DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Jesus has risen, and the crowds are back in church!
A year after the COVID-19 pandemic closed churches, forcing Catholics to miss Easter Sunday Mass in person, the doors swung open this Easter, and parishioners came back in droves to worship together and share in the glory of the promise of the Resurrection.
Even with the 50-percent capacity limit on attendance at churches imposed by New York State as a COVID-19 precaution, churches around the diocese in Brooklyn and Queens reported large numbers of people in the pews on April 4.
“We had a full house at all of our Easter Masses, between 3,500 and 4,000 persons in total,” said Father Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez, the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows in Corona.
Overflow rooms had to be pressed into service for the Easter Masses at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Jamaica due to the overwhelming crowds that came to church to celebrate the holiday.
Father Kevin Abels, pastor of Our Lady of Angels in Bay Ridge, said attendance at the Easter Masses on Sunday was double what it had been in recent weeks. “We have been getting 520 each week, and we more than doubled that today!” he said in a text message.
Father Christopher Heanue, administrator of Holy Child Jesus – St. Benedict Joseph Labre Parish in Richmond Hill, described the Easter Sunday crowds’ size as incredible. “Since the weather was beautiful today, I had set speakers set up outside for an overflow crowd,” he said.
Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, pastor of the Shrine Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Williamsburg, said the Easter Sunday crowd size was “very good, more than I expected!”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St James in Downtown Brooklyn. He was met by a large crowd of parishioners and people who usually attend Mass at other churches but who came to the Cathedral to share part of their day with their bishop.
Shiloh Frederick and her mother Ann Frederick usually attend St. Vincent Ferrer Church but felt compelled to come to the Cathedral for Easter.
“We’re so happy to be here,” Shiloh said. “It’s such a huge difference from last year when we couldn’t go to church. We watched it on television. But it’s not the same. I’m feeling so hopeful this year.”
Her mother agreed. “This is a beautiful church. It feels much, much better this year. I’m hopeful today because Christ has risen,” Ann said.
Before the Mass, Jacklyn Nathanson, a parishioner of St. James, said she was looking forward to hearing Bishop DiMarzio’s homily. She hoped to hear an optimistic message. “We need hope because many people are still going through COVID,” she said.
In his homily, the bishop called the Resurrection “the greatest miracle of our faith” and urged the faithful to believe in the promise of Eternal Life.
“The story of the Resurrection of Jesus is no myth. It is a mystery,” he said.
The fact that Jesus Christ came back from the dead offers hope, according to Bishop DiMarzio. “It gives us hope to know that this life with all its difficulties, especially this last year with COVID — that this is not the end. There’s something more that awaits us,” he said.
Father Bryan Patterson, the pastor and rector of the Cathedral Basilica of St James, said he was pleased to see such a large gathering. “Look at all of the people in church today. It’s a sign of new life,” he said.