Diocesan News

How Brooklyn’s Faithful are Giving Thanks in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

(Photo: Pixabay)

WINDSOR TERRACE — With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic nowhere in sight, how are the faithful left to celebrate Thanksgiving?

Rising cases of COVID-19 throughout the state and the country are forcing experts to rethink their travel forecasts and families to rethink the annual fall holiday.

AAA’s annual travel forecast anticipated a 10% dip in the number of travelers expected to crisscross county and state lines to see family. An earlier October projection expected 50 million people to travel for the holiday — down from 55 million the previous year — but as the number of new cases spiked, the number of anticipated travelers dropped.

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, this all means that parishioners are being forced to find alternative and creative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving — reaching for some semblance of what life was like before the coronavirus became a worldwide pandemic.

One Family’s Parade

For Kate Losquadro from St. Patrick’s parish in Bay Ridge, Thanksgiving was always about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

“My mother’s family started going to the parade in 1954, the year she was born. My grandfather took my uncles to get them out of the house that year, and my family continued the tradition,” Losquadro says. 

The annual parade that signifies the start of the countdown to Christmas in the Big Apple has been woven into her family’s history.

Kate Losquadro’s family throughout the years at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo: Courtesy of Kate Losquadro)

Kate Losquadro’s family throughout the years at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo: Courtesy of Kate Losquadro)

Kate Losquadro’s family throughout the years at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo: Courtesy of Kate Losquadro)

Kate Losquadro’s family throughout the years at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Photo: Courtesy of Kate Losquadro)

“It is the beginning of the magic of the Christmas season for the kids. Three generations of our family have continued this tradition. It is more than a parade for us at this point. It is a family tradition that we cherish as our families get bigger,” Losquadro adds.

With COVID-19 forcing the annual parade to go virtual this year, Losquadro’s family isn’t canceling their plans — they’re just reimagining them.

“It feels odd that we will not be at the parade physically. However, the most important part for me is sharing the tradition with my family. Our plan is to each pick a float or a balloon that we love and dress up like it. We will all walk down the street in our own mini parade,” Losquadro says.

“We will then watch the virtual parade on a projector outside my cousin’s house with a fire pit and enjoy the morning,” Losquadro continued.

Fewer Seats at the Table

With Governor Andrew Cuomo’s November 13 directive that gatherings at private residences be limited to no more than 10 people, faithful that are used to spending time around the table with large groups of the family are forced to rearrange their table settings.

Devi Rouse will spend Thanksgiving with just her daughter this year. (Photo: Dustin Etheridge)

Devi Rouse, the sacristan for St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise in Prospect Lefferts Gardens is used to traveling to see family or having them come to her for Thanksgiving.

“Unfortunately for this year, we can’t do any of that,” Rouse says. Instead, she’s opting for a simple table for two.

“This Thanksgiving, I will be with my daughter, both of us, alone. We can’t celebrate it with friends or family. We can’t go to Boston, where her cousins live. Usually, that’s what we do,” Rouse adds.

For Kadesha Bremby and Linda Robinson, Thanksgiving was always about a large meal that lasted all day. 

“We have a big family get together — uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, kid’s friends that come through,” Bremby says.

The sisters were raised in St. Ann-St. George parish in Vinegar Hill before it closed. They still live close to one another, and this year, their gathering will be small and intimate.

“Normally, you got your cousins from down south, people from everywhere. This year is going to be really, really small — just me, my two kids, my granddaughter, and my sister,” says Bremby.

Even for a gathering of five people, their meal is so big it’ll be cooked in both their kitchens.

Sisters Kadesha Bremby (left) and Linda Robinson (right) will be cooking in their respective homes and then gather at Bremby’s for a socially distanced dinner with Bremby’s children and granddaughter. (Photo: Dustin Etheridge)

“She’s got her apartment down the block. I’ve got my apartment down the block. I’m going to do my cooking. She’s going to do her cooking. Then we’ll get together,” says Robinson.

Bremby, a self-proclaimed foodie, says the cooking is what makes the day special: “Neighbors will knock on the door and say ‘Oh! I smell your food Kadesha!’ ” 

“Come get a plate!” she tells them.

But this year, that won’t be the case. “Unfortunately, we can’t have it like that. I have a lady underneath me that’s elderly. I’m going to make her a Tupperware bowl and just knock on the door, leave it on her door handle,” Bremby adds.

Keeping the Faith

So, how can parishioners stay connected to their faith this Thanksgiving, after months of social distancing and with no end of the pandemic in sight?

Christian Rada, Director of Marriage, Family Formation, and Respect Life Education for the Diocese of Brooklyn, says there are some practical ways to make Thanksgiving memorable this year, despite all the precautions and restrictions in place.

“One way to make it extra special is to watch your parish’s Thanksgiving Mass at home online. The family can take some time to reflect on the gifts and blessings God has given to them,” Rada says.

And in a world where everyone has a smartphone, Rada says that a small family dinner doesn’t mean you can’t virtually break bread together.

“Another practical way is to use technology such as FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with loved ones who don’t live in your household,” Rada adds.

Rada also notes that he’s seen the pandemic force Catholics to find new ways to engage their faith.

“The faithful are becoming more creative in their expression of faith. This creativity leads us into a new development of family spirituality. Time together enriches the family life, whether it is in-person or virtual,” Rada says.

With COVID-19 presenting barriers to Thanksgiving and all that entails, Rada says it’s important to remember the community we do have. 

“We as the people of God should be thankful for being together as a community during these tough times,” he says.

Remaining Thankful

When Thanksgiving ended last year, the world had just begun to hear rumblings of what would eventually become the COVID-19 pandemic. As the seasons changed and the virus spread, New York City became the epicenter.

Much in the world has changed throughout 2020, but for this Brooklyn faithful, the meaning of Thanksgiving hasn’t been lost.

Kate Losquadro’s family will still see a parade. “We will make the best of the situation, and I’m proud we’re continuing the tradition in the best way we can this year,” she says.

Kadesha Brebmy’s dinner table will be socially distanced. “We really are taking the proper precautions to make sure that everybody is safe,” she says.

And Devi Rouse’s outlook for the future goes beyond her dinner for two. “We just have to take it day by day and see what’s happening,” she says.