By Tim Harfmann
At Holy Family Church in Fresh Meadows, Queens, nearly 70 parishioners worshiped at the March 15 noon Mass, which is about half the normal attendance.
In a sense, it was a regular Sunday Mass, but it was also unusual. For the first time since Bishop Thomas Molloy asked Father Edmund Carey to found the parish 80 years ago, the faithful left the church not knowing when they would participate in a Mass there again. March 15 marked the last Sunday with public services in Brooklyn and Queens.
“That’s actually very disheartening because this is something that I look forward to every Sunday,” said Maria-Elena Zegna, a parishioner at Holy Family Church. “This is indescribable.”
It is a feeling shared throughout Brooklyn and Queens, after the Diocese announced last Saturday night that it would cancel all Masses amid continuing concern about the coronavirus epidemic.
The Archdiocese of New York announced a similar decision earlier last week, following the example of other dioceses around the country, and around the globe.
The Vatican also announced that “the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week will take place without the physical presence of the faithful.”
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio dispensed Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass until further notice, as a proactive response to the coronavirus epidemic.
There was another unique element at the Mass in Fresh Meadows. The participants were blessed with the relic of Saint Rosalie. The 15th century saint is credited with interceding for the citizens of Palermo, Italy during the plague.
While the coronavirus is in no way as deathly as the black plague that affected Sicily in the 1600s, the scope of this pandemic has paralyzed the economic and social lives of many countries. More than 7,500 people around the world have already died.
“The bishop at that time took the relic of St. Rosalie and, in procession, went around the entire diocese and blessed all the people.
That plague quickly dissipated,” said Father Sean Suckiel, pastor of the Queens church.
He said with the coronavirus crisis growing in New York and around the country,
now is a good time to turn to St. Rosalie once again.
“Just to bring hope and healing to uncertainty for our people. There’s a high level of anxiety and a fear of uncertainty about what’s going to happen next,” he added.
To read the latest updates regarding coronavirus concerns in the Brooklyn Diocese, go to https://thetablet.org/coronavirus.
Jorge I. Domínguez-López contributed to this story.