March 13, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are beginning the second week of Lent, a seven-week season of 40 days that coincides with springtime, the rebirth of nature, and new life which we will see all around us. In this sacred time, the Church also desires that each of us grow spiritually and experience a deepening of our relationship with God. For some of us, it may be an invitation to reawaken that relationship from a state of dormancy or stagnation. No matter where we each find ourselves in the spiritual journey, Lent offers us an opportunity to rekindle our love for God, appreciate more deeply God’s holiness, develop a passion for His Word and His Church, become more aware of personal and corporate sin, practice humility, and grow in righteousness. When taken seriously, the season of Lent can invigorate and deepen a believer’s faith, opening his or her eyes to the truth in a fresh, new way.

Continue reading “March 13, 2022”

March 6, 2022

Dear brothers & Sisters in Christ,
The holy season of Lent has begun. In Lent, it’s customary for us Catholics to give up something that we do a lot of and that we find pleasure in doing. This “giving up” is done as a discipline for learning self-control, to free our minds from the chase after material things. It reminds us of Christ’s sufferings and what our true pleasures are as followers of Christ, and it is above all an act of sorrow over our sin.

A story is told about a father who had urged his children to move beyond giving up candy to giving up some sinful habit that marked their lives. About halfway through Lent, he asked the children how they were doing with their Lenten promise. One of his young sons had promised to give up fighting with his brothers during Lent. When his father asked how it was going, the boy replied, “I’m doing pretty good, Dad—but boy, I can’t wait until Easter!” That response shows that this boy had only partly understood the purpose of the Lenten “giving up.” Lent is about conversion, turning our lives more completely over to Christ and his way of life. That always involves giving up sin in some form. The goal is not just to abstain from sin for the duration of Lent but to root sin out of our lives forever. Conversion means leaving behind an old way of living and acting in order to embrace a new life in Christ.

Sometimes we don’t notice how certain things we do have gained power over us and dictated our actions. In Lent, we discover these things and give them up so that God can be in charge. The term “detachment” is often heard during Lent. It means that when you are less preoccupied with “stuff”, you will have more room for God. As Catholics, we are required to give up meats on Fridays during the season. However, we can also give up other things. For some people, Lent is an opportunity to make an effort to give up television, phone chatting, gambling, impulse shopping, dance clubbing, indulging in sexual vices—anything that relates closely to a particular sin that is especially sticky for them. Whatever that is, it is where their Lenten discipline needs to be centered. For others, Lent is a time for making changes to their habits. For instance, using money or time more responsibly, eating and drinking in moderation, going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, becoming more organized and tidier, spending less time on the internet, speaking slowly and respectfully, praying and meditating on Scriptures daily, adopting a charitable cause, going to church more frequently, etc. These positive things are not only good for the body; they are also excellent for the soul.

Some people use Lent for taking the complexity out of parts of their lives. They pare down their busy schedules and concentrate on activities that matter most. Others look for a specific area of their life in which they use power over others and then try to find ways to use less power in doing it. If you happen to be a control person, you can change the way you approach things and people. You can look at how you verbally treat another person and try to put yourself in their shoes. There can be so many things to do, but it is best to choose one thing at a time. Then, as that takes hold, give up another thing, as the Lord inspires you.

Lent’s somberness and starkness do not mean that we cannot celebrate or feast. It does not mean we cannot eat a hearty meal, enjoy a good game or movie, or get a good laugh from a funny moment. Rather, in Lent, we put a stop to our fevered pursuit of pleasure and instead let it seek us. Then, when the moments of joy do come, we would recognize them as a gift from the loving God. Thus, Lent is not all about giving things up. It’s also about adding good things to our lives or to others’ lives—the kind of good things that follow what Jesus asks of us.

The best thing you can do for yourself in Lent is to return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Check out the Confession hours in our parish and other churches and motivate yourself to go. Remember, grace is built upon nature, God’s transformation of your life can only take place if you open the door to it. Wait no longer, dear brothers and sisters, for “now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation!” (2 Cor 6:2).
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham
March 5, 2022

February 27, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Our awesome faith community has gathered together to celebrate the Holy Eucharist for the last 182 years in our church building. Many generations of the faithful have called this church their spiritual home, including some of your own ancestors. Countless Masses, baptisms, weddings, funerals, First Communions, Confirmations, graduations and so many other significant events have taken place here. With God’s blessing, we will continue to gather and celebrate our faith with passion and perseverance in this place.

