Photos: Paula Katinas
CORONA — With their newly refurbished church bell chiming in the background, parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows took part in a joyous procession through the streets on Sept. 15 to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary.
Bishop Robert Brennan joined the pastor, Father Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez, and hundreds of faithful for the half-mile procession, which took place on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Sorrows. Thursday also marked the start of Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), a meaningful time for the parish, which has many Hispanic immigrants among its 10,000 congregants.
The procession featured prayers, music, and dancing. Participants marched behind a large portrait of the Blessed Mother that had been placed on a flower-draped pedestal and was being held aloft by a small group of men as the march made its way through the streets of Corona.
Following the procession, Bishop Brennan stood on the plaza in front of the church and blessed the bell tower high above. He then served Mass inside the church, where more than 1,000 people packed the pews.
“The bells are a great reminder of the presence of God and presence of this parish in the neighborhood,” Bishop Brennan told The Tablet. “They’re a sign of hope, a sign of renewal, and a sign of strength in knowing God’s presence here.”
As the church, founded in 1872, began preparing for the 150th anniversary, parishioners started a fundraising campaign last year that ultimately collected $250,000 for a project that involved both repairing its bell tower and establishing a fund to pay for building renovations and maintenance.
Work on the bell tower was completed this summer, a few weeks before the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. The contractors not only repaired the 3-foot-high brass bell, but they also polished it. In addition, a pedestal was constructed to allow the formerly stationary chimer to swing back and forth.
The bell tower also features a four-faced clock which got a facelift and new parts. The dials were replaced, and the clock faces underwent a thorough cleaning.
“We made a commitment last year to restore our bell on our clock. Our clock is the only public clock in Corona. There are no other public clocks in Corona, and it wasn’t working,” Father Rodriguez explained
The tower, which stands several stories tall, is one of the highest elevated points in Corona, and many people use it as a directional landmark, according to the pastor.
Father Rodriguez is pleased with the success of the project. “Look at the results,” he said with a smile.
It was an exciting night for Jenny Alonzo, a lector and catechist. “This is my very first year of involvement. It’s probably one of the best-attended churches in all of Queens and Brooklyn. It just goes to show you the passion and commitment the community has for Our Lady of Sorrows,” she said.
The celebration took on an added significance for many parishioners. At least 100 Our Lady of Sorrows members died during the COVID pandemic, and many congregants viewed Thursday night as an opportunity for a fresh start and the chance to put those devastating days behind them.
“I want to thank God again because we can survive. We know we had a difficult time with the virus. We lost a lot of people from here. Today is a victory,” said Minny Lora.
Gilberto Perez, who is studying to become a deacon, said the new chapter is a reminder of God’s presence.
“We had a bad time because of the virus, but now we have started again,” he added. “We started with God and [His] power because we know that we are not alone. God is with us.”