United as One: Diverse Parish Includes Fast-Growing Community

Tags: Currents, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Catholic Academy, China, Chinese Catholics, Diocese of Brooklyn, Diversity, Flushing, Queens, NY

By Tim Harfmann

A diverse parish in Flushing, Queens gathered for a special dedication September 22.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio blessed the parish’s school under its new name: Saint Michael’s Catholic Academy.

It was Most Holy Redeemer. The new name was approved by the state starting this school year.

The Queens school is made up of Catholics speaking many languages.

“It really shows the universality of the Church,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “It’s a new Pentecost; our diocese is the new Pentecost. Everybody, different languages, different cultures. They’re all united in one Church.”

That universal Church was on full display at Mass.

“This is like a big melting pot,” said Veronica Tsang, a parishioner.

Part of the pot is the Chinese community.

Of the nearly 300 students at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy, about 60 percent are Chinese. And that number is growing.

“We want to encourage Catholic families, Chinese families to send their children to our school and enjoy a religious education in a safe environment,” said Tsang, who serves on the Board of Directors at the Flushing academy.

Chinese Catholics are one of the fastest-growing communities in the Brooklyn diocese, making up at least 10 percent of those newly baptized each year.

“The Chinese people are embracing the faith, young people especially. They come, sometimes, without any religion,” said Bishop DiMarzio.

“Chinese people are deeply spiritual; and for historical circumstances, historical reasons, that has not been allowed to develop,” said Father John Vesey, St. Michael’s pastor.

They come to the parish to develop that faith.

Sister Binlin Ruan teaches faith formation classes, preparing Chinese Catholics for the sacraments. She recalled two students reconnecting years after immigrating from China.

“’I know you! it’s my classmate!’ They met here together. Oh, it’s amazing! They met in the church,” she said.

In the church, Bishop DiMarizo also blessed part of the sacristy, where sacred vessels and vestments are kept. It caught fire over two decades ago.

The parish plans on completing the sacristy, along with other renovations so it can feel like home for everyone.