Queens Parish Celebrates Indian Feast
By Jorge I. Dominguez-Lopez
Under drizziling rain, a Marian procession went through the streets of Queens Village playing traditional Indian musical instruments and singing hymns to the Blessed Virgin on Sunday, Sept. 9.
Some 700 faithful came to Our Lady of Lourdes parish to celebrate the feast of “The Lourdes of the East” – Our Lady of Velankanni. It was a celebration of the diocese’s growing Indian Catholic community.
“Our Lady of Velankanni, or Our Lady of Good Health, is very famous in India,” said George Sam, a parishioner who emigrated from India to New York 28 years ago.
Velankanni is a town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. According to oral tradition, the Virgin appeared twice in Velankanni during the 16th century and once in the 17th century.
The local shrine to Our Lady of Velankanni is one of the most visited Catholic sites in India.
“All the communities, all the cultures within the parish are celebrating her feast,” said Angelica Taveras, youth ministry coordinator at Our Lady of Lourdes parish.
“The Indian community is growing in Queens Village, and they also come from other neighborhoods to this celebration. This is the third year we celebrate Our Lady of Velankanni here. We had over a thousand people last year, but today the weather didn’t help.”
Auxiliary Bishop Paul Sanchez was the main celebrant and homilist at a Mass concelebrated by Father Patrick Longalong, pastor; Father Robert Ambalathingal, coordinator of the Indian Latin Apostolate; Msgr. John F. Casey and several other priests from the diocese.
“It is a privilege for me to join with my fellow clergy, with all of you, to celebrate your devotion to Our Lady, to recognize her special place in our lives as Catholics and Christians,” Bishop Sanchez said in his homily.
Quoting the famous poem by Emily Dickinson, Bishop Sanchez told the congregation: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops – at all.”
Commenting on the Gospel, he explained how “we are invited to truly, constantly share the grace of God that is in our midst, the grace of God that is available to us and then enables us to deepen our communion with God our Father, with Our Lord Jesus Christ and with one another.”
The Sunday Mass and procession were the culmination of a novena in honor of Our Lady of Velankanni.
“Each night we had more than 200 people here,” said Taveras. “And every night of the novena, the statue of Our Lady of Velankanni was dressed with a different saree donated by different members of the community.
“Our Lady of Velankanni now has devotees among the Haitian, Latino, Filipino and West Indian communities of the parish,” Taveras said.