Dear Editor: Your recent Editor’s Space (Feb. 24) 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 – SS. 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 SS. 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 Ave., 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 p.m. Mass at St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang Church on Parsons Blvd. 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 epitaphian along Northern Blvd. 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 Chong Ha-Sang does call.
By the way, St. Cyril’s faces Eagle Street not Dupont Street.
THOMAS G. STRACZYNSKI
Dear Editor: The Editor’s Space brought back many memories of my youthful days in Greenpoint. Attending St. Cecilia’s Elementary School, I learned to make a pilgrimage to those churches on Holy Thursday every Lent with my friends.
Thus, I was within walking distance of St. Francis of Paola and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so the little journey was a labor of love. The Christian Brothers taught me well. Visiting those churches was the norm.
JOHN J. SCIBELLI