The annual Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral honoring Our Lady of the Divine Providence took on special significance this year because of the continuing suffering in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, which has left many people without electricity or clean water, and with little hope.
The Spanish-language Mass was celebrated by Father Enrique Camacho Monserrate, director of Caritas Puerto Rico, who said that Puerto Rico will rise with help from the Lord.
“This Gospel reading from St. Matthew—it has a lot to do with talent, using our talents, and with our celebration today of the Mother of Divine Providence,” Father Camacho said in his homily during the Nov. 19 Mass.
“We must offer ourselves (and our talents) to serve the Providence of God...We must love.”
Our Lady of the Divine Providence is the patroness of Puerto Rico.
Father Camacho spoke about how he and his loved ones and friends are persevering through hardships stemming from Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm that struck the island Sept. 20.
“We all have talents—and it is important that we all recognize our talents and use them to serve others,” Father Camacho said. The priest spoke of using his sense of humor to make his beloved grandmother laugh through her tears of sorrow due to the dire situation caused by the hurricane.
Father Camacho also spoke of witnessing how many people in Puerto Rico have been helping each other—assisting their neighbors, friends, and even those who were strangers and have become friends amid the hurt. He said that the people would overcome the hurt, and they and their beloved Puerto Rico will rise.
“It is true that we have suffered,” the priest said, “but the people are looking more to God, the churches are being filled.” He noted that because many people have been unable to watch television or use the internet, relatives, friends and neighbors are talking to each other more, and becoming closer.
In a brief interview after Mass, Father Camacho told CNY, “The hope I have is that we will move forward—there are many positive signs that we are seeing, especially concerning the faith; people are looking more toward the Lord. This hurricane has brought many people closer to God—and they are becoming more united.”
Father Camacho was invited by Cardinal Dolan to celebrate the special solidarity Mass, which was attended by about 1,400.
The cardinal, offering welcoming remarks, said, “Thank you, Father Enrique for your presence with us—we are very happy.”
Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, and other archdiocesan priests and officials, visited Puerto Rico Oct. 30. The New York delegation spent the day with Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez of San Juan. The Archdiocese of New York, through its parishes and donors, collected $700,000 for the people of Puerto Rico.
Cardinal Dolan, Father Camacho and Father Eric Cruz were met with applause when they declared at the end of their respective remarks: Que Viva Nuestra Senora de la Divina Providencia, Que Viva Puerto Rico!
Father Cruz, who was a concelebrant, offered closing remarks. He is the pastor of St. John Chrysostom in the Bronx and the director of Bronx Catholic Charities. He also thanked Father Camacho for coming to New York to celebrate the special Mass.
“I am thrilled that he is here—he’s there, he’s living it; he has family there that he grew up with,” Father Cruz told CNY after Mass.
“This is a connection and a bridge that is so needed,” he said of the New York community assisting people in Puerto Rico. Father Cruz said he has been unable to contact members of his own extended family who live in the central, mountainous region of the island. His immediate family is here in the United States, including his mother in the Bronx.
Antonio and Jackie Soto, a married couple who are parishioners at St. John Chrysostom, said they were grateful for the Mass, for Father Camacho’s encouraging words of faith and hope, and for the Church’s dedicated assistance in Puerto Rico.
Some New York-area Puerto Ricans have been able to travel to the island in recent weeks and bring back loved ones.
“Yes, on Oct. 17, I brought my mother here, she’s 80 years old, and I brought my brother and my sister. I give thanks to the Blessed Virgin—my mother in heaven helped me bring my mother of the earth,” Soto told CNY. “My mother’s name is Cecilia Soto-Perez; my sister’s name is Yolanda, and my brother’s is Hernan...Father Cruz and Catholic Charities have helped the Puerto Rican community very much. I am very happy with Catholic Charities.”
Mrs. Soto, who was next to her husband and smiling tenderly, said, “Puerto Rico se levantara (Puerto Rico will rise).”
The Mass program listed 10 concelebrants, including Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, and Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of the cathedral.