.- A parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn marked the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy with a Mass said in thanksgiving for healing and support received in the year since the storm hit.
“During the first two weeks after the storm, we were isolated,” reflected Fr. Fulgencio Gutierrez, pastor of St. Mary Star of the Sea, located in Queens' Far Rockaway neighborhood, about half a mile from Long Island's Atlantic coast.
“There was no electricity and no transportation, but people came anyway to help clean, and distribute food and clothing to our brothers and sisters.”
The Rockaway Peninsula was the hardest-hit portion of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Two other parishes in the Rockaways, St. Camillus and St. Virgilius, were also heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Catholics and non-Catholics alike flocked to St. Mary Star of the Sea parish to seek refuge from the devastating storm that left many in need of such basic necessities as food, clothing and shelter.
Fr. Gutierrez said the Mass served as a celebration to help alleviate “the psychological trauma of the past year” and offer gratitude “for the generosity of so many who responded to not only our physical needs but also to our spiritual anguish.”
After the storm, thousands of residents came to St. Mary Star of the Sea for relief.
Fr. Gutierrez said that in the year following the storm, the parish has helped those in need with paying rent and providing children’s clothing. A large number of parishioners at St. Mary Star of the Sea are undocumented immigrants, and therefore do not qualify for federal relief programs such as FEMA.
Eventually the parish served as a pickup location for shuttle buses to take Sandy victims to the Human Resources Administration registration center in Brooklyn where residents, including undocumented immigrants, could apply for benefits from the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the evening of Oct. 29, 2012 with flooding that reached 14 feet in some areas, causing an estimated $65 billion in property damage and killing over 180 people in the Northeast United States.
The storm had killed at least 67 in Caribbean nations before hitting New Jersey and the surrounding area.