Locked Out of Mary Help of Christians, Parishioners Take to the Streets

photo(359)Daniel Maurer

Parishioners locked out of Mary Help of Christians gathered in front of the church steps last night and chanted before a candlelit image of the Virgin Mary. They plan to return to the sidewalk every night, at 7 p.m., even during the cold of winter.

Josephine Messali, who attended the church’s last mass on Sunday, said she would continue to pray in front of it even as Immaculate Conception, on 14th Street, offers Sunday mass to former attendees of Mary Help of Christians.

“This is our church,” she said. “We still adhere to the Salesian spirituality and that’s not over there.”

It isn’t the first time worshipers at Mary Help of Christians have been driven to the streets. When the church ended its run as an independent parish in 2007, its congregation took to the sidewalk to continue the daily rosary chants that are customary in May. At the end of the month, they decided to continue gathering outside, to pray for the reopening of the church.

About a year ago, they were allowed back inside, but with a sale of the church building in the works, they’ve been shut out again. Judy Aponte, who has come to pray almost nightly, said, “My understanding is that they’re starting to remove the statues and put them in storage, so they don’t want anybody in the church with all that going on.”

Ms. Messali said she hoped the church could still be saved. “We believe in the power of prayer and we’re not giving up.”