Through a television screen setup in the rectory of St. Mary Gate of Heaven in Ozone Park, Colombian parishioners witnessed the second day of their beloved home country welcoming Pope Francis with open arms, setting the stage for talks on reconciliation and peace during his visit to Villavicencio, Sept. 8.
The Pope in Colombia viewing party was organized by Deacon Richard Gilligan, who invited parishioners from the Latin-American country to share the historic moment together. Families were from the western region of the country, from Armenia, and from Manizales, the mountainous region north of Armenia.
During the beatification ceremony for the two Colombian martyrs, Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve and Father Pedro Ramirez Ramos, the audience was silent and reverent.
For Martha Pineda, the images on the screen resurfaced memories from her childhood. Her father came from a family of nine siblings and she recalled the time when her father would have to hide his sister under the bed from the guerillas.
Pope Francis’ call for reconciliation echoed not only in the middle of the Colombian farmland, but also in the heart of Queens. He said, “What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope. And each of us can be that person.”
For Blanca Guzman, her hope lies in her understanding that peace will happen “little by little,” putting her trust in the process.
“Peace is going to bring everything,” said Guzman. “Peace is going to bring love, it’s going to bring hope, it’s going to bring everything,” she said.
“They say I will forgive you because we need peace, we don’t want any more people being killed everywhere. Colombia is a very faithful place, it’s a very faithful country, and there are a lot of Catholics and they really believe. Whatever you believe, it will come true.”
Guzman attended the viewing party with her sister, Maria Elena, and her mother, Blanca. Their eyes gazed at the television screen during the Mass; their hearts were in their native land. When the crowd in Colombia made the sign of the cross, they did too. When the pope spoke eloquently in Spanish his words of love and hope for the country that has been victim to years of civil war, they believed it too.
Pope Francis’ second stop during his five-day trip was in the city of Villavicencio, which is in the same municipality as the town where Sister Lucy Mendez, P.C.M., is from.
Sister Lucy is from the town of Acacias, Colombia, nearly 22 miles from where the pope celebrated Mass, but serves at St. Bartholomew, Elmhurst. She says after many years of war, the pope set a strong precedent for the message of the Gospel.
“If we open our hearts to God, it will be possible, with God, with His grace,” said Sister Lucy. “Without God, no, it won’t happen, it will be not a real peace. Inside of our hearts, there’s a lot of pain and sorrow because it hurts. I think a lot of people maybe 90 percent had someone who had been affected.
“It’s a long process but we need to walk with God to take this first step because we love our country. What Pope Francis gave us was hope, faith, love and peace so that’s what he brought to our country. The peace that comes from God.”
Papal Viewing Party (Currents)