by Ewa Wiater,
In Chinese tradition, there is a special moment during the year when “the old” meet “the new” in which the veneration of ancestors plays a crucial role. It’s celebrated as the Lunar New Year. It is time to be spent with the family and relatives, and to remember one’s ancestors.
The ritual honoring of ancestors by Chinese Catholics was officially permitted by Pope Pius XII in 1939. On Jan. 22, this special celebration took place in the Brooklyn Asian Pastoral Center at St. Rosalia Church, Bensonhurst. It gathered parishioners, mostly those who speak Chinese, from Regina Pacis, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Ephrem, and St. Agatha parishes.
The celebration began with Mass concelebrated by clergy from Regina Pacis and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, with Father Vincentius T. Do, coordinator of the Chinese Catholic community in Brooklyn; Father Peter Bay, assistant to the Brooklyn Asian Pastoral Center; and Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros.
Many parts of the Mass were spoken and sung in Chinese, along with the homily by Father Bay, explaining traditions of Chinese New Year. After Mass, Father Do addressed the congregation, expressing great joy that three months after the opening of the Asian Pastoral Center, Chinese Catholics were celebrating together.
Bishop Cisneros gave a special blessing. “We should give away everything that keeps us from Christ and keep everything that is good and just,” he said. He stressed the gift of ancestors as a source of tradition, culture, values and faith and called upon everyone to continue to celebrate their past, and the values that are crucial to everyone, such as the value and dignity of life and love that is meant to be shared with others.
Ater Mass, the people witnessed the ritual presentation of incense, flowers, wine and fruits followed by three bows of the head before a tablet engraved in honor of the ancestors. In the church filled with sweet smells of burning incense everyone was invited to individually come forward and offer their own incense stick.
The event concluded with a New Year’s Party in the basement of St. Rosalia church. Chinese and other parishioners who were welcomed by Msgr. Ronald T. Marino, pastor of Regina Pacis parish, enjoyed musical performances and, of course, a traditional Dance of the Dragon performed by the children.
The excited children got their lucky money in red envelopes, while grown-ups tasted mouth-watering Chinese food, wishing everyone a good fortune.
Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Happy New Year!