Despite a pandemic, St. Clare’s Church on Staten Island was packed on Saturday Nov. 15, or packed as it could be.
Parishioners welcomed Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of the New York Archdiocese, who came for a few reasons, the first being to encourage parishioners to continue to practice their faith safely. The second, to commend the work they’ve already done to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“Staten Island is experiencing an uptick in the virus and I want to thank them for all the good work they’ve done in precaution and sanitation and looking out for one another just common-sense masks and cleansing, and I want to encourage them to keep it up,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Staten Island currently has the highest infection rate in New York City. Several areas on the island are soaring above a three percent positivity rate. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 residents, among them two of St. Clare’s beloved priests, including Monsignor Richard Guastella who served as pastor of St. Clare’s, the largest parish in the archdiocese.
“With the history that’s gone on here at St Clare’s it’s been a tough couple of months losing Father Richard and seeing the new pastor come in, I think that was the driving force to get us out today,” said Tom and Cathy Adinolfi, long-time parishioners of the church.
“It was very devastating to us. He will be missed, when he gave you communion he knew your name,” said parishioners Nick Durante and Tina Turco.
Cardinal Dolan officially installed Father Arthur Mastrolia as the new pastor during Saturday night mass. For many in attendance, it was one of the first times back to Mass. Cardinal Dolan assured it would take extreme circumstances for the Archdiocese to close churches again.
“If we knew bringing people together in a big group would be dangerous to people’s health we would have to warn the people and say we shouldn’t do it but boy that’s an extreme measure where we don’t want to go,” Cardinal Dolan said.
That was a relief for those who say faith is what’s getting them through.
“We have to turn to our faith because it is a scary time, it’s all we have sometimes. It was hard to decide to come, I’ll be honest,” said Tom and Cathy Adinolfi.
“We’re a little scared, but coming to church just brings you so much closer to God, I can’t even explain. We’ve been through so much, and this is just a reinforcement of faith and that God is up there watching over us,” Nick Durante and Tina Turco said.
Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Diocese is asking the Supreme Court to block state restrictions on church capacities saying it violates religious freedom.