Follow Francis: Celebration of the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
Parishioners of the Church of Our Lady of Peace, who continue to have a presence at the steps of their shuttered church, are encouraged to build their street mission after the visit of Pope Francis in New York City. They continue to engage neighbors and parish members in an effort to add value to the community - something they did effectively as a full parish community before the church was closed by Cardinal Dolan on July 31.
Last week, during the Pope's visit several members of the parish stood on the corner of East 66 Street and First Avenue wearing blue sashes with the name of the church, and carrying six foot banners in three languages that asked the Pope to "Open Our Church." Others attended the Mass at Madison Square Garden, and a group braved the crowd at Central Park.
Tami Ellen McLaughlin, Patrick Campbell, and Rene Diaz brought the Pop-Up-Pope through security lines and into the crowd. Even the police on duty near Central Park were on board with Pop-Up-Pope. The NYPD 19th Precinct also put their logo on one of the photos of the Friends of Our Lady of Peace posted on Twitter to welcome the arrival of Pope Francis to the Upper East Side.
Rene Diaz and Patrick Campbell lifted the life-size cardboard cutout of Pope Francis, wearing the distinctive blue sash of Our Lady of Peace Church, above the sea of faces waiting to go into the park. A photo of the scene was published by the Associated Press, the New York Times, and the Village Voice, among other publications, and has become a visual symbol for the "Francis Effect" around the world.
For many people, the Pop-Up-Pope would be the closest they would get to the real Pope Francis. People lined up in the park to have their photos taken with the Pop-Up-Pope.
Building on the "Francis Effect," the street team at Our Lady of Peace has continued to share the Pop-Up-Pope on selected afternoons, and envisioned today's feast day as a perfect vehicle to build on the success of their street mission.
The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, always a popular feast day in the church, was seen as an opportunity to carry on an old tradition at Our Lady of Peace: the blessing of the animals. Today's event, part fall festival, part religious celebration, incorporates feeding the hungry as part of the mission. The church members always contributed to the City Harvest food drive.
Participants are asked to donate canned people and pet food. Dog biscuits and dog tags - in the form of St. Francis medals for pets - will be distributed to those who participate. Donuts, apples, and apple cider will be offered to friends who stop by between 2:30-4:00 p.m. at the church steps.
Our Lady of Peace Lector Tami Ellen McLaughlin will lead those gathered with prayers and a blessing of the pets. Jessica Bede, who leads the rosary novena each day at the steps, will distribute St. Francis medals for pets that were blessed earlier in the day by a priest. The blessing of animals does not require a priest according to the church, but the blessing of objects, such as medals and statues does.
Today's event serves to continue the street evangelism of a parish that has been locked out of its church, to be inclusive of the landmarked historic neighborhood in which the church is located, and to continue the mission of the people while waiting for the Vatican to decide their appeal. The Congregation for Clergy has extended the study of the parishioners' administrative recourse until November 1, 2015.
Since the church was shuttered on July 31, 2015, few clergy have stopped to talk or pray with the parishioners, who have met daily to pray a special rosary novena and maintain a perpetual light vigil on the steps of the church.