If you’re ever looking for a Mass in Vietnamese, Spanish, or even Czech, don’t look any further than Astoria, Queens.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a true representation of the Diocese of Brooklyn. It is one of the most diverse parishes in the diocese of immigrants.
Fortunately, the pastor, Monsignor Cuong Pham, is multilingual.
“When I came here, I said the whole world exists in my parish,” Pham said. “There are masses in five languages every Sunday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Astoria: English, Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese and Czech.”
It’s one of the reasons he admires his church.
“People speak all kinds of languages, people have different stories, people come with so much richness cultural and religious and societal and to have all of that in one single religious body my family, my spiritual family is a great feeling,” he said.
But the church’s diversity isn’t the only thing about it that stands out. There’s something else that’s rich about it.
It’s been around for a long time. In fact, Our Lady of Mount Carmel is considered the mother church of Queens County. It’s been around since the 1840s.
One way Neida Martinez hopes to bring the church’s past into the future is by digitizing all the sacramental registers at the church.
“That’s the history of the parish,” she said.
Martinez says the task isn’t as simple as it sounds.
“It’s not an easy process and on a volunteer basis it’s even more difficult,” she said. “There are some pages that have been damaged and that’s why the less handling the better.”
It’s a lot of work to scan and transcribe all the data when everything is handwritten. Some of the entries were filled with a pen that was dipped in ink.
But taking two centuries worth of church history on pages and making them accessible with just the click of a mouse has helped Martinez combine her two passions: technology, and faith.
Martinez wears many hats at the church, including Director of Communications an Eucharistic Minister, lector, faith formation teacher, and she helps coordinate the annual Catholic Appeal. All of it is volunteer work.
“Everything I do is for the greater good of the glory of God of course,” Martinez said. “But for the greater good of the parish anything that helps the parish I’ll be there.”
As the comms director, Martinez live streams every Mass and special event. She’s also in charge of the church’s social media pages.
“It’s a way to get young people,” Martinez said. “You know if we don’t bring young people in, we have no church.”
Martinez sees the virtual outreach as an extension of the church’s effort to reach people and connect them to God.
“That’s our way of evangelization. It’s not just going to mass but going to mass and then jumping off from that point to meeting your fellow parishioners.”