Over the years, as we age, so does our beloved church building and its associated structures. Approximately five years ago, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our parishioners and the competent leadership of our beloved pastor emeritus Msgr. Sean Ogle, the Upper Church has been restored to its original splendor and sufficiently modernized with many useful enhancements. This spring, we hope to begin the project of creating two votive shrines for Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Guadalupe in the vestibule of the Upper Church, thus fulfilling a dream that many of you have expressed to me over the past year.

Since our parish was concentrating on the renovation works in the Upper Church, we could not give attention to the Lower Church at the same time. Recently, it has become apparent that we must address the aging needs of our lower church, as well as those of the Rectory office building, as they relate to building safety and the safety of our parishioners, priests, and staff, sooner rather than later. I also believe that we have a responsibility to maintain the aesthetics of our sacred environment. With that in mind, I have looked into the task of necessary repairs and improvements to our Lower Church and the Rectory office building. I want to ensure that this project is managed responsibly. Due to funding restraints, these works will need to be handled in multiple phases. This is a collaborative effort that includes the Parish Staff, Pastoral Council, Finance Council, professional contractors, the Diocese, and most importantly, parishioners like you.

With an aim towards keeping you informed, I am proud to announce that our first undertaking for the Lower Church has already begun last week. We have replaced the broken water pipes along the sidewalls that were the leading causes of water leak and damage. We have also replaced the broken floor tiles along the side corridors, repaired all the drywall water damage in and around the confessionals, and fixed the broken votive candles.

This summer, we will begin the renovation project for the Lower Church that will include a new sanctuary, a new altar, and a new drop ceiling. We will relocate the Tabernacle to the center of the sanctuary and create space for the statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. We will also incorporate the liturgical appointments that we have brought over from the former Chapel of St. Margaret Mary into the new sanctuary so that we can preserve the patrimony of that Chapel for generations to come.

We will continually update you on our progress. In the meantime, take a look at the newly restored Crucifix behind the altar in the Lower Church, which came from the Chapel of St. Margaret Mary, and envision for yourself how a completely restored sanctuary in the future will enhance and improve our sacred environment. We may need to reach out to you, our parish family, for support in sponsoring certain updates for church furnishings, altar, pulpit, statues, millwork designs, murals, and other needed items. It would be wonderful if you could consider memorializing a certain item or donating it in the loving memory of a loved one.
I hope you are as excited as I am for the beautification and revitalization project of our Lower Church and Rectory office building. I am confident that after this worthy project, our parish church will be poised to further entrench its status as Astoria’s signature architectural beauty and, more importantly, as the Mother Church of Queens County. With the intercession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, I pray that our parish family may continue to flourish and that our faith may continue to grow as a result of this endeavor.

Faithfully yours,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

February 20, 2022

Dear parishioners and friends in Christ,

As you know, exciting things have been happening in our parish. Since the closing of St. Margaret Mary’s Chapel, our parishioners from that community have joined us in worship at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. The work of integrating the two communities has progressed nicely. Our Spanish speaking leaders have done a phenomenal job in bringing people together. I am inspired by their remarkable spirit of openness, collaboration and sacrifice for the good of the parish.

You may recall that on November 14, 2021, I have announced the necessity of making some changes with respect to the 10:00am Sunday Mass in order to better serve the liturgical need of our community. That announcement was based on the insights I received from many of you, and especially from my November 8 meeting with the Parish Pastoral Council and the November 12 meeting with all the leaders of our parish. In those meetings, we had discussed the changing demographics of our parish’s membership; examined the situation after the recent unification; studied the Mass attendance over the previous five years; considered the language Masses offered in other neighboring parishes; and spent time deliberating the possibility of a change. While there was a clear consensus on the matter, we felt that it would be prudent to allow three months to pass before I would announce the final decision to the parish. In that way, parishioners would have a chance to be heard as we discern the best option for our parish.

Now that the said period is about to pass, I am asking you to prayerfully endorse my decision as follows: Effective Sunday, April 3, 2022, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, there will be changes ONLY for two Sunday Masses. The 10:00am English Mass will start at 9:30am and will become a bilingual Mass (English & Spanish). At the same time, the 11:15am Mass will start at 11:00am.

Your elected parish representatives and I sincerely believe that these changes will be beneficial as we seek to meet your spiritual needs in more creative and effective ways. Allow me to offer the following observations concerning these changes: – The new schedule will involve a 30-minute time change for the 9:30am Mass, and a 15-minute time change for the 11:00am Mass. As the times will not be too different from the current schedule, it will be less disruptive to you in your current Mass attendance patterns.

