children, Thiago and Berenice, came too.

“I am so happy because I’ve never seen this — all the people,” he said. “I like it.”

Soon the group turned onto Vanderbilt Avenue, where passing Brooklynites paused to watch.

“It was very moving to be surrounded by so many parishioners of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, singing the praises of Jesus,” Bishop Brennan said. “People were out and about … and as we went by, many people stopped what they were doing to take it all in.

During the homily, also in Spanish, Bishop Brennan gave a preview of the upcoming reading for Good Friday — Isaiah 53:5 — in which the prophet foretells the victory of Christ.

During his homily, Bishop Brennan gave a preview of the upcoming reading for Good Friday — Isaiah 53:5 — in which the prophet foretells the victory of Christ.

“But he was pierced for our sins,” the Scripture states, “crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.”

Bishop Brennan said he would spend the rest of the afternoon with Venezuelan Catholics for “El Nazareno de San Pablo” — a Holy Week devotion commemorating Jesus carrying His cross.

Bishop Robert Brennan blesses a family from St. Teresa of Avila Parish following the Palm Sunday Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. (Photo: Bill Miller)

“These days,” he said, “I think of the crosses of those from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Peru, Nigeria, and all who suffer oppression, especially for faith.”

He noted the struggles of Venezuelan immigrants, who recently came to the U.S. to escape social and economic turmoil, suffering deadly encounters through Central America and Mexico.

“Many came here with nothing — absolutely nothing,” Bishop Brennan said. “They came to our churches, not just for help, but more to worship God and share in the life of the Church. They enrich our parishes, as the Hispanic community has done here in Brooklyn and Queens for years.”

Meanwhile, the bishop added, “Jesus invites us this week to accompany Him on this path to Calvary. He always accompanies us and wants to show us the depth of His love. He knows our sorrows.

“But he also calls on us to bear witness to his way of doing things, as a sense of trust in God, trying to do what is right.”

The start of Holy Week signaled the end of the first diocesan Lenten Pilgrimage. Catholics were encouraged to visit as many parishes as possible to meet new people, see churches new to them, and, most importantly, offer adoration to Christ.

“It’s really been an incredible Lent,” Bishop Brennan said. “And now we walk with Him in a spiritual way to Jerusalem, to Calvary. Remember that He’s always walking with us. So, we give thanks to Jesus, His fidelity, for walking with us.

Yolanda Portilla, a member of St. Teresa of Avila Parish, displays the ornament she made on Saturday for the half-mile Palm Sunday procession from Grand Army Plaza to the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph. (Photo: Bill Miller)