One of the perks of working for The Tablet is that you really get to know the diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. Holy Week celebrations offer a wide palette of cultures, traditions and devotions that few dioceses in the world can match. This is a really Catholic – in the original sense of the word, “universal” – diocese.
On Thursday, I participated in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Holy Child Jesus parish in Richmond Hill. It was a bilingual Mass celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros, the pastor, who was born in Cuba. The homilist was Father Christopher Heanue, parochial vicar and the son of Irish immigrants. Richmond Hill has a large Hispanic presence but, as you see more and more in our bilingual liturgies, most people were participating in both languages. It was a reminder that Hispanic Catholics, especially second generation Hispanics, little by little become part of the English-speaking community in their parishes.
Good Friday at St. Mel’s parish had a Sicilian flavor. The Rosary was prayed in Italian and the procession with the dead Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows – hosted by the Borgetto Cultural Association – was an almost exact replica of the traditional procession conducted each year in Borgetto, Sicily.
For the Easter Vigil, I went to St. Clare’s Church in Rosedale. The majority of the faithful in the pews were African Americans, but the community is far from homogeneous – there is a rich mix of Caribbean, West Indian, and Nigerian immigrants and children of immigrants. The liturgy, very solemn at the beginning and totally joyful at the Alleluia, was like a melting pot of Catholic traditions and styles.
It is a wonderful experience to navigate so many cultures and traditions in three days feeling always at home at each one. That richness also makes our diocese like a sounding board for the whole world. Every news item resonates in Brooklyn and Queen no matter where that news originated. And this Easter Sunday, almost 300 of our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka were killed in a series of terrorist attacks on Catholic churches and hotels.
The editorial of this edition offers a somber reflection on this massacre, but I want to remind our readers that in our diocese we have a number of Catholics of Sri Lankan origin. The bombs that went off and killed and injured so many people in Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa, also detonated in the hearts and homes of people in Brooklyn and Queens.
The same family, cultural and ethnic connections that enrich our diocese, make us suffer every tragedy as our own. At the same time, our common faith unites and strengthens us. And in moments of tragedy and despair, our faith is the essence of our resilience and our hope.
The message of Easter Sunday is that death has been defeated by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the essence of our faith. But we need to understand that there is a war on Christianity raging from Nigeria or Syria to Iraq, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. And the Easter Sunday attacks were just the latest incident in this war.
Prayer is always the first response of a Christian, but we could do much more, beginning with calling our representatives in Congress to ask them what are they going to do to stop the ‘religious cleansing’ against Christians in so many countries and regions of the world.