Cardinal Closes OLQA Church
Community Catholics Are Furious!!!
East Harlem - February 13, 2007. After a night which featured the arrest of 6 parishioners, East Harlem Catholics are furious at Cardinal Egan. The arrest were made after parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish refused to leave the church. They had vowed to stay in an attempt to keep the church from being permanently closed.
Photo of two signs posted on the church doors.The Cardinal has decided to close the church due to its "shrinking enrollment". But many disagree with the closings and with his methods. One resident who asked not to be identified fumed "Why doesn't he come and move us out himself?, He has to have the police do his dirty work. He is Cardinal enough to close the church, but not man enough to come and do it himself." It is true that the Cardinal has been accuse of being distant/detached from parishioners during the closing process.
It was an ugly scene when parishioners were physically removed from the church. It is not what one ever expects to see at a catholic church. Political prisoners and illegal immigrants have sanctuary within the church, but current parishioners have "no where to lay their heads". There is something truly sad about parishioners being denied the opportunity to worship where they have worshiped all their lives. All because of money. Parishioners felt sad that economics is the real driving issue behind the closing of an institution dedicated to serving the poor.
These same parishioners were outraged that new churches will be created for those of higher means who have moved just outside the city. Bonifacio Rivera, a local community resident, asked "Is this not the reverse of the church's mission? Is the church now no different than developers who provide no housing for the poor and middle class, but create abundant housing for those with the most options in life? And what about all that parishioners have done and contributed over the decades to keep and maintain their parishes? Don't they in some measure own some part of their parishes too? Will the Cardinal compensate them for their efforts?"
Other East Harlem Catholics are left asking, "What has the Cardinal sacrificed? Has he fired his driver and cook and left his fine residence so that others will not loose their community churches? Jesus would not have lived in such a palatial manner, and He would not have abandoned a parish, his flock."
Parishioners and community residents are baffled at the Cardinals unchristian tactics, hiring private security to physically remove residents from Our Lady Queen of Angels Church. "Why didn't he come himself and speak to us, or help to celebrate the last mass at the church? Why hide behind the security firm and the local police? They ask. They felt hurt and abandoned.
The Cardinal may have had to close the current batch of parishes on his hit list, but many are surprised by the coldness of it all. Definitely not the Christian response many were expecting. Seems more worldly than anything else. It is exactly what one would expect from a non-caring CEO throwing workers out of a closed factory, but not a son of the church dealing with his flock.
Recommendations For New York City Catholics
Since the Archdiocese can not be trusted to not close your parish and since that same entity does own and control all local churches/parishes (you could be next), then Catholics should do the following:
1) Cut your strings to the Archdiocese. Continue to meet as a parish, the Archdiocese has no right to tell a group of Catholics when and where to meet and what they are to call themselves. Abandon the Cardinal. He has already abandoned you.
2) Stop contributing to the Cardinal's Appeal and raise money for your group instead. Sooner or later you will need it. If the Cardinal needs money, let him sell his residence.
3) Find, rent, own your own building. The the Cardinal can close what he controls, but he won't be able to close you down. Remember you are the church, not the building. He is the Cardinal of nothing without you.
4) And if possible show your displeasure at St. Patrick's Cathedral during a mass given by the Cardinal. If nothing else, he should be made to think twice for betraying the people, the church and treating them with such disdain. Remember, he could have handles this a lot better, in a different way. He could have reached out to a hurting parish. Instead, he hides downtown.
5) At the very least, ask the Cardinal to change his lifestyle. What is he giving up? He is asking you to give up your parish, while he still lives very well. Not a very biblical situation.
6) If you are really upset, join another church, there are plenty of Christian and Catholic but non-Roman Catholic churches where you will be most welcomed and will never have to fear being kicked out after decades of dedication and service.
7) Pray for guidance.
It may seem extreme, but the Cardinal's action were too. He will find that he is NO LONGER WELCOMED in East Harlem. If he never comes here again, it will be too soon.
Note: Our Lady Queen of Angels parishioners will attempt to attend mass at the church February 18, 2007. They will hold services outside if forced too. The Mass is scheduled to begin at 9:45 AM. Be there to support the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels. They are not about to let this go away nicely. Join them.
