St. Clare Parish Hosts Weeklong Celebration of Faith and Community
By Jorge Dominguez
The St. Clare Feast Mass at the St. Clare parish in Rosedale was celebrated on Sunday, Aug. 12, and more than 500 people filled the church. It was also the culmination of a week-long celebration of faith and community.
At the beginning of the Mass, Father Andrew Struzzieri, the pastor, and his concelebrants started clapping when they arrived at the altar. People had started dancing in the pews since the beginning of the procession.
Pray, Dance, Celebrate
“Our community is a mix of a lot of people, a lot of Caribbean and West Indian people,” says Dianne Sealy-Soon, a parishioner. “We pray, dance and enjoy and celebrate. We have music that can lift you out of your seat. We all love it.”
The week of activities started on Aug. 6 with 1,000 Hail Mary’s prayed in English, Spanish, Creole and several other languages from the Caribbean and Africa.
They were also celebrating the first anniversary of a new beginning. It has been a year since the parish re-dedicated its renovated church building. After much reflection and many discussions, this year the parish adopted a new mission statement: “Come and encounter the living Christ with us.”
Father Elveau Augustine, visiting from the island of Dominica, was the preacher in three nights of spiritual revival, Tuesday to Thursday. He reflected on the meaning of the parish’s new motto during his talks and invited the faithful to be agents of that encounter with Christ they invite others to have. Between 100 and 200 people came each night of the revival.
“This week was great,” said Veronica Moses, a parishioner of St. Clare for eight years. “[We have] many people from all over in this community. The community always comes out for this!”
On Aug. 10, they celebrated a parish festival that included free rides, games, zumba lessons and even climb a 30-foot rock climbing wall.
It was also an opportunity to promote a better relationship between this multicultural community and the local law enforcement agencies. Members of the K9 Unit, Community Affairs Bureau, Highway Patrol, and Mounted Unit of the local NYPD 105th Precinct came to the festival. Many young people got the opportunity to speak with the officers, sit on a motorcycle or pet a horse or a dog.
Potluck in Parish Garden
On Saturday night, they had a community party and potluck in the parish gardens. Everyone was invited to bring typical dishes from their native countries to share while they danced and got to know other members of the parish.
Asked about how they were able to host so many activities in the same week, the pastor gave all the credit to the parishioners.
“We have had a magnificent week,” Father Struzzieri said, “celebrating St. Clare and celebrating our parishioners. Recognizing the leadership of the parish is great, and letting the leaders do what needs to be done. I have had to do nothing all week – they have done everything! It is magnificent seeing my parishioners do all this.”
In his homily, the pastor also talked about the parish’s new mission statement. He explained that being Christian is not just about following certain practices and rules but developing a personal relationship with a Jesus Christ.
“Come and encounter the living Christ with us. Jesus is alive in all of us. He said ‘I am the bread of life’ and He is speaking of the Eucharist. He gives Himself to us. Jesus said ‘I am the living bread who came down from heaven. Whoever eats my flesh will live forever.’ This is good news – we will live forever. Life begins now and it spills over into eternity.”
Asked about how this 21st century multicultural community relates to a medieval Italian saint like St. Clare, Father Struzzieri explained: “[Through] St. Clare’s joy, especially her joy in the presence of Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament. Our Caribbean parishioners – West Indian, Haitian and we have a number of Nigerians coming in – they just relish the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. St. Clare was very close to Jesus in the Eucharist I think that is a real connection for them.”