By Michael Rizzo
RICHMOND HILL — The sixth annual late August barbecue at the Church of Holy Child Jesus in Richmond Hill brought together parishioners and local residents for two causes: to raise money for the parish’s food pantry and to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland.
The Aug. 25 event, like the five before, was a joint venture of the Knights of Columbus Morris Park Council 566 and the Ancient Order of Hibernians Queens Division 14.
“We wanted to do something about hunger,” said Walter Cooper, parish director of the food pantry and an officer at Division 14. He added that the parish helps 40-50 families a week through the pantry.
“This gets people together. Everyone knows about Our Lady of Fatima and Lourdes,” he said.
“We want people to understand our history and faith,” he added, referring to the feast of Our Lady of Knock of Ireland.
On Aug. 21, 1879, 15 people in the village of Knock in County Mayo in the western part of Ireland saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist. Ireland’s National Marian Shrine now stands on the site. The Holy Child Jesus barbecue has always been held on the Sunday closest to the feast day.
The day’s ticket sales and sponsor donations were expected to yield more than $1,000 for the food pantry. Cooper said more than $8,000 had already been donated during previous years.
More than 100 attendees gathered at tables in the garden behind the parish offices under tents set up in 70-degree temperatures.
Cooper welcomed everyone, spoke about Our Lady of Knock and asked for prayers for the canonization of venerable Father Felix Varela, a Cuban born priest who helped Irish and other immigrants in New York in the early 1800s. Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, pastor at Holy Child Jesus, is vice postulator of the cause of Father Varela for sainthood.
John Paul McGrath said his family has been in Holy Child Jesus parish for more than 50 years. He and his wife, Laura, waited patiently as the line for food progressed.
“Good people, good food, good times,” Laura McGrath said. “What more do you need?”