By Marie Elena Giossi
In communion with Pope Francis in Rome, the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens celebrated a closing Mass for the Year of Faith at St. James Cathedral-Basilica, Downtown Brooklyn, on Nov. 24.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI called the Year of Faith, which opened on Oct. 11, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The observance concluded on this year’s feast of Christ the King. The goal of the year was for Catholics to rediscover and renew their relationship with Christ and His Church.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated the afternoon liturgy, which was concelebrated by nearly 70 priests. Special concelebrants included Auxiliary Bishops Octavio Cisneros, Paul Sanchez and Raymond Chappetto.
Representatives from every parish in the diocese were invited to attend the Mass. Their various ethnic backgrounds were highlighted with a multilingual offering of petitions.
Doors – and the promise they hold – were the images the bishop weaved through his homily.
“It is only through Christ the King and the door of heaven where we can find our refuge,” the bishop told the faithful.
When the Year of Faith began, he explained, the diocese aimed to give special attention to newcomers, namely the Chinese population, which numbers almost 400,000, and young professionals, who have moved into Brooklyn and Queens in recent years.
Programs are underway, he said, and pledged to continue finding “apostolic programs, new evangelizers and new methods” to meet the needs of these and other people in the diocese.
Over the last year, the faithful have taken steps to deepen their faith and, in some cases, share it with others.
“During the Year of Faith, I converted to Catholicism,” said Maria Gonzalez y Perez, wife of Father Belen Gonzalez y Perez, the first former Anglican priest to be ordained a Catholic priest in Brooklyn.
Text of Bishop’s Homily is available here:
After Pope Benedict opened the door for Anglican clergy to become Catholic priests, her husband discerned his new path – and she did the same. Watching her best friend suffer and die from cancer was the turning point for her.
“The Spirit spoke to my heart, and the Lord called me to be with Him here (in the Catholic Church),” Maria said. “It has indeed been a journey of faith.”
At Our Lady Help of Christians parish, Midwood, an adult faith formation series, “Captivated By Love,” was undertaken to help each participant become “intentional disciples of Jesus Christ.” Under the direction of parishioner Henry Artis, the group met twice monthly over the last year to study the Gospel of St. John and the Catholic Catechism and share fellowship.
“I think it was an interesting year for my parish,” shared Denise DeMaria from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish, Forest Hills. “I think our faith was tested when we lost Msgr. (Joseph) Funaro, but we also happily welcomed Bishop Sanchez to the parish.”
The election of Pope Francis, she said, was a providential event for the entire Church during this Year of Faith. “With Pope Francis we’re excited about our faith again.”
Sister Theresa Mwelwa, F.M.S.A., who was visiting Brooklyn from the Diocese of Springfield, Mass., agreed that “a lot of people are coming into the Church, and more people have been attending Mass.”
She didn’t know whether to attribute that to the Year of Faith or Pope Francis, or both, but she said it’s “an encouraging sign. I hope the Church will keep growing.”
“I’ve been trying to pray more this year,” said Maria Sosa, 13, from Our Lady of Fatima Church, East Elmhurst. “It’s hard, but I’m trying.”
To encourage parishioners to nourish their prayer lives this year, Neida Martinez of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, Astoria, helped start a “Prayer of the Week” column in her parish bulletin.
Each week, she shares a prayer suited to the liturgical season or one of her favorite prayers, including a prayer for priests. Parishioners are also submitting their own prayers, which Martinez prints in English, Spanish and Italian, to accommodate the multilingual faith community.
“It started slowly, but now so many parishioners are sending in prayers,” Martinez said, “and I’ve added their prayers to my daily routine.”
Although the Year of Faith is now closed, Martinez said the column has been so well received that it will continue as a permanent way to foster prayer among the parish family.