– The new schedule will provide sufficient time for liturgical preparations with reverence. It will also give a little more time for ministers, parishioners and visitors to interact personally with priests and with one another either before or after Mass (e.g., chatting, asking for information, blessings & anointing). It will foster a greater sense of fellowship among our people.

– The new schedule will allow for a better flow of traffic in and out of the crowded parking lot.
– The bilingual Mass will be a timely pastoral response to the constant requests that we have received from many of our people who desire a liturgy in which the Word of God is proclaimed and understood by both English and Spanish speakers, especially families with young children who cherish both languages. More importantly, it will allow different people to get to know their brothers and sisters as they come to share the same Eucharist.

I want you to know this decision has been made through much prayer and many candid consultations. I acknowledge that this change, while having been anticipated for some time now, will be hard for some of you, particularly English-speaking Mass-goers at the 10:00am, since it involves what we deeply love—our Eucharist and our parish community. Nevertheless, I believe that these adjustments must happen sooner than later for the benefit and growth of our parish.

As the coronavirus has subsided and the vaccine is more readily available, many more people are seeking to attend Mass in person. I am hopeful that this change will infuse greater energy, vibrancy, and inclusivity into our community. I wish to ask for your prayers and support as we move forward together.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

February 13, 2022

Dear parishioners,

When I walked into a CVS store a few days after Christmas, I was surprised by how quickly the atmosphere had changed overnight. The store was literally covered with heart-shaped chocolate boxes, Valentine cards, and pink and red plates. I rolled my eyes. “Really? They could at least wait for the New Year!”

The truth is that I do like Valentine’s Day. For some people, Valentine’s Day brings up lots of painful memories, just like any other holiday. Some people dislike the pressure that comes with a day like that. For me, Valentine’s Day is not tied to gushy romance or obligation or painful experiences. I cherish it for its core concept. It’s about love — and what’s not to like about love? It is an opportunity to be thankful for the people who love us and a challenge to love others a little more.

There are several legends surrounding the origin of this day. One of them involves the story of St. Valentine, a priest living in Rome about 250 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Claudius. Claudius wanted young men to join his large army. However, many men just did not want to be in the army and fight in wars. They did not want to leave their wives or their fiancés and their families. Since not many men signed up to be in the army, Claudius decided not to allow any more marriages. After the Emperor’s decree forbidding marriages throughout his empire, Father Valentine secretly performed marriage ceremonies. He would whisper the blessing to couples while hiding it from the authorities. One evening, the priest was caught performing a wedding and was arrested. He was told that his punishment was death.  Many young people came to the jail to visit him. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in married love. One of these young people was the daughter of the prison guard. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing marriage ceremonies. On the day he was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “Love from your Valentine.” That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D. Today, the site of St. Valentine’s martyrdom has been converted into a famous Church, located only a short walk from where I used to live in the heart of Rome. On St. Valentine’s Day, that Church would be filled with red roses from pilgrims who come to venerate the saint’s relics and celebrate his heroic sacrifice.

No matter the origin of St. Valentine’s Day, it is good to celebrate love and to let those whom we love know that we do love them. Our loving relationships profoundly impact our lives. As the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton asserted, “Love affects more than our thinking and our behavior toward those we love. It transforms our entire life. Genuine love is a personal revolution. Love takes your ideas, your desires, and your actions and welds them together in one experience and one living reality, which is a new you.” I invite you to take some time this week to reflect on this and let your loved ones and friends know that they are loved by you and that they have changed you by their love.  Mother Teresa said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread”. This is the modern saint who knew a few things about hunger. In fact, she devoted her life to caring for the poor, the sick, and the hungry. There is no doubt that love is what life is all about. It is the greatest source of meaning in life and is by far the deepest yearning of the human heart. The lack of love brings serious dysfunctions, along with a lack of confidence,  the inability to have meaningful relationships, and a joyful life. Love generates joy, strength, courage, passion, and significance. It sustains relationships and gives meaning to all that we do.

St. Paul, addressing the Church in Corinth that was filled with discord and polarization, exhorted them: “Do everything in love,” (1 Corinthians 16:14). The Apostle continues to remind us that everything passes, including wealth, success, talents. In the end, he said, “only these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). The kind of love St. Paul spoke about is not the sentimental, romantic kind of love based largely on feelings that the world promotes all the time, but it is the disinterested, life-giving love based solely on the love of God. By its nature, this kind of love is sacrificial and is always directed towards the good of the beloved. It is the kind of love by which Jesus Christ gives himself to us and to the world.

