STONY POINT, New York — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, joined by priests and lay faithful, prayed the rosary’s sorrowful mysteries May 8 for the people of India now suffering as COVID-19 ravages their country.
About 200 Catholics, including many natives of India, joined the cardinal in prayer at Mary Help of Christians Chapel at the Marian Shrine in Stony Point.
Before praying the five sorrowful mysteries, Dolan reminded those gathered in the chapel that he also came to pray at the Salesian-run shrine March 20, 2020, as the coronavirus crisis was first unfolding in New York.
“I came here to pray to Jesus through Mary, Our Lady Help of Christians, as we were getting the terrible coronavirus pandemic,” Dolan said. “And now that we hear such desperate news from beautiful India … I thought, ‘She came through for us, and we can’t forget the great people of India.'”
“We are blessed with so many people in our Catholic family who come from India,” the cardinal said. “We can’t forget them. They are not alone.”
Also present was Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, president of the Manhattan-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association, who told the cardinal and the congregation that he had been in touch with CNEWA associates in India in recent days.
The cardinal, who is chairman of CNEWA, explained that he had asked “our people to share in some way and be charitable” at Masses in the archdiocese the next day, “so we can entrust our offerings to Msgr. Vaccari with CNEWA.”
CNEWA, a papal agency, for more than eight decades has worked closely with India’s Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches. From its offices in Kerala state, CNEWA supports Indian communities’ programs for the marginalized as well as the formation of priests and religious sisters.
Leading the decades of the rosary were Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, archdiocesan vicar general and moderator of the curia, and four priests who are natives of India now serving in the New York Archdiocese.
On the day of the rosary, according to The Associated Press, India reported 401,078 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including a record 4,187 deaths. Overall, as of May 12, the nation had reached 23 million confirmed infections and 250,000 deaths.
Jessy Justin, a native of Kerala who attended the rosary at the Marian Shrine, told Catholic New York, the archdiocesan newspaper, that shortages of oxygen, ventilators and ICU space are concerns in India.
Justin, a parishioner of St. Mary’s Knanaya Catholic Church in Haverstraw, New York, said she has many family members in India, including cousins and friends now battling COVID-19.
“It’s very bad now, almost the same as it was in New York,” she said, referring to last spring.
Aney Chacko, a parishioner of Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Wesley Hills, New York, spoke to Catholic New York in the chapel vestibule after Mass. “All of us know at least one person hit hard by COVID back home,” she said.
Chacko, a native of Kerala, who was with her husband, Thomas, called the rosary with Cardinal Dolan “a different level of prayer.”
“I am thankful to the archdiocese for doing this,” she said.
Dolan, in remarks before the rosary, told the congregation he had emailed “my three brother cardinals in India to let them know of our love, and our solidarity, and our prayers.”
“We’re in it together,” the cardinal said. “This reminds us that we’re part of the church.”
He asked those gathered to pray to tell their relatives and friends in India who are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, “they are not forgotten here in the Archdiocese of New York.”
“There is no better company to have than next to our Blessed Mother at the foot of the cross,” Dolan said. “That’s what we’ve done here today with the rosary.”
Woods is editor-in-chief of Catholic New York, newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York.