Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

For Lent, Make a Pilgrimage to Local Churches

Some people give up things for Lent and others take on a spiritual practice.

CNS reports that Brooklyn-born Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., asked his Twitter followers what they were giving up for Lent or doing as a spiritual work. He also asked if there was a way they could do both. In another tweet, he said he had decided not to choose between the two but to do both “in the hope that the Lord, in his mercy, will grant me an ever greater personal renewal of faith, hope and charity.”

For his combined Lenten effort, he said he was going to give up one hour of his day for increased prayer, beyond his normal prayer routine, which he said “will be hard to maintain but long overdue. To spend the hour with the Lord is a spiritual work beyond price.”

I would like to suggest another practice, rooted in the great tradition of pilgrimage. How about a local walk (or dive) to the churches right in your own neighborhood.

As kids, we used to visit seven churches early on Good Friday to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the special repository that was set up to hold the Eucharist between Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies. The repository was usually adorned with beautiful floral arrangements and colorful drapes.

Here’s a suggested tour of churches in the northernmost part of Brooklyn – Greenpoint, with a quick foray into Williamsburg.

Actually, we’ll start in Queens to symbolically tie together Kings and Queens Counties that make up the Brooklyn Diocese. The first visit will be to St. Mary’s Church in Long Island City. This is a traditional red brick church with a single steeple. It’s a parish begun well over 100 years ago that has seen new life pumped into it from the growing population in the resurgent neighborhood.

From St. Mary’s, we walk over the Pulaski Bridge into Greenpoint, where we find SS. Cyril and Methodius, the northernmost church in Brooklyn. Now run by the Polish Vincentians, it’s tucked into the middle of Dupont St. and easily missed unless you know where you’re going.

From there, we move up to Manhattan Ave. and make a left, proceed about eight blocks to St. Anthony-St. Alphonsus Church. This building was designed by noted church builder Patrick Keely and sits in the heart of the nabe’s main thoroughfare.

Coming out of St. Anthony’s, make a left and walk down Manhattan Ave. to Nassau Ave., make a right and go three blocks to Holy Family Church. A former Slovak church, it is now home to the San Damiano Mission, an outreach to the newcomers in the area.

Walk across McCarren Park to Bedford Ave., make a right and proceed to North 10th St. and make a left to get to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. Recently redesigned, the church has a new brightness and is a joy to behold.

Now walk east underneath the BQE to North Henry St., where you make a right to see St. Cecilia’s, a unique, beautiful building that is now one of three worship sites of Divine Mercy parish. The other two sites – St. Francis of Paola and St. Nicholas – are nearby but a healthy walk. Ask locals for direction through the side streets.

Then walk back into Greenpoint to St. Stanislaus Kostka on Humboldt St., the famous Polish church where the future John Paul II as a cardinal visited in 1968.

That’s the suggested Lenten tour in one of our oldest neighborhoods. Along the way, pray for a renewal of the faith in the area. There’s great ministry happening there but a little prayer couldn’t hurt.

One thought on “For Lent, Make a Pilgrimage to Local Churches

  1. Your recent Editor’s Space suggestion for a Lenten pilgrimage of churches echoed a personal tradition which I followed for many years when the energy and agility of youth permitted, visiting as many churches as I could manage on Good Fridays, morning to well after dark, rain or shine, and once even traveling during a light snowfall.

    I trace the origins of my pilgrimages to my earliest years and my mother taking me on Holy Thursday afternoons to the three churches nearest our home in Greenpoint — St. Cyril and Methodius, what was then St. Alphonsus, and finally St. Anthony of Padua — before somberly returning home. My babci, my mother’s mother, world take me back to St. Cyril and Methodius on Holy Saturday, a day I recall churches being, in the pre-Vatican II era, always dark and silent and mournful, not the beehives of activity that they are these days.

    After many years allowing my Holy Week tradition to lapse, I was inspired to begin a more ambitious “Camino” while I lived in Bayside. I would begin the tour of churches in Greenpoint, taking the LIE to Greenpoint Avenue, then turning left past Calvary Cemetery, crossing the bridge, and stopping first at St. Cyril’s [even the pastors referred to the parish as “St. Cyril’s,” dropping the name of the older brother evidently because of the full name’s overabundance of syllables], giving my childhood parish primacy of place.

    After kneeling before the reposing Christ in His elaborately flower-bedecked tomb as I had done with my babci so many decades before, I would move on, following a circuitous route including each of the churches mentioned in your Editor’s Space, then slowly meandering east. I would cross the Pulaski Bridge to St. Mary’s in Long Island City, drive over again into Brooklyn, stop at St. Raphael’s in Sunnyside where a Taizé service was usually in rehearsal, then get back onto the LIE only as far as Maspeth and its cluster of churches.

    Through Elmhurst, Corona, and on into Flushing, I zigzagged to every church I knew to be along the route. Once I attempted to visit a Lutheran church but was turned away at the door because “we’re conducting a service!”

    My final stop was the standing-room-only 9:00 p. m. mass at St. Paul Chong Hasang Church on Parsons Boulevard in Flushing, with its magnificent and majestic choir, a truly awesome worship experience with hymns familiar and unfamiliar sung and chanted in Korean. As years went on and it was obvious that I was able to stand only with ever increasing difficulty, another stander would make sure that I, apparently the only non-Korean in the congregation, was squeezed into a seat.

    To celebrate the Church’s “other lung,” occasionally when the Eastern Churches observed Good Friday on a different day, I would similarly visit the few Ukrainian Catholic churches I knew of, as well some Orthodox churches along the way, from the iconic onion-domed Cathedral of the Transfiguration in Greenpoint to the Greek Orthodox Shrine-Church of St. Nicholas in Flushing with its solemn procession bearing the epitaphion along Northern Boulevard and circling the block.

    The infirmities of a septuagenarian have prevented me from following the “Camino” for the past few years, as driving along to so many churches and pulling my walker from the back seat at each stop would be daunting and sap already limited strength. But the choir at St. Paul Hasang Chang does call….

    By the way, St. Cyril’s faces Eagle Street not Dupont Street.

    Regards as always,
    Thomas G. Straczynski

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