This is the kind of love that we are called to offer to one another. Let this love be our Valentine to everyone, showing the love God has for us in Jesus Christ by offering it to others, especially to those who hunger for love, and even to those who may not be lovable in our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day, and may God bless you and all your beloved always!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

February 6, 2022

Dear parishioners and friends of our parish,

I trust you are doing well and staying healthy in these challenging times.

As you know, our Church has faced tremendous challenges over the past two years as we have done our best to navigate the pandemic. Undoubtedly, all the decisions we’ve made have not been perfect, but we have tried to seek the mind of God and His wisdom.

These days, as Covid cases continue to plummet and fewer fully vaccinated people are hospitalized, many have expressed the hope that life can come back to some level of “normalcy”. Even in our parish, many more parishioners have returned to worship together. We’ve tried to do so with a sense of care. Like me, I am sure that you can’t wait to “get back to normal.”

During the last two years, many churches including our own have seen drops in both attendance as well as financial contributions. However, I believe God has helped us through these challenges. I have witnessed personally so much goodness and generosity on the part of many loyal parishioners who have continued to make our parish a priority on their support list. They give not only their time, talent but also their hard-earned resources. I consider them God’s special gift to me and our priests who serve here because they not only motivate us but give us hope. We are grateful.

Speaking of motivation, our visiting bishops and priests have constantly told me how impressed they are by your welcoming spirit and generosity. My goal as Pastor is to continue to encourage this positive atmosphere where people are welcomed, acknowledged, and accepted as members of one family.

I know a lot of you read the bulletin every week virtually as well as watching all our live-streaming Masses faithfully. However, I do want you to come back in person because it means so much more when you actively participate in our liturgies. Be assured that we are following all the Covid-19 protocols mandated by our Diocese and State. Do not be afraid, therefore, to come and celebrate as a community with us. For now, as long as we all attend church with a face covering, we can be assured of the safety of all. I don’t believe God’s long-term answer for us is to live online. Coming together in-person to encounter the Lord and receive Him through his Word and Sacrament is essential to our identity as Catholics.

If you are out and about doing other things such as shopping, dining out, etc., why not consider joining us for worship as well! We want to see our church family! We are strongest that way because, truly, we are meant to be on this journey together, as the theme of the upcoming World Synod of Bishops reflects.

Hoping to see more of you and your families on Sunday, I remain.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

January 30, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Tuesday, February 1, 2022, marks the Lunar New Year, a time of joy, thanksgiving, and family reunion for millions of Asians throughout the world, including the Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and other oriental communities. It is my pleasure to offer warm greetings and best wishes for a Happy New Year to all Asian brothers and sisters of our parish as well as those who will join them in celebrating the Year of the Tiger. Father Joe Pham, Father Hung Tran, and I will concelebrate a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for our Vietnamese community this Sunday, January 30, 2022, at 3 PM in the Lower Church. You are all cordially invited to attend this joyful celebration of faith and culture, which will include various generations of Vietnamese from young children to the elders serving in different roles. Our worship space will be adorned with blooming cherry blossoms and splendid spring flowers reminiscent of South East Asia. Come to experience with us some of the most beautiful Vietnamese Catholic traditions including the Remembrance of Ancestors and Deceased Loved Ones,  the distribution of New Year Blessing Parchments that contain randomly picked Scriptural quotes to be used as “words to live by” or personal mottos for the year, and the giving of Red Envelopes with a “Lucky Dollar” gift to the children and teens as a way of wishing them abundant blessings.

Normally, on the Lunar New Year, our Asian brothers and sisters would gather at their parents’ homes to celebrate with a sumptuous feast. They would participate in traditional ceremonies to pay homage to their ancestors and living elders. Children and grandchildren would present their parents and grandparents with personalized wishes for their happiness, longevity, and prosperity, and receive from the latter blessings and gifts in return. Extended family members would travel long distances to visit one another. It is always a time of family and reunion. This year, however, many still find it hard to celebrate or gather, when those closest to them are no longer with them. My mother, my siblings and I are going through this feeling as we mark the First Anniversary of my father’s passing. In this context, we are reminded that the greatest blessings in life are not material things. What matters most is not money, food, properties, or the latest gadgets, but relationships with those we love. All too often we forget this, neglecting relationships in the pursuit of money, career, fame, and success. Many Asians, for example, tend to think that the best way to love our children is to give them a good education and money to get ahead in life. We also tend to think that the best way to love our parents is to pursue great achievements that will make them proud. Thus, it can become all too easy for us to focus on stuff instead of relationships. And sadly, we often only realize our mistake when it’s too late to put things right.

