This past weekend, I attended a wedding. Many of the guests were from Long Beach, the Rockaways, and Breezy Point. These beachfront communities were damaged beyond description by Hurricane Sandy two weeks ago. Yet, there were these people celebrating the joining for life of a marvelous young man and woman at an exquisite Nuptial Mass in the lovely Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Manhattan, presided over by the Rev. Jordan Kelly, O.P., pastor. This wonderful Dominican friar did not overlook a single detail. What a beautiful occasion of evangelization! The reception that followed…well, it certainly rocked west Manhattan.
To my knowledge, none of the guests had lost family members, but they lost belongings and their homes were damaged or destroyed. One lost the family business. However, one would have had no inkling that a hurricane had disrupted their lives.
Of course, this was a predominantly Irish American group and some of the mood can be attributed to an Irish way of responding to tragedy — to spit in its eye, as it were, by partying on. However, something deeper was happening here. There was an unspoken recognition that sadness makes one appreciate more deeply the joy of life.
I noticed this same attitude at the Adult Faith Formation and Evangelization Forum, which took place on Saturday at Cathedral High School in the Catholic Center. Representatives from the Catechetical Office, the Office of Adult Faith Formation, the Office of Special and Pastoral Ministries, the Office of Communications, and the Adult Faith Formation Council had worked for months to create a day of enrichment for adult faith formation leaders and teams.
Then Hurricane Sandy struck. The lights and power went off for many people, including me. I wondered how many would turn up. To my absolute delight, more than 350 appeared. As I looked out into the congregation at the opening Mass in the Church of St. John the Evangelist, I spotted people from Staten Island. This borough saw waves so great that houses a mile from shore were damaged and SUVs were tossed about like Matchbox cars. Many people drowned. Children were blown from their parents’ arms. Yet, somehow, many parish representatives got to Manhattan for the forum.
On Sunday, the Catechetical Office held its annual Certification and Recognition Ceremony for those who had reached milestones in their formation as catechetical leaders and catechists for Catholics of all ages. The ceremony also honored special people who have rendered extraordinary service to the catechetical ministry. I couldn’t attend so I don’t know how many Staten Islanders made it to Maryknoll in Ossining for the ceremony, but my colleagues tell me the borough was well represented. Many others also expended precious gasoline to drive from the far reaches of this huge archdiocese to receive their certification, to be honored or simply to cheer on their colleagues. Special thanks to Bishop Gerald Walsh for presiding before rushing off the the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Baltimore, and to our director, Sr. Joan Curtin, C.N.D.
Maybe history will record that the Year of Faith in the Archdiocese of New York began with tragedy, but I will remember this as a time when faith, hope and love conquered all.