New York Catholic Churches Accommodate Immigrant Communities' Worship of Diverse Saints

May 29, 2002

Source: The New York Times

On May 29, 2002 The New York Times reported that "Roman Catholic immigrants have long brought regional devotions from their home countries to New York City... But today, with the same churches accommodating more than one immigrant group, some parish priests say groups of the faithful are laying claim to both space and time within parishes for their own shrines and patron saint celebrations, sometimes with a fervor reawakened only by the competition... In parishes like St. Cecilia, [in East Harlem, NY] priests say there is no question who is responsible for the renewed interest in patron saints: Mexican immigrants, who brought with them their extraordinary devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico... In New York City, the Mexican population tripled in the 1990's. The manifestations of their devotion are now visible in many churches... A common response to the passion for Guadalupe, some priests noted, has been a more expressive devotion to other patron saints. Many churches now hold special Masses and celebrations with food and folkloric dances not only for Guadalupe but also for the Virgins of Providencia (Puerto Rico), Altagracia (the Dominican Republic), Cisne (Ecuador) and Perpetual Help (Philippines). Feasts that celebrate Jesus Christ, like Milagroso de Buga (Colombia) and baby Jesus (Philippines), are also recognized... Many pastors said they welcomed the trend, noting that the feasts were usually attended by a cross section of parishioners and had often served to unify congregations."