Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday, 2008

The picture above shows exactly what we are giving up for Lent. Our beloved basement hall was still open and Father Eugene Sawicki was saying Mass in his inimitable way on Ash Wednesday of last year. Elaine D. was there that day and she told me how moved she was to see the line of people spilling out of the hall onto the steps that lead to the side entrance.

Normally an attendee at the Sunday Lithuanian/English bilingual Mass, she was struck by the character and diversity of the people assembled. She described most of them as working people of the less affluent kind. Because the Lithuanians and Lithuanian-Americans have been most vocal, it is easy to forget the others now that the church has closed and they have sadly receded, resigning themselves to worship in other places, or perhaps, no place.

In addition to Lithuanian heritage, this church was a living monument to working class heritage. Longshoremen of the "On the Waterfront" era worshipped here with their descendants. Employees of the diminishing number of printing houses came here for lunch hour Mass. The little neighborhing tenements and brownstones all sheltered families who came to the little church next door or around the corner, regardless of their ethnicity.

What they came to was a small church as comfortable and modest as their own homes. They came to worship in a church founded by Father Shestokas, who was a longshoreman before he was a priest, and, I hear, while he was Pastor, as well. Father Eugene Sawicki continued the legacy of the working priest until his retirement from the FDNY. He remained "down to earth", easy to talk to and with a wicked sense of humor. From his un-pulpit under the dancehall's disco ball he emphasized the mysterious presence of God in our daily lives and the dignity and value of our souls, of us.

This is something that no one should have to give up.

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