This article presents one point of view. The Archdiocese is free to send a rebuttal which will be published on this site. Views expressed are the individual writer's views and not necessarily the views of the webmaster. Free Speech lives on at East Harlem.com
If you can destroy a thing, you can control a thing.
Muad'Dib, thank you for your contribution on this most important issue facing our community. Here is a follow-up concerning the service held on February 18, 2007 by parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church.
Parishioners Hold Service Anyway
East Harlem, February 18, 2007. Parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church held a service Sunday morning without the assistance of any parish priests. The parishioners, led by 5 of the 6 women arrested on February 12, 2007, wanted to send the message to all who would listen that their church is still alive, even if the doors are closed.
Photo of Parish Leader, Carmen Villegas addressing the PressCarmen Villegas led the parishioners through the service, which the group were careful not to call a mass. Ms. Villegas spoke of having faith and about the group's belief that with faith the doors of the church would open again. She also mentioned her belief that they were being persecuted by a very uncaring bishop of the church. And they exalted in their persecution.
The assembled members of Our Lady Queen of Angels parish, braved the cold, outside of their usual place of worship and thank God for all He has done in the past, present and future. Included were some of the older Italian parishioner going back 60 years, Puerto Rican, Dominican and the new Mexican parishioners.
Various church and community leaders spoke before and after the "service". Ms. Villegas touched upon the notion that dealing with parishioners with hired security and using what they called "gestapo" tactics were not in keeping with being a Christian. She also mentioned her awareness in reading about the Cardinals past that he is vindictive toward all who would challenge him. More in keeping with a man of power, of the world, than with a Christian.
Ms. Villegas referred to a recent Catholic New York article which potrayed those who were arrested as "INDIVIDUALS". As if the parish just laid down and died, and individual troublemakers came in to disrupt the church. She was very angry at the churches blatant covering up (lying) of the parishes reaction to the closing and of being called "individuals" as oppose to "the parishioners".
Ms. Carmen Villegas also explained that the mornings' service would not be lead by a priest. "All priest have been scared away by the threat of retribution from a Cardinal who makes good on such promises", explained Ms. Villegas.
East Harlem's City Council Member, Mellisa Mark-Viverito, told the group that she had written to the Cardinal about her disappoint with the way the Cardinal handled the church closing. She asked that the Cardinal meet with the parishioners in an effort to mediate the situation and in hopes of keeping the church open.
Photo parishioners, beseaching Cardinal Egan to keep their beloved church open.After the end of the "service", Ms. Carmen Villegas, introduced the other four ladies who had been arrested on February 12, 2007. She also introduced a lawyer who will help the group with their fight to keep the church open. The group plans to form a 501(C)3 in an effort to take over management of the church.
It was both a glorious and sad thing to see parishioners without a church building. Glorious in that the church (the people) continue as a parish. As all good Catholics are taught, "the church consist of the people, and not the buildings". So it was that parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish came together to celebrate a service. It was weird being in a Catholic Service without a priest and sad that not one priest dared go against the Cardinal to offer the parishioners mass and solace. Seems almost everyone has abandoned this parish.
Yet the parishioners were happy. They praise God for their persecution and for his future help in this matter. Most were still talking about approaching the Cardinal with offers of taking over the church buildings. Although most were deeply angered and hurt, they choose not to make this a time to bash the Cardinal, but to reach out to him. To ask to meet with him, for him to come to them. They were very hurt about the sign which read that the church would be closed due to the "emotional climate". Yes, they were emotional in staying in the church, because love of their parish drove them to action. The church of "Social Justice" should have some compassion for it's parishioners.
No matter how hard we look, we will never see Jesus in the way this was handled. This writer and fellow Christian beseeches the Cardinal to reach out to this hurting parish. Even if the church is to remain closed, reach out to this your hurting people. Comfort them.
Again, this could have been handled in a much better and different way. But we are all human. And being Christian, we must at some point forgive. The Gospel encourages us to pray for our enemies. So this writer asked that we all pray for Cardinal Egan, that he may have the grace to learn from this experience and handle future closings with heart and with love. God Bless Cardinal Egan, Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish and our community of East Harlem.
Jose B. Rivera
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