In a continued effort to honor those who have sacrificed for the good of St. Rosalia Church, Bensonhurst, Msgr. Ronald Marino, is making sure the religious artifacts from the now-closed church find a suitable new home.
Among the priorities for Msgr. Marino, pastor of St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis, has been placing the St. Rosalia marble altar in Regina Pacis Basilica.
Regina Pacis had been utilizing a temporary wooden altar. Now the Italian-speaking parishioners who worshiped at St. Rosalia during its last year of sacred use are able to continue to worship at the very same altar in Regina Pacis.
Msgr. Marino removed the Blessed Sacrament from St. Rosalia in June when the diocese finished the canonical process of “reducing the church to the profane.” This process allows once-sacred sites to be used for other purposes. The future use of St. Rosalia is yet to be determined. Currently, there is no parish activity there.
Msgr. Marino said he has been forth-coming with his parishioners, especially the Italian-speaking parishioners who were St. Rosalia’s last worshipers, about the process. He also has been available to help people through the grieving process of what to many is their childhood church closing.
He said it is important for him to listen to parishioners who tell him about the baptisms, marriages and funerals that took place in the church. He wants to share in the people’s sorrow and help them remember the joyous moments.
Although people feel pain to see an icon of the neighborhood close, Msgr. Marino said there has been no significant pushback on the plan.
A couple of years ago, St. Rosalia served the Chinese-speaking community in Bensonhurst. However the outreach efforts have been so successful that the group outgrew the relatively small church. They now meet in the lower chapel at the basilica. That left St. Rosalia with one Mass a week, during which the collection usually rounded out to $300.
It became increasingly difficult for the parish to support the St. Rosalia worship site. The costs to maintain the property, including heat and air-conditioning were putting a strain on parish finances. In order to help supplement the income, the parish began renting out parking spaces and inviting families to host celebrations on church property. Neither of these things, Msgr. Marino said, was really helping the parish’s core mission.
Msgr. Marino said funds that would have been used on St. Rosalia will put the parish in the black. This will strengthen the parish’s ability to care for the spiritual needs of the neighborhood. The parish has a regular weekend attendance of about 1,200 worshipers, and serves about 3,000 families in the community. Each week, Masses are offered in English, Chinese, Spanish and Italian.
The pastor said the Italian community has adjusted well to its new space in the St. Joseph Chapel in the lower basilica, which is as big as the upper Basilica of Regina Pacis. The space is accessible for people with limited mobility via elevator and is dedicated to a saint beloved by the Italian community. It is also three blocks away from the St. Rosalia site.
Having secured a home for his Italian community, Msgr. Marino is focusing his efforts on the religious items from St. Rosalia. He has begun asking his fellow pastors if they have needs for items. He will begin distributing items once he has a full count of items not needed in the basilica.
Msgr. Marino said he knows that these items were offered to the church from people who sacrificed to help build up the kingdom of God. Therefore he feels a personal responsibility to make sure they continue to be used for His glory. These are not items he can contemplate selling or throwing out.
The pastor also takes solace in the fact that the St. Rosalia altar is secure in Regina Pacis.