Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

March 4, 2008


Two birthdays were celebrated last February 24 at St. Ann's, Ossining: Father Ed Byrne, the pastor at 70, and the present blog poster, Msgr. "Uncle Harry" Byrne, Weekend Associate at St. Ann's from retirement in 1996 through 2006, now at 87 and counting! For the birthdays, noonday Mass was concelebrated with an enthusiastic congregation, splendid organ music and the voices of the parish choir. A reception in the school gym was then held, bringing togther an assemblage of some 400 parishioners, "Anglos" and Hispanics, enjoying food, drink and entertainment by a mariachi band, Portugese music, an Irish flautist, and Ecuadorian dancers. St. Ann's has a broad sense of community across ethnic lines, with spirited liturgies, and programs about the life of the spirit and programs responding to the needs of the people. Here is where the Word of God is preached and responded to, sacraments received, babies baptized, the dead buried with dignity and ceremony, human needs addressed and new currents of spiritual life welcomed. This is where the Church and its people of faith are strong!

St. Ann's provides food and clothing at various times during the year, courses in English as a second language, a lively parish council, and its HELP program. It conducts an exemplary elementary school. When Father Ed arrived at St. Ann's fourteen years ago, his fluency in Spanish, his five years of ministry in Venezuela, and his pastoral outreach provided a lively approach to the Hispanic, largely Ecuadorian, community. He inherited a single Spanish Mass on weekends, shortly moved to two and then to three. Street processions of Our Blessed Lady and of the Sacred Heart and on Good Friday, complete with motorized floats, hymns, and candles on the related feast days, wind their way through Ossining streets, led by the revolving red lights of a police car. Weekly on a local TV channel, video showings of parish worship and these folk devotions have been instrumental in the rapid increase of Hispanic parishioners.

Many of these immigrants work locally, picked up by employers as day laborers. Regretably, some employers exploit the workers, not paying them or short-changing them for exaggerated reasons, like spilling paint or breaking tools, all of whichoccur in the normal course of work. The laborers, most of whom don't speak English, are instructed to take down the name on the employer's truck and license plate number in the event of disagreement. They can report denial of wages or other unfair treatment to the parish HELP program, which has attorneys on its staff. When a complaint is made, a member of the HELP committee will telephone the employer and discuss the complaint. The employer, now aware that the worker has an instrument of appeal, will frequently make a satisfactory response. If he does not, a rather official letter is sent. Failing to make a response here, the employer is summoned to the Court of Small Claims. The New York Attorney General has been enlisted to enforce the court's decision.

St. Ann's is a remarkable parish, a model in so many ways. Here is where the Church has its great strength and its strong outreach. It is right and just to sing its praises!


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