East End congregation weathers storm's destruction to help in recovery efforts.
With mounds of donated clothes beside him, Fr.
Brian Barr of St. Mary of the Isle Church held another daily noon Mass in the
Parish Hall, a gymnasium-sized room next to the sanctuary that was flooded
during Hurricane Sandy.
In his sermon, Barr used the 1999 movie “The Sixth
Sense” to draw an analogy to the storm’s devastation in Long Beach, encouraging the two dozen worshipers who sat in folding chairs around him to try to
find something positive in it.
“I’m not saying it’s good, but you don’t have to look too
far to see the good in people,” he said, using as an example the many people
who have come from out of town and state to assist in the city’s recovery
In the neighboring sanctuary at the church on East Park Avenue, the rug and parts of the
floor had been pulled up, and pews were stacked atop each other alongside other
scenes of disarray. Duffy Sullivan, a Harrison Street resident who has
volunteered at St. Mary for 45 years, said it was the worst the church has
ever been after a storm.
“I’ve occasionally seen the water come into the vestibule
during hairy rains, but never like this,” he said of the flooding that spread
throughout the building and basement.
Following each weekday noon Mass, food is served from the
kitchen between the sanctuary and parish hall.
“After Mass we have a hot meal,” said Blanca Cales, director
of Parish Social Ministration Program at St.
Mary and St. Ignatius Martyr Church on West Broadway, who noted that Mass is also held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. Sunday.
Another longtime volunteer, Steven Kenny drives to the
parish from his Rockville Centre home to help serve breakfast and lunch at
the parish three days each week. As he served hot coffee and cake to the hurricane victims, Kenny said that since the storm St. Mary has served about 50
lunches daily. “We do at least that many during the whole week,” he noted.
Alongside the canned and other non-perishable goods that the church's food pantry typically stocks, Kenny said that some of the out-of-the-ordinary
post-Sandy donations include cases of bottled water, fresh fruit and
self-heating emergency meals from the armed services.
“We’re on the fly here,” he said about the comparatively
chaotic nature of running the parish hall after the hurricane.
Jose Rivera was one of the hurricane victims who trickled into the hall Thursday morning. Since the storm flooded his Monroe Boulevard home and destroyed his Volkswagen Beetle 17 days
ago, he and his wife, Felicia, and their 11-year-old daughter, Julie, had
slept on a wet mattress on their cold floor. Rivera was busy filling out of form to get a new mattress
and bed frame, possibly from Society of St. Vincent De Paul Society, a thrift
shop in Garden City.
“I’m looking for a voucher to get a bed,” he said. “We just
can’t sleep on a wet mattress any longer.”
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