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Prayerful Solidarity With Disaster Victims Expressed at Cathedral Mass
By ARMANDO MACHADO
CHRIS SHERIDAN
PRAYERS FOR OTHERS—The faithful pray in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Oct. 8 at the Disaster Relief Mass Cardinal Dolan offered in Spanish after recent natural disasters in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Central America. More than 1,500 people participated in the afternoon liturgy.

Cardinal Dolan, at a special Disaster Relief Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, expressed prayerful solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico, Mexico and Central America who have suffered loss of life and dismantling of infrastructure stemming from the recent natural disasters.

The liturgy took place during the regular 4 p.m. Spanish-language Sunday Mass at the cathedral Oct. 8.

“This cathedral, St. Patrick’s, is your spiritual home here,” the cardinal said in words of welcome, aware that many of the more than 1,500 people present were visiting from other states and countries on an afternoon when the Hispanic Day Parade took place outside on Fifth Avenue.

Cardinal Dolan, who was the principal celebrant, noted the importance of finding comfort and healing through “Our Savior and brother, Jesus, and our mother, Mary.”

The cardinal also offered prayers for those killed and injured in the tragic shooting massacre in Las Vegas Oct. 1.

The cardinal told the congregation that he finally reached Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan, Puerto Rico, after two weeks of attempts, and assured the archbishop that New York’s Catholics have been offering prayers and assistance for their counterparts in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last month.

Archbishop Gonzalez, the son of Puerto Rican parents, was ordained for the Franciscans of the Holy Name Province. He served at Holy Cross parish in the Bronx for six years in the 1980s, including two as pastor, before being named an auxiliary bishop of Boston in 1988. He also was a parochial vicar at another Bronx parish, St. Pius V, from 1977 to 1982.

Archbishop Gonzalez was named Archbishop of San Juan in 1999.

“I assured the archbishop of the love and prayers of this archdiocese, and he asked me to please express to you his deep gratitude. The archbishop was also grateful to learn of our efforts to provide material assistance to the people of Puerto Rico,” Cardinal Dolan wrote in a blog post Oct. 5.

Speaking to CNY Monday afternoon, Cardinal Dolan said second collections taken up in parishes and the contributions of generous benefactors have brought funds raised in the archdiocese on behalf of Puerto Rico to nearly $500,000.

In his blog, Cardinal Dolan also indicated that he hopes to be able to visit Puerto Rico, as soon as it is practical, “to personally express our love and concern, and bring some material assistance, too.”

Father Eric Cruz, pastor of St. John Chrysostom in the Bronx and the director of Bronx Catholic Charities, delivered a poignant homily at the Mass.

Father Cruz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, said that he and his mother and siblings have not been able to reach relatives in Puerto Rico following the devastation left by Hurricane Maria.

With a sense of urgency, Father Cruz called for Christ-centered solidarity and unity in the aftermath of the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the earthquake in Mexico, instead of focusing on differences in race, social status or politics. Now is the time, he urged, for everyone to see one another as fellow children of God.

“Our solidarity grows more and more in the reality that we are one...created by God,” Father Cruz said. He spoke of the significance of acts of love, deeds of mercy—works that bring healing and save lives.

Toward the end of the Mass, Cardinal Dolan said, “Gracias, Padre Cruz. Gracias.”

The cardinal also thanked the many other concelebrants, including Auxiliary Bishops Gerald Walsh and John Jenik, and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities.

Wanda Vasquez, director of Hispanic Ministry for the archdiocese, told CNY that she was able to learn, through others, that her mother was safe in Puerto Rico, and spoke directly with her for the first time since the hurricane before the Mass.

Among those attending the afternoon liturgy was Evelyn Mendez-Black, 66, a New York native who is now a parishioner of Nativity of Our Lord in Pensacola, Fla.

“It’s wonderful, and it’s important,” said Ms. Mendez-Black of the Mass. “It’s good to know that our Church is supporting our people.” She said she has learned that her cousins and friends in Puerto Rico are faring well after the hurricane.

Also at the Mass were Esdri Colon and her husband, Hector Manfredy, who are in New York visiting Ms. Colon’s father, Santos Colon. They are parishioners at Our Lady of Carmen in Ponce, Puerto Rico. They said the visit had been long planned before the hurricane.

The young couple said no harm came to them or to relatives or close friends. They said their home was spared significant damage largely because it was built with cement, noting that homes built with wood were more easily damaged.

Speaking about the special Mass, Ms. Colon said, “In Puerto Rico, many people are suffering, especially those living in the central part, the mountainous areas. It is sad, so this is very important, that the Catholic Church is helping the people in need.”

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