If relationships are what true blessing is about, our faith tells us that the greatest blessing of all is the relationship with God. It is He who created us and blessed us with everything we enjoy. Our health and safety, our family and friends, our opportunities and hopes, and this beautiful world in which we live, are all blessings given by the God who loves us. Too often in pursuing these blessings, however, we fail to pursue the God who gave them. We are like children who receive their parents’ blessings at the beginning of the new year, but fail to love them in return throughout the rest of the year. As the Lunar New Year offers our Asian brothers and sisters the opportunity to renew relationships in their lives, let it also motivate us to seek a fresh start in our relationship with God and with one another.

In the East, tigers are often associated with being strong, resilient, independent, fearless, and loyal. People who are born in the Year of the Tiger are believed to be persistent, determined, and strong in the face of adversity. They never back down from a challenge, but always know how to turn it into an opportunity. May the celebration of the Year of the Tiger inspire each of you to remain steadfast, courageous, and spiritually strong in these challenging times.

Commending you and the Asian members of our parish to the divine protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and assuring you all a special remembrance at the Altar on this Lunar New Year, I wish to send every family my personal blessings and best wishes.

Happy New Year / “Chuc Mung Nam Moi”,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

January 23, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

During the pandemic, the phrase “we are all in it together” stands out among many others that are frequently employed. As I have discussed in my previous letter, Pope Francis has asked our entire Church to embark on a journey together, one that involves active listening to one another and ultimately to the voice of the Holy Spirit. This journey begins with a consultative process at the grassroots level, namely, the parish and the diocese, and will culminate with the Synod of Bishops in 2023, to be held in Rome. The theme for that Synod is “Toward a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission.” The emphasis on the fact that we are all in it together, or at least, that we are all on the same road together, underlies the importance of unity in this ecclesial endeavor. Through listening and discernment rooted in the Holy Spirit, the entire Church will deepen her understanding of mission and how best to carry out that mission in the future.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, together with all the parishes throughout the world, is currently participating in this synodal journey called for by the Holy Father. Last Saturday, we have convoked an extraordinary meeting during which members of our clergy, parish leaders, and parishioners from various ministries, ethnic groups, and walks of life came together for a morning of prayer, conversation, and small group discussions. All participants had the opportunity to share their experience of faith, raise issues that they believed were vital for the parish, and articulate their concerns, hopes, and dreams for the future of the Church. Everyone was appreciative of the fact that their voice was heard in a formal way. Many of them expressed the desire to see more such events in our parish. To me, the experience of listening prayerfully to one another and discerning God’s will together has been the best expression of who we are as a parish. In the words of Pope Francis, such an experience reflects a “synodal Church, a Church which listens, which realizes that listening is more than simply hearing. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. By their listening to each other, and by all of them listening to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, they will come to know what the Lord wants for His Church”.

What came out of our parish’s listening session last Saturday was quite inspiring and thought-provoking. Participants were divided into four different discussion groups, three in English and one in Spanish. Together, they considered the following questions as suggested by the Diocesan Synod Commission:
1. How is the “journeying together” to announce the Gospel happening today in our parish?
2. Who else do we need to reach out to, listen to, and learn from? What voices are not being heard? Who is absent?
3. What can each of us do to make our parish better?
4. “Synodality,” asks us to be enthusiastic ambassadors of our faith. How do you see yourself involved in making others more aware of what the Church has to offer?
5. What are the areas for change in our Church and what steps can be taken to allow the Holy Spirit to work?

Remarkably, all four groups have come up with highly similar themes in their responses to those questions. It was enlightening for me to know about the areas of church life that people are passionate about. For example, participants universally expressed the desire to be educated more about the meaning of the Holy Mass. They also wanted to be more informed about the various activities that take place within the ethnic groups of the parish. They felt that the Church needs to welcome and engage more actively with those who remain on the margin due to language or cultural barriers, marriage irregularities, or personal lifestyles. In addition, they saw the critical need for the Church to reach out more to youth and their parents through catechesis, engaging liturgy, and effective use of modern social media. In listening to these insights, I discovered that there is a tremendous passion in our people about the faith, and how much they long to make that faith even more attractive and compelling in our parish.

