By Antonina Zielinska
After a man in a truck deliberately ran down hundreds of people in Nice, France, killing 84, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio joined the local French community in St. Agnes, Boerum Hill, July 17, to pray for the deceased.
“Today we came to mourn the national tragedy in France,” Bishop DiMarzio said during his homily, which was translated verbatim into French. “The United States, New York and Brooklyn, are united with you in our thoughts.”
“Yes, we are tired of terrorism,” he said. “Yet, we must step back from our daily lives and routine to realize what is happening.”
Referring to the day’s Gospel, (Luke 10:38-42) the bishop said, “Like Martha, Mary and Lazarus, we eat with Jesus, our friend, but really we are His guests. He feeds us. He feeds us His crucified and risen body. And we pray for those that have died in this tragedy in Nice. May God take them to His kingdom.”
The bishop also expressed his hope that the tragedy won’t deter France’s hospitality, saying that France has acted in much the same way as Abraham did when he welcomed the three strangers into his home in the day’s first reading (Genesis 18:1-10A).
Melanie Delesalle, a French native from neighboring Heart’s Home, said she was grateful for the bishop’s visit to St. Agnes.
“I am thankful for his paternal presence… his friendship to the people of France,” she said. “I was very moved that the Mass was in French and for all the effort he made to be even closer to us.”
Delesalle, who served as a lector during the regularly scheduled French Mass, said the attack in Nice reaches the absurd.
She said she came to the Mass to meditate on it and perhaps to discover the mystery behind it.
“The best thing I could do is to come here and to meditate on all these things and offer them to Jesus,” she said.
Following Mary’s example, who was also faced with the absurd at the foot of the cross, Delesalle said she prays for the victims and those who caused the deaths.
“In front of such suffering, I want to stand like Mary in front of the cross, to live in hope and faith,” she said.
Msgr. Joseph Nugent, administrator of St. Paul and St. Agnes parish, said it has been difficult to minister to the French diaspora in the diocese following the latest tragedy in France because many French people are away from the city on vacation. Father Paul Anel, who ministers to the French community was on vacation visiting his parents in France when the attacks happened.
Msgr. Nugent said he is worried about many of his French parishioners because “they are dispersed and will have to deal with this alone.”
In the absence of Father Anel, Father Johannes Siegert, from Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Red Hook, stepped in to assist Bishop DiMarzio at the French language Mass. Father Siegert is a German native who had spent a year in France studying the language. He said he came to assist after the bishop called for available priests to support the French community.
“We have to stay together to pray against violence – to express our concern and faith that with the help of God things can change,” Father Siegert said.