Queens Church an Immigrant Refuge

Photos and text by Michelle Rivera 

With the Trump administration stepping up deportations as part of its toughened stance on illegal immigration, many residents of New York City’s immigrant neighborhoods are tense and worried. Parishioners at St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Elmhurst, Queens, find solace during a Spanish-language mass.

The Rev. Lucas Moreno works closely with the immigrants attending his mass. “Being Mexican, being Latino, I understand the concerns and prejudices the immigrants around this neighborhood, this city, this country are going through,” he says. “However, God teaches us that when we are faced with great challenges, we must have trust in him and put our fate in his hands.”

Celia Arana (left) and Maria Rendon are sisters who came to New York 22 years ago from Puebla, Mexico.

Arana is worried about deportation and possibly having to leave her children — Matthew, 10, and Samantha, 16 — behind. “I find peace and comfort when I go to church, and I pray to God that he may touch the heart of Trump,” she says. “He needs to stop this nightmare.”

“I go to church and ask for peace for all of us who are here as immigrants, and for the president because he doesn’t need hate, he needs God and wisdom,” Rendon says.

During the mass, Dolores Garcia (left) and Margarita Osorio greet each other. “We are a family and you can’t break up a family,” Garcia says.

Lucia Quintana bows her head while Father Lucas offers the final blessing.

After mass, several parishioners remain to continue praying. Candles can be lit t for a $1 donation.

El Santisimo, or the Blessed Sacrament, is put away in this golden box and is only taken out during the communion. It is one of the holiest representations of the body and bread of Jesus Christ. Rendon never leaves church without performing the sign of the cross before it.

As people exit the church and say their good-byes, they pass the statue of Mary, mother of Jesus. Many people stop and perform the sign of the cross. “She, too, will give us a miracle,” Arana says.

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