BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — Amid the ongoing racial reckoning taking place in the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd, parishioners of St. Martin de Porres Parish gathered on Nov. 8 for a Feast Day Mass for their patron saint in an atmosphere of faith, love, and hope.
St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639), who was canonized by Pope John XXIII in 1962, is the patron saint of all those seeking racial harmony and social justice.
The parish bearing his name is composed of three churches in Bedford-Stuyvesant — St. Peter Claver, Holy Rosary, and Our Lady of Victory. The Feast Day Mass took place at Our Lady of Victory Church on Throop Avenue.
“The church community recognizes itself through its saints. Today we look at St. Martin de Porres. He dedicated himself in service to the poor,” said Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski, the main celebrant of the Mass.
“May St. Martin de Porres guide us through his example,” Bishop Mroziewski said in his homily.
St. Martin de Porres, whose full name was Martin de Porres Velazquez, was born in Peru, the son of a Spanish nobleman named Don Juan de Porres, and a freed slave named Ana Velazquez. He was a lay brother of the Dominican Order and established a children’s hospital and an orphanage.
The desire for peace and harmony was a recurring theme throughout the Mass. The bishop pointed out that while the Diocese of Brooklyn is made up of people from a variety of cultures who speak different languages, it is united in faith.
“We are united in faith. We are united in love. We must love one another. St. Martin de Porres understood that,” Bishop Mroziewski said. He quickly added, however, “This love is not always so easy.”
Father Alonso Cox, the pastor of St. Martin de Porres Parish, said he was pleased COVID-19 didn’t prevent the celebration from taking place. Other parish events have been canceled due to the pandemic. “Today was an absolutely beautiful celebration. I thought on this day, our feast day, it was important for us to gather,” he said.
The Mass in Our Lady of Victory, a Gothic-style church built in 1895, featured soaring harmonies from the choir led by Joseph Murray, who is the co-director along with Joan Delahunt, of the Office of Sacred Music Ministry.
Parishioners left the church feeling a renewed sense of hope. “I thought the Mass was beautiful,” said Christine Dorvile, who has been coming to Our Lady of Victory for 17 years.
The Mass made a big impression on parishioner Lynette Lewis-Rogers. “Even with everything going on, we’ll be alright if we remember we’re here to serve God and each other,” she told The Tablet.
This year has been a difficult one as the nation grapples with the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police and the subsequent protests in cities all over the country.
Lewis-Rogers said she feels no hate in her heart. “I feel sadness,’ she said. “But I also believe so strongly that God is there for us.”