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Brooklyn’s Guatemalan community gathers to pray, collect funds for victims of Volcán de Fuego

June 25, 2018 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bishop Octavio Cisneros preaches on hope, compassion and generosity of spirit. INBrooklyn Photo by Francesca N. Tate
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The Guatemalan community in Brooklyn has turned a disaster in their homeland into an opportunity for outreach and hope—themes of a Mass that St. Finbar Roman Catholic Church, Bensonhurst, held in support of the victims of a June 3 volcano eruption. The Most Rev. Octavio Cisneros, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn, concelebrated the Mass, on Wednesday, June 20, with St. Finbar’s pastor, Fr. Michael Gelfant, and other priests and deacons.

Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego — Spanish for fire volcano — erupted on Sunday, June 3, billowing gas, fire and ash more than 15,000 feet high. It was the volcano’s most violent eruption since 1974, and caused widespread destruction. The initial death toll of 110 increased to more than 300 earlier this week. Volcán de Fuego is about 25 miles southwest of the capital Guatemala City.

Just prior to the Mass, Cisneros told INBrooklyn, “First there was the volcano on Hawaii (on May 3), and then the volcano eruption in Guatemala.

The volcano in Guatemala is…like a little Pompeii, where cities and people have been totally covered by ashes.”

Cisneros added that the June 20 Mass was one of two services planned. The second takes place on Sunday, July 1 in Jamaica, Queens, which also has a large Guatemalan community. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Brooklyn later reported that Brooklyn’s Guatemalan community is in the thousands, according to the diocese’s Guatemalan Apostolate.

“The bishop has called upon the collections that the pastors are to take in order to be able to relieve the needs of so many who are homeless, who are destitute and also the basics. Because when things like this occur, there’s no food, there’s no water. And everything is contaminated,” said Cisneros.

“Our people are very generous. The people are responsive to the needs of others.”

During the Spanish-language Mass, Cisneros emphasized the need for compassion and for keeping hope alive. He said that nobody can know when disaster will strike—or when Jesus will return—but to trust God and place one’s hope in His heavenly promises.

“Some live in a state of violence,” he said. “Some suffer the ravages of nature—earthquakes, hurricane, floods. There are many who suffer; but brothers, we cannot be discouraged. Maybe some of you say,  but that happened in another region, It did not happen in the region where most of you are from. Pain and joy have to be shared. Pain and suffering— the cross belongs to us all. We can hide from the sun but the sun will continue to shine because we are one in Jesus Christ.”

After Communion, the parish’s Spanish choir sang the national anthems of Guatemala and the United States. The Guatemalan national anthem, known for its melodic beauty, has eight stanzas, all of which were sung at the Mass.


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