By Jessica Easthope
As the new pastor, Father Manuel De Jesus Rodriguez isn’t wasting any time when it comes to ministering to the parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Corona, Queens, a vibrant community that’s been devastated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are also as a parish committed to keep serving this community in light of the coronavirus pandemic in this community which has been horrible between infections and deaths it’s been without precedence, we want to help with the overcoming of this ordeal,” said Fr. Manuel.
Before taking over at Our Lady of Sorrows, Fr. Manuel spent six years as pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica, Queens, another neighborhood hit hard by the virus. Now his new assignment brings more challenges, overcoming the pandemic will be a long road for the people of Corona.
According to the New York City Department of Health COVID-19 has killed 3,026 people in Queens, nearly 80 of those deaths were in Jamaica, whereas in Corona there have been 442 deaths.
The parish was shaken when its previous pastor, Monsignor Raymond Roden, contracted the virus. His recovery took a toll, and he wasn’t able to resume his duties as the church’s leader.
“He couldn’t reopen on May 26 because he himself was very challenged because of his health, and the reopening required a huge effort,” Fr Manuel explained. “But he left the parish ready for reopening, and I’m very grateful for that.”
Now Father Manuel is coming in at a time when the neighborhood is still struggling to conquer coronavirus, but the heavily hispanic community is once again leaning on its faith. Compared to other churches where parishioners are hesitant to return, at Our Lady of Sorrows more than 1,200 people attended Mass last weekend.
“These particular people here in Corona, they really adore and revere this parish and they are committed to it and the resuming of the coming back from the virus closure. It’s been really positive and outstanding,” Fr. Manuel said.
Fr. Manuel is gentle with his parishioners. Though he towers over most of them, but when it comes to fighting the virus alongside them, his promise is to be fierce.