As your pastor, I am convinced that this synodal encounter has a lot to offer to our parish right at this moment. Building on the strong momentum that it has created, I will begin to do some concrete planning with the priests, deacons, and lay leaders of our parish in order to integrate and implement some actionable insights in the liturgical, educational, and pastoral practices of our parish. The success and fruits of these undertakings will depend upon everyone’s cooperation and collaboration, and ultimately, upon our openness to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The enduring results of this “journeying together” will, of course, take time to emerge. It is my strong hope that, together, we will succeed in making our parish a truly vibrant family in which everyone is on fire for the Lord!

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham

January 16, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we begin Ordinary Time in the Church’s liturgical calendar, I thought it would be worthwhile to call your attention to a few commonsense items regarding our liturgical celebrations for the sake of your own comfort and reverence in the House of God:

– PLEASE COME ON TIME! – If you are consistently late to Mass, you are missing out on the very important Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Word. If you come late enough, you don’t even fulfill your Sunday Mass obligation! Barring unforeseen emergencies, coming to Mass late on a regular basis is simply an indication of poor planning. In this New Year, I invite everyone to consider making it a goal to come early so that you may have adequate time to recollect yourself and prepare prayerfully for the beginning of the Mass. By avoiding the distraction caused by needless movement and traffic in the assembly, especially the constant opening and closing of church doors, you will add to the prayerfulness of the Mass and help everyone to be more focused on their encounter with the Lord.

– PLEASE WEAR PROPER ATTIRE! – Meeting the Lord himself in His House is not like going to a grocery store or to the park. I invite you earnestly to dress up for Mass, giving God the respect that He deserves. It doesn’t mean having to wear expensive clothes. It simply means wearing our “Sunday best” whatever that may be for each person. And, of course, please always come in modest attire. This is especially important for those who serve as liturgical ministers, i.e. Lectors, Altar Servers, Sacristans, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Musicians, Ushers, etc., since they are the first representatives of the Church and the parish that people would see.

– PLEASE DO NOT BRING FOOD OR DRINK! – The only eating and drinking that should take place in church are that of the reception of Holy Communion. Other than that, the church is simply not a place to eat and drink. The chewing of gums, of course, is always inappropriate in church. In our parish, many people have had the good habit of bringing canned food and/or used clothing and toys to share with the poor. This was good when we had an active Food Pantry at St. Margaret Mary Chapel. Now that the Chapel and its Food Pantry has been closed, please do not bring such items to church as we do not have enough personnel or volunteers to dispose of them. If you have good clothing to donate, please contact St. Mary’s Church Clothing Drive at (718) 529–6070 or visit their website at https://stmarysclothingdrive.com to schedule a free pickup at your home.

– PLEASE OBSERVE HOLY SILENCE! – Since the church is a place of prayer, silence should always be observed. The greeting of our friends and neighbors is appropriate for after Mass outside of the church or in the vestibule so as not to disturb the prayer of others. This is particularly true in the transition time between our Masses on Sunday.

– PLEASE SHOW THE GREATEST REVERENCE! – The church is the House of God, where His family gathers to praise, worship, and give thanks to Him. As such, we must always maintain a spirit of reverence and respect. As we enter the vestibule, we should bless ourselves with making the sign of the Cross. Then as we enter the church, we should make either a genuflection or a profound bow toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle prior to taking a seat. I encourage everyone to keep the church clean, by picking up any piece of trash when you see one and dropping it into the trash bin located in the Ushers’ Room at the far-right end of the church. This will ease the burden of our volunteers who give so much of their time and energy to keep our church sanitized and in optimal condition every week.
Overall, when someone asks me to address some of these important issues in some way, I always respond by saying that while I do see many such distractions in church every day, I think of them as steppingstones toward holiness. Whether it’s a couple of noisy children, the strong scent of a fellow parishioner, the long homily of the priest or deacon, the off-key singing of someone behind you, or the lack of courtesy on the part of someone who blocks your entrance to the pew, or the nuisance caused by a piece of trash left behind by someone, let it all pass. Patience, tolerance, politeness, and good manners always work. If you find yourself to be one of the sources of these distractions, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to improve these things next time.

Grateful for the good etiquettes that so many of you have already been showing in our church, and commending you to the protection of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, our Patroness, I assure you of my constant remembrance at the Altar.

Devotedly yours in